At the end of September 2006, I was finally able to go visit Sean! I made arrangements for the kids to stay with a friend, and got a substitute for school. I was excited, nervous, anxious, happy, scared, all in one.
I left late morning, after having a near-nervous breakdown over preparations for the kids, packing, etc. The day was overcast, but otherwise good driving weather. I was very stressed about driving by myself, worried about what time I would arrive, wondering if I could find the base in the dark, and (shocking) missing having the kids in the van complaining about the ride.
One hour down the road and I stopped for a snack. When I came back into the parking lot something came over me and I thought, "I should check my tires." This is not something I would normally think to do. But, I had a feeling. . . that feeling turned to despair when I saw my flat rear-passenger tire. I drove to the air hose thinking, "Maybe it's just low," even though I could clearly see that was not the case. I was in full panic mode. I was at a truck stop, but there was not a repair shop nearby. I didn't even know for sure where my donut spare tire was (I know, but I've never needed to know before). I still had 9 hours on this trip, and now I was thinking maybe I couldn't even go.
I went back into the truck stop and asked the clerk about a tow and/or repair shop. She gave me a number but said, "It'll probably be a couple hours before he gets here." That's comforting.
About this time, Sean called to say, "How far away are you? When will you be here?" and I lost it. I lit into him about how I was trying to get there but couldn't have him calling me every five minutes to see where I was. Poor Sean. He had only called one time that morning to see when I was leaving. A little misplaced anger there.
Fortunately, a nice truck driver offered to put on my spare so I could drive 30 miles down the interstate to the next town with a Super Wal-mart and a tire center. God bless that man!! He didn't even laugh when I said I wasn't sure where the spare and/or jack were. At least he didn't laugh outwardly. I said a few prayers of blessing for him and his family and 30 minutes after I stopped, I was back on the road.
I spent the next 30 miles with visions of my tiny spare tire suddenly jumping off my van and sending me into the ditch. Things like that can happen, you know.
I called and apologized to Sean while I spent an hour browsing in Wal-mart waiting for my new tire. I felt so defeated. I could have laid down in the aisle and bawled. Sean told me if I didn't feel up to the trip I could go back home. That was all I needed to hear. Go home? Are you kidding me? And just who are you to tell me to go home? The trip was on!
Back on the road and things were going well. Then it got dark. The good news is, I couldn't see what must have been ominous storm clouds. But it wasn't long before the radio stations started handing out tornado and thunderstorm warnings about 20 minutes behind me all the way there. It rained, poured, thunder and lightning, the whole show. I changed the radio station with every town to hear the latest update. The worst of the storm stayed about 20 minutes behind me. A smart person might have stopped, but I was an exhausted, irrational woman on her way to see her husband after six months. What would you do?
I arrived at base around midnight. I was feeling so very proud of myself for not getting lost! I pulled up and handed my registration, ID, insurance papers to the guard. I was asked to pull to the side and wait. What the hell? Turns out my license was expired!! I almost died! So they had to call the building where Sean was, have him get a ride to the gate, and drive the van onto post. Our reunion was a hug in the parking lot at the gate surrounded by MPs. They were very nice about it and told me who to call to get an extension until I made it back to SD.