Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas - Sometimes the Best Laid Plans Take a Twist

It was Christmas 1979.  My husband, Paul, and I were headed to his family's home in northern Alberta, Canada. Coming from the West coast of the U S, I had not prepared for the brutal winter weather of the North. I didn't own a heavy winter jacket or gloves.  In the Northwest, we don't have a need for four distinct seasons in our wardrobes.  

We decided to drive straight through the night and arrive two days before Christmas.  That was the plan.  It would be nice to spend Christmas with family -- my family was on the other side of the country and traveling there was not feasible.

Paul preferred to drive at night with fewer cars on the road.  I could curl up in the passenger seat and sleep.  His secret was to eat salted sunflower seeds to keep awake. Paul has been a maniac behind the wheel as long as I have known him - some 45 years. He is an excellent driver, but Speeding is his middle name.  Although we hoped the roads would be fine, we never expected to run into a blizzard trouble.  But we did - both.  We were driving through the Rocky Mountains; it was bitter cold and snowing hard.

Driving in a blizzard

I woke up the sound of the tires on gravel as Paul pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. "I have no idea what is wrong but I have to go get help or we will freeze to death."  This was the days before cell phones and at 2 A.M. you couldn't stick your thumb out and hitchhike.  

He knew it was risky as we both could get frostbite, but his concern was for me sitting in the car. He would run down the highway in an attempt to stay warmer.  He left me his light jacket and said good-bye.  

Grizzly bears

I watched his silhouette disappear in front of me, not knowing if I would ever see him again.  My thoughts ran rampant knowing that Grizzly bears could see him as 'lunch.'  I remembered I had packed some food for the trip.  I opened the velcro latch on my backpack and found some apples.  I would need some fuel to help stay warm.  I felt guilty eating, wondering if Paul would survive.

The ice and snow were packing onto the windshield.  Should I attempt to shave it off the windows or would it help keep me warm - like the igloo effect?  I decided to stay put, but I was shivering.  Tears came easy and their warmth on my cheeks was bittersweet.  

S O S in a blizzard

There was zero traffic.  Even big semi-trucks weren't attempting these mountain roads in the storm.  I opened our suitcase and piled as many clothes on top of me as I could find.  It was SO dark.  

It was absolutely essential that I keep my thoughts positive -- my first concern was for Paul. But he grew up in this area and hunting for big game with his father had taught him survival skills.

I could not see out of any of the windows but after what felt like days, I could see headlights approaching from the opposite direction.  What do I do?  There was no way I could run to the other side of the highway in street shoes.  The snow was halfway up the side of the car with drifts a lot higher.  I screamed.  It helped.  

The light got brighter and then passed.  What would my obituary say?  Stop it -- I had to refuse those thoughts.
Christmas blizzard

Then the light reappeared - from behind.  The truck had turned around and was coming my way, stopping next to our car.  From the flashing yellow lights, I determined it was a tow truck. Someone was knocking on my window.  It was Paul.  He was wearing a huge down filled jacket the tow truck driver loaned him.  

Paul had walked to the next town and was able to get to a payphone and call a tow truck. From that day forward, I now carry emergency candles in my vehicle.  A lit candle will keep you warm in a freezing car.

This has been a blogging challenge.  Each blogger is given six words to be used in a story at least once. I prefer to write true stories which can be an added challenge.  The words given to me were:

grizzly ~ velcro ~ apples ~ speeding ~ shaved ~ frostbite

submitted to me by  Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Here are the other bloggers who submitted their stories for this challenge:

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