Solitary road trips are always a time for reflection. But when the purpose of the trip is to see a beloved sister for what seems likely to be the last time, reflection turns easily to regret. Today I covered about 700 miles under a low sky the same color as the pavement, the dun fields on either side wheeling by like the gears of time. If there’s a suitable venue for contemplating life and how it ends, that’s as good as any. Every mile I thought of Val, the impetuous girl she’d been and the kind, patient woman she became, and how my memories between the two are far fewer than they should be.
That’s where the regret comes in. I could have have been a much better brother. Could have sent birthday cards, could have helped out, could have dropped by once in awhile with a bucket of chicken and a smile. I could have done a lot of things; I hate knowing that I didn’t. I hate that every feeling I have about this is a cliche. Most of all, I hate that my sister is dying and there’s nothing I can do about it except curse the cancer and wallow in self-indulgent melancholy. And drive 1,200 miles to say goodbye after years when I wouldn’t drive a quarter of the distance to say hello. Here’s another cliche: If you care for somebody, let them know — don’t wait until you have to.
It’s deep winter here in Wyoming. Tonight it’s supposed to hit 25 below. There’s a bunch of semis outside, all idling through the night lest they be dead in the morning. A better writer might wring a metaphor from that. I won’t try it. It’s a winter night, cold enough to hurt, and there’s going to be a death in my family. No metaphors are required.