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We’re All Driving On The Same Highway

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I was thinking this morning about a show I once watched about psychology and behavior. I was specifically recalling the portion that delved into the behavior of people in their cars. The upshot of it is that when somebody’s driving a car, their sense of isolation from everything around them tends to lull them into the state of mind where they forget that they’re out in public. Of course, things such as windows being open, speed of travel and the volume of sounds being played all factor into it, but it happens all the time.

In general, when I’ve consciously look around as I’m driving, I’ve see solo drivers tapping the steering wheel, laughing out, belting out a tune, talking to themselves, even dancing in their seats at a stop light to the point that the car was rocking to the beat. I’ve seen people shaving, putting on makeup, pulling gray hairs, picking at wounds or with an index finger so far up there nose you’d expect to see the tip start wriggling out of their ear. I’ve observed drivers locked in a mindless state with a blank stare, the kind you’d expect to see just before they jerk their head slightly, as if they’re shaking the brain stem back into an active state. I’ve also seen faces that looked world worn, tired, sad and even tear stained. All on display in a moving, 3-dimensional montage, allowing a 3 second glimpse not only into the vehicle, but often into the persons state of mind as well. Leaving it to your own imagination to fill in all the blanks about who they are, where they’re coming from, where they’re going and what’s running through their minds or happening in their lives.

Knowing that I’m constantly in somebody else’s view as well is not something I’m typically conscious of, but on the way to work today I found my thought drifting to something I saw yesterday, heard discussed last night, and see looming in front of me as a task I have to attend to this Saturday. At that moment, at that stop light, with an overwhelming sense of sadness, reddening eyes welling with restrained tears, I glanced to my left to find the face of a nameless driver gazing into my own, probably putting together their own 3-second interpretation or assumptions of my own state of affairs and the reasons I might look sad.

My sister-in-law Jennifer came down last night to spend the night, and to help my wife with keeping an eye on the kids today, so she can focus on getting some of the remaining boxes in the house unpacked and preparing for the delivery of some furniture tomorrow. Furniture that I’ll be picking up in a rental truck and driving to our house. Furnishing from her mother’s house, in Roseville, which is being cleared out and going up for sale following her passing away last December.

Earlier in the afternoon yesterday, my brother-in-law Chris, (Jennifer’s husband and my wife’s brother), sent the family a web link to the home on the realtor’s website. My wife’s already made trips up there to be involved in the family affairs, but I’ve not, and I’ve not see images of it either. So when I clicked on the URL and the page loaded, I was taken aback to be looking at a completely empty house, one in which I’ve celebrated holidays, stayed at for days on end, and visited repeatedly during the 2+ years she’d lived there.

It was a brand new house, an actual model home when she bought it, so it had all the finest top-notch upgrades throughout. She loved it. I think it was the first/only really nice home she’d ever had, and she’d put her typical French woman’s efforts into decorations and ambiance. The home not only housed her and her belongings, but also those of her father, who’d passed away only a few years prior to her.

Looking at the empty rooms and bare walls in the online photos was an unexpected shock. Here was this very familiar place, once filled with warmth, laughter, and even occasional family conflicts and tensions too… completely empty, vacant, and devoid of all of those objects. Yet it remained brimming with the memories of the experiences amongst them. It was chilling, warming and bittersweet all at the same time.

I’ve been detached and going through the motions lately. My thoughts and consciousness, even when my wife was up there going through the house with her family to sort through the place, have not spent any time really focused on these recent events. Sure, through the funeral and following there were times of reflection and sadness but it’s remained a surreal experience, and one that i’ve maintained a reasonable amount of composure around.

When Jennifer arrived last night, the wine started pouring and the chatting began, at times so loud that my son politely called to us from the closed door of his room just around the corner, asking that we keep it down because we were keeping him awake. Jennifer is hilarious, and so much fun to be around. She has a boisterous laugh used without restraint, and a tendency to speak whatever is on her mind, so conversations can be quite dynamic and entertaining.

Yet as the topic of Nicole came up, my wife, who’s been having a hard time of late herself, was relating her feelings, and Jennifer was referring to the range of feelings she’s had or not had, in comparison with this event and the passing of my father-in-law some 8 years prior. Jennifer lives about a mile away from Nicole’s house, and was present at the hospital shortly after she’d passed away there. She and my wife both had shared experiences and perspectives on each of these parents. And so they went on, back and forth, as I sat quietly listening from a chair across the room. I didn’t join in or have anything to share at the time, or perhaps, that I wanted to share. I just listened to them talk, before eventually retiring to get some much needed sleep while their conversations continued for several more hours.

On the drive to work today, the visions of that empty house, the echos of the reflections between my wife and Jennifer, and the knowledge that I’ll be at that house tomorrow, packing some of the items and their associated memories into a truck to be driven away from and likely to never return to again, overwhelmed me. Of course my earlier and unwhitting choice to listen to the morose songs of “Death Cab For Cutie” didn’t help the situation. So I drove along Hwy 9 en route to work, taking in all of the reminders and feeling an overwhelming sadness at the loss, when I found myself being observed and likely assessed in a manner I would do myself in the reversal of the situation.

It didn’t phase me, beyond the obvious realization and embarrassment of being caught letting my emotions be seen. But it did make me remember and consider that I’m in no way alone in any of these experiences. I’ll have more along the path of the rest of my life, as have and will all of the other passers by on my path to work and back, and every other place I go. And for every other person I notice, or am noticed by. It put things in perspective. Not that it made it better, worse, or changed the feelings, but just being the observer being himself under observation gave me a sense of unity with the flowing tide around me.

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Written by gsm

04/06/2007 at 3:39 pm

Posted in  Journal 

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