"Thank you for the ability to fix mistakes. Thank you for a good nights sleep. Thank you for solitary drives. Thank you for patience not to kill. Thank you for clouds and sun mixing just right to create the quality of light that makes it look like a silver light bulb in the sky." SAB 2-24-1998
Jules went with Shannon to get her driver's license. She was prepared for the written test. She was prepared for the road test. She did great and became a Virginia licensed driver on her first try. On the one hand, of course I wanted to celebrate this milestone in growing up, on the other... I worried every time she got behind the wheel.
Shannon was a safe attentive driver but I was the typical overanxious Mom. I made her crazy when we went places and she drove.
"I can see you're going over the speed limit. Watch Watch you're crossing over the line. No it's not an optical illusion because I'm in the passenger seat. Two car lengths between you and the car in front. Just drive around until you find a 'pull through' parking place. No we can't turn on the radio, you have to concentrate. Please roll the window up!"
Is it any wonder she was grateful for SOLITARY drives? Bless her precious heart.
One Saturday morning right after she got her license, we needed milk. Shannon had never driven alone and we only live one mile from the Fas Mart so it seemed perfectly safe and we sent her for the milk. Of course I was on pins and needles...and it seemed to be taking entirely too long for her get back. We set the timer on the microwave and decided if she hadn't gotten home by the time it buzzed we would go looking for her. The buzzer and the phone rang at the same instant.
"Mom... I ran over the Fas Mart!" Shannon wept into the phone.
"Are you okay? What do you mean you ran over the Fas Mart?" I replied making every effort to sound calm despite the fact that my heart was in my throat.
"I don't know what happened. I thought my foot was on the break but it was on the gas and I ran over the Fas Mart. Can you come?"
When we pulled into the parking lot at the Fas Mart, we could see that the side of the brick building held the perfect imprint of the front of the van. No broken glass, no serious damage, no one hurt. A very young and handsome State Trooper was taking notes, talking with the man whose morning coffee had been abruptly interrupted by the vehicle joining him at his table. The manager of the store was comforting Shannon and assuring her that "It could happen to anyone!"
Private property. No charges. Insurance would cover damage. Shannon was shaken but fine. Jules insisted that she drive home, "get back on the horse" kind of thing. Forgot the milk. The Fas Mart installed huge concrete upside down U's at the front of the side parking spaces that we always laughed about having been donated by Shannon !
In 1991,Jules and Bill found a 1966 GTO sprayed with black Rustoleum in a shopping center parking lot with a for sale sign on it. It had died and the owner needed to get rid of it, so he let it go for $1000.00. Jules and Bill, Bill's sons Jason and Billy, rebuilt it and made it shine. Jules said it was for Shannon even though we all knew that it was for Dad as well. I didn't mind too much because it seemed like a tank and she would be safe. She had one of the coolest cars in High School. They weren't allowed to drive until they were seniors and everyone got an assigned parking space. I can still see my tiny girl in her giant car purring off to school. Did I mention it was a convertible?
When she graduated from High School we started looking for a smaller car that would be more appropriate for college. Freshmen can't leave school for the first couple of weeks and can't bring their cars right away so we had some time to look. One afternoon after work we went car shopping and found a perfect 1989 Pontiac Grand Am. It was soft blue, small and looked like Shannon. I think we made the decision right away and after leaving the dealership drove to Culpeper. It was late by the time we got there, dark, but as we were about to head home we saw two vehicles parked on the side of Rt. 29. I'm not sure what made us stop, but we did. A young woman, Shannon's age, was heading home from college when her car broke down. She had been unable to get in touch with her family but a gentleman had stopped to assist her just before we did. He said that he had called the police and that they were going to send a wrecker for the car. He was going to give the young woman a ride into town. Something didn't feel right even though there was no reason to question his motives. We said that we could get back to Fredericksburg through Warrenton, where she lived, and that it wouldn't be out of the way for us to give her a ride. My memory is somewhat questionable but there seemed to be some debate. I suppose, ultimately, we seemed safer, two of us, a Mom and a Dad, test driving their daughters new car, so she came with us. I called the police to let them know that we had her and were taking her home and they said that no one had called and they knew nothing about the disabled vehicle.
I'm not sure why things happen the way they do but I have always believed that we were there for a reason, guided, prompted, compelled by some unseen hands. A little over two years later, a young woman, Alicia Reynolds, was abducted on Rt. 29 by a man who would later be dubbed the "Rt. 29 Stalker". I have no way of knowing if the intentions of the man who stopped to help a stranger that night were innocent, or if we had thwarted the earliest attempt of someone who would continue to do harm, but I'll always be glad that we followed our instincts.
In the summer after Shannon graduated from college, she applied for a job at a facility for children who had fallen through the cracks in the system. This home was in the country, and provided a safe haven for these children to live, attend school and receive counseling. Shannon and I took a Sunday afternoon drive to the facility so that she would be able to find it on the day of her interview. It was eerily close to the place where Alicia Reynolds had been found after her abduction in 1996.
Most of the times in life, when our paths intersect in meaningful ways with people we don't know, we aren't aware of the difference we might have made. Those moments that we are aware of, give us opportunities to realize that we aren't just floating along, twisting and turning in the breeze, subjected to chance encounters and accidental circumstance. I choose to believe that we each have someone watching over us regardless of outcome.
When Shannon came into my life, an Angel came with her. When she left this life, her Angel was there to take her hand. She never had any doubts, and neither do I.
"Thank you for the comfort of Heavenly companions. Thank you for an afternoon with Jill. Thank you for Special K Blueberry Crisps. Thank you for Bill and Donna. Thank you for forever friends." JJB 2-24-2010