Years to come when I remember this summer, the summer of 2016, I will think of dust. The fine dry dust that comes from an earth, crackled and blistered, too parched to cry for rain, yes. Also the dust of things dead, the dust that leaves you wiping away discouragement at the corners of your eyes, the dust that settles onto shoulders, sagging from what feels like the weight of the world carried on them. But the memories from the summer of 2016 will also spark thankfulness for life because the series of events I'm about to tell you about left us shaken, greatly, but we realize, too, the 1,000 other ways the story could have played out, ways we are so grateful it didn't...
I'm going to start the story on July 15th, although it could start much earlier, way back in the spring when it didn't rain, or even last winter when we didn't get a good snow fall to keep the water table steady. But it was on July 15th when we finally needed to intervene. Our well had gone all but dry, and our yard was completely brown, except for the many weeds popping up that seem to grow in any condition. In order to do laundry and take showers, we had to haul water in.
My sister-in-law was living in New York, working several market stands selling peaches, over the summer. Friday was her typical day off, and she often would come over in the afternoon to watch the kids so I could mow our yard. It had been several weeks since it was last mowed. The grass really hadn't grown at all, but the weeds had.
After almost two hours of going back and forth, row by 36 inch row, I was finally nearing the end. The sun was hot, and my skin was so dust covered I could write my name on my leg simply by dragging my fingertip across the canvas of thigh. The glint from sun reflecting off a windshield caught my eye. As I glanced up I saw Herm driving our Ford Ranger pickup truck, a large container for hauling water on the bed, in toward the garage. I made another round, in and then out, on the mower, when I noticed the truck heading back out the drive. It was going sort of fast and didn't really look like anyone was driving it - but the sun was bright and dust stung my eyes, so I didn't really think too much about it. I simply hadn't seen right.
As I turned our zero-turn mower, ready to make another round, I saw the truck again. It had just flipped across the road and over the ditch, the water container spilling off the bed, before running into a tree in our neighbor's field and coming to an abrupt halt.
In the matter of seconds so many scenarios played through my mind: "Had Herm been distracted and lost control of the truck?" "Did the steering lock up?" I suddenly remembered that it didn't look like there was a driver. "Was there a small person driving it? Did Carson somehow manage to take off with the truck?" Panic rose in my throat, as I threw the parking brake into activation and leaped off the mower, running barefoot across the yard, over the road, and through the field, the whole way praying for the truck door to open and Herm to hop out. But the door wasn't opening! "Oh Jesus, no!" I screamed, running faster. The windows were all busted out of the cab, and the horn was stuck in a constant blare, the frame twisted in an angry sort of way, the roof, crumpled like a piece of discarded paper, on the back corner, near the passengers side door.
I reached the truck, peering in the drivers window, completely unprepared for what I found; it was empty. My weekend wouldn't be filled with funeral plans. My husband and my son were both alive! But where were they? Shaking, I called Herm. When he answered his phone, I was so worked up, I wasn't making much sense. "The truck! Where are you? You're alive. Babe, I need you." Somehow, in spite of the fragmented sentences and quaver in my voice, Herm managed to understand what I was saying. Within minutes he was beside me, as we both looked in awe and wonder at the truck we use to drive.
Herm knocked on our neighbors front door, a little unsure of how to explain what had happened. They came out of their house, laughing and telling us we should just let it there for a few days, you know, to get the other neighbors talking... "Looks like Herm's been drinking again." they joked. It was funny, but in a very unfunny sort of way.
The water container was undamaged, so as the afternoon wore on, Herm loaded it on a flatbed trailer and used his work truck to go get water. We were hosting a party on our deck the next night, and really needed the water so our toilets would flush.
That night as we sat with friends, eating tacos from a vendor at a local winery, we talked about all that could have went wrong; If the truck had jumped out of park only minutes before hand I could have been hit by it, as I was out mowing right where it cut through the yard. If Carson would have been outside, he could have been run over. If a car had been coming down the road they could have collided. If that tree wouldn't have been in our neighbors field, truck truck could have hit their two Lexus vehicles parked in the drive, it could have ran into their house, it could have ended up in among their solar panels or vineyard. If. If. If. But none of those things happened. In the end, it was only a truck we lost, and not a life, and trucks are completely replaceable.
In the scurry of our weekend, a weekend where events are sort of scrambled in my mind because so much happened, Carson's dog Mia, was driven over and died almost instantly. Again we were left with a bunch of what if's, and in complete shock we held each other, reminding ourselves that while we loved her (mostly) she was a dog, and not a child.
It was such a discouragingly dry, dusty summer -- one that left me aware of the very fragile nature of life, one that left me so grateful for more time with my people, my family. Each day is a precious gift. Material things are just that. Important, sure. But not really, not in light of eternity. I have my people, and for that, I am so grateful. And left still longing for rain for my dry and weary soul.