Today was a very emotional day. The stretch of highway that I was on today — I-80 from Salt Lake City to Laramie, WY — was a significant part of someone else’s journey four years ago. As I entered Salt Lake City on Friday and prepared to leave town today, I was all too aware of the significance of this 300 mile road.
Five years ago my son, Brandon, drove from Detroit to San Francisco to start school. It was a monumental step in his life. He struggled for a few years about what he was going to do after high school. One day he called to share that he had decided to go to a music production school in San Francisco. The plan was to move out there and live with his older brother in Berkeley.
I was really impressed with his decision and the actions he took to make this all come to reality. It seemed as though Brandon had finally found a path that suited his passions and he was beginning to take some very powerful, positive steps in that direction. On August 2008, Brandon packed up his car and drove to San Francisco.
I remember talking to him about his drive through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. I wanted to hear about it because this drive was definitely on my wish list. It was so cool to listen to him share his impressions and stories of his experiences tooling west on I-80. I was so excited about the stories and the promising future he appeared to be creating for himself. I was also very pleased and proud of his choices.
One year later — June of 2009 — Brandon was driving returning to Detroit on that same route. He had left school, moved out of his brother’s apartment and was returning home to deal with his addiction issues. All of his effort to get into school and pursue his music related passion were now in the rear view mirror. This time he wasn’t heading toward a new beginning of a promising future, he was returning to Detroit to begin what has become an amazingly tragic and painful odyssey.
Here I am, four years later, driving that same stretch of highway. My memory was fresh with all the emotions, experiences and thoughts of his promising beginning and what has become a very sad story.
It was hard to celebrate my journey today. All I could think about was Brandon’s. How distant that promising opportunity seemed today. My heart aches for his choices, I hurt for the place he lives in today, and I cannot help but feel a sense of disappointment that he couldn’t fight through and finish what he started in San Francisco.
Despite this emotional setback, I continue to be on one amazing trip. The journeys in our lives are often filled with heavy doses of reality for us to work on, think through, and learn from. Today was my heavy dose of reality. I will always celebrate the gifts that are my children. I will always love them for who they are. And, I will always pray that they find happiness, peace, and joy in all that they do. I continue to pray extra hard that Brandon may someday be strong enough — physically and emotionally — to begin another incredible westbound I-80 adventure! I would be honored to share that adventure with him.