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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert (Puppy Pick-up Road Trip)

Could barely watch as our old car crept onto the ramp of the vehicle that would tow it away. No, it wasn’t my father’s Oldsmobile—but it was my father’s Mercury, as well as my mother’s Mercury, before it became ours.

My father planned to go on many adventures when he bought a new Mercury Sable in spring of 2001. But soon after its maiden voyage—a joyful college reunion where he and my mother and their returning classmates of fifty years earlier were honored—he received a diagnosis of cancer’s return. Instead of driving off into sunsets to see his grandchildren, children, and friends, as well as sites previously unknown, he became a passenger in that car, chauffeured often to treatments and procedures back and forth through the canyons forged by the Big Thompson River. Nature’s beauty remained a constant companion on those final journeys he never chose to take.

This would not have been the car my mother chose for herself. But when he died before a year had passed since its purchase, the car was too much depreciated for her to sell it without a loss. So instead she drove off in it on her own solo adventures, as well as those with family members and friends, to locations near and far.

When my mother stopped driving almost six years later, that car came to us for our own adventures, both with and without her. We called the car the Grandma-mobile—which wasn’t really fair since she never would have chosen such a large car with such a long front end. This car most definitely did not fit the picture of what our two 16-year-old drivers preferred, but its ability to seat six worked well when we drove our kids and their friends during the period when their graduated licenses did not yet allow them to drive alone with their age-peers.

You know how the story went. Yes, I ended up with my father’s Mercury, which didn’t fit the picture of what a certain 46-year-old mother wanted to drive either. But we were grateful to receive a good car with low mileage, which was a much-needed answer to our burgeoning transportation needs.

That car played a big role in our own family stories and travels and transitions. It drove off to college loaded down with too much stuff, but returned home with two parents ready for a time of greater rest. The Mercury later transported our family to the sacred grounds where we laid my mother to rest. I picked up my daughter from her first year at college in it so she and I could take a classic western road trip to pick up my new puppy—not that my father would have ever allowed a dog in his car, let alone a puppy leaving his mother for the first time!

When this mom finally got a car more in tune to her dreams (a MINI S), my son Jackson was grateful to inherit the Grandma-mobile. True, he was no fan of parallel parking it but he most definitely appreciated the get-up-and-go as well as the ability to work and play without having to juggle cars with us. Unfortunately, the car (and its driver) got-up-and-went a bit too fast on an icy day last November, leaving the driver unscathed but every panel on the driver’s side damaged—enough so that the insurance company totaled the car due to its age—an age that reminds me just how long my father (and then my mother) have been gone.

Seems fitting that my father’s car left us on the last day of Mercury in retrograde. You may not believe in the power of the stars over our lives but this concept is just the right metaphor for saying goodbye to his Mercury. Astronomically, Mercury in retrograde is the time when the planet Mercury appears to reverse its orbit due to its position in the sky—which looks a whole lot like going backward. According to the StarChild site (linked to NASA), it is not doing so, but “. . . just appears to do so because of the relative positions of the planet and Earth and how they are moving around the Sun.” Astrologers, on the other hand, see Mercury in retrograde not only as a time of complications in areas such as transportation and communication (as Mercury is the god of both areas), but also as a time for returning to past connections.

So, Dad, thanks again for the Mercury—though we never, ever managed to keep up with your standards and plans for its cleanliness, we did our best to live up to your dreams of taking adventures in your chariot of choice.

Farewell, oh fleet-footed one—turns out you were just what we needed after all.

And, thus, I’m mostly leaving you with pictures. Well, other than of relaxing activities such as my delicious nap today and my soak in the tub—I will spare you those images. Thank goodness for small favors, right?

Christiana petting giraffes on our trip to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Christiana petting giraffes on our trip to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Running.

Running.

Road trips.

Road trips.

Reading.

Reading.

Singing in church.  (c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Singing in church.
(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Walking dogs.

Walking dogs.

Now, off to grab 40 winks–or more.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

Wondering where I went? Yes, I really did go away. Sometimes you just have to get out of Dodge, even if you’re just going on a classic road trip across the wide open spaces of the Midwest prairie.

Sherman, Jackson, and I left Thursday night for Oklahoma to see my brother Scott and his family. After so many years of having to come to Colorado because Mom was here, they thought we ought to go there. True enough. Although Scott hosted a family reunion in a state park in Oklahoma a few years ago, I hadn’t been to their home since Mom and I came to nephew Chris’ high school graduation in 2007. The others hadn’t visited since 2002. Yikes.

As Scott and his wife Lori will tell you, Oklahoma City is way too far from Denver—approximately 11 to 12 hours by car. That’s just inconvenient, even it if it’s doable.

Although Sherman and I had made it to meet with everyone at Chris’ college in McPherson, Kansas twice in the last year and half, both for one of his football games and for his graduation, they still wanted us to visit them in their home, meet their new grandkids, see their remodeling, and partake of their hospitality.

Check, check, check, and check.

After my road-trip-related injury last year, I have become quite afraid about hitting the road, let alone about pushing through the drive in one day. That’s why we planned to spend the first night along the way since we weren’t leaving until a couple hours after Sherman got out of work. Still, we hadn’t planned to sit on the Interstate for an hour. We weren’t even stuck in the city, but we got to turn off the engine and wait anyway until a semi had been moved off the road. So we got in an impromptu picnic and got to read together while watching the almost full moon rise on a clear night made for driving.

(c) 2012 Sherman Lambert

When we pulled into our motel at 2:30 a.m. (lost an hour to a time zone change too), we just crept in quietly and fell asleep. Too bad our neighbor didn’t worry about creeping out, huh? Wouldn’t be a road trip if you couldn’t listen to the alarm in the next room beeping—ignored for at least 20 minutes or so which meant we got to get on the road sooner than planned. Yes, when Mr. Snooze-through-the-alarm did get up, then he took his motorcycle (Muffler? What muffler?) for a spin around the parking lot before parking it again and cranking a classic rock station. I like Z Z Top, really, but not as my wake-up call!

(c) 2012 Trina Lambert. This, however, is not normal!

Rise and shine, right? So we did, hitting city limits before afternoon rush hour, but, maybe taking the wrong turn and getting to experience rush hour anyway—another classic road trip experience—from my past anyway.

This was the first time in a long time we got together for no particular reason without extra tasks beyond shopping, visiting landmarks, eating out, going to church, hanging out at the house and backyard with their extended family, and watching movies. No agenda really. Had time to sit around and watch everyday living—even got to see both the dogs and the grandkids on a mission to do in tufts of decorative grass planted by my brother—the obsessive gardener/lawn guy—in apparent denial of the lifestyle he really lives. Anyone taking bets on how long they last?

Was good to leave town and do nothing out of the ordinary—well, other than practice patience while sitting on the highway and with our aforementioned motel neighbor.

I think I remember normal. Turns out, normal is good.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Today I’m not going exercise class. Nope, I’m sitting at the computer wearing non-exercise clothes at noon on a workout day—and that’s OK.

Last week my exercise specialist and I had a big conversation about how little progress I was seeing from all their prescribed exercises—an hour a day!—as well as my usual classes and runs. I was tired as well as a little bit bored from all that work.

This time when she suggested a week off I did not protest. She thought that maybe the muscles we were trying to strengthen were in fact being overused at the same time.

All I know is that for all my effort, I wasn’t gaining enough.

After she conferred with the chiropractor, the two of them agreed that for this week I should walk or hike—while wearing my trochanter belt again—and stretch only.

Those instructions worked well with my travel plans anyway—as long as I could start after one more pre-road trip yoga class. While it’s good to have focused stretching the day before you set out, the day you spend six and a half hours in a car is a great day for light stretching without any extra exercise.

The exercise reduction was especially good timing since we had mini-road trips planned to get and return Christiana so she could go see her brother’s performance in Durango also, as well as visit with friends.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Wasn’t sure if Mother Nature would cooperate for the hike Sherman and I planned the morning after the play, but boy did she. Saturday dawned with just the sort of perfect October weather we had experienced when we had gotten married twenty-three years earlier. Whenever we can, we hike to celebrate the day. Was glad to know I had doctor’s orders to do so this year!

Despite using the stretching tools I’d brought—the foam roller, exercise bands, and tennis ball—I felt no different than usual. Then again, I felt no worse even though I’d sat in a car for way too long.

Another long car ride and a night of sleep, off we drove to take Christiana back to her new home. First, however, we went on another hike, this time outside of where she lives now.

Several hours later, Sherman and I returned, exhausted from our travels. Wasn’t until it got closer to bedtime that I realized I wasn’t really hurting. Not from hiking, not from riding in a car, not from just living.

Hmm. Maybe we’re on to something.

So I here I sit—will see what happens next week when I get back to work. A week’s break is nice, but two? I don’t think so!

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Here I am at just over a week since the end of the Puppy Fever Tour—Furgus is slowly (quickly?) integrating into our lives. But that’s not all—we’ve also added Sam—or 1st Samuel as he’s known here—since we came home.

Yes, we’re just that crazy for young life around here. While Christiana and I were out springing Furgus from Arizona, Sherman was at home walking and falling in love with Sam, a two-year-old liver and white English Springer Spaniel. He had recently arrived from Cheyenne, WY and was available from English Springer Spaniel Rescue of the Rockies, the group that brought us our much missed Fordham over a decade earlier.

Now, most people would have waited until they were not going to travel anymore before they welcomed another dog into their home. Sherman, however, is so tired of loss that he preferred to have in-your-face proof of life, even if it meant being squished in the 4Runner with two dogs, one puppy, one wife, one daughter, and a few other items on a 6 ½ hour (or more) road trip to take Christiana back to Durango for her summer work job.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert

Perhaps the need was made even clearer because we rushed home from yet another memorial service—this time of a longtime friend’s mostly healthy and active mother—to receive Sam into our home.

One moment we were saying goodbye, and the next, hello.

First, however, the rescue group wanted to have a behaviorist arrive along with Sam to assess how well the dogs were all going to mesh together. Happily, they all passed the compatibility test and before she left, we were “trained” a bit on both positive and potentially troubling body language signs.

Sam has been a wonderful addition to our family. Furgus can mostly turn his admiration and sharp puppy teeth toward Sam and leave Abel, the elderly dachshund, be. Abel is ecstatic about Sam’s arrival since Furgus was fascinated by his tail (new experience!) and didn’t seem to get that just because he was small didn’t mean he was young.

From the first hours, Furgus was happy to follow behind Sam as he secured our perimeter by marking every fence post, tree, and blade of grass.

Although not ideal, we did make it though our two day back-to-back car trips with few problems, other than discovering Abel has a tendency toward carsickness on long road trips. (Well, we still need to replace Christiana’s not inexpensive headphones that Furgus snagged when all but 1” of cord was tucked securely in her backpack—as responsible puppy owners, it is our duty since she was not being careless.) On the mountain passes, Furgus discovered that not only does he like snow, but he loves it! All in all, the dogs did well despite being bored.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert


Turns out everyone fared a bit better than I did. After all, I’m the only one who was in the car for a full 2,600 miles last week. Tuesday morning, for no obvious reason other than my week of inactivity, my lower back went out in a way it never has before. The irony of the timing is not lost on me. Surely my hubris and some poor timing plans led me to this place.

Nonetheless, I’m doing what I can to stay home and work on creating our new life together, even if Sam is going to have to wait for those runs I promised him. It has helped that Jackson arrived home for the summer on Monday and brought friends. It was love at first sight for both guys and dogs and helped me greatly since my back is limiting me—the dogs are going to be so disappointed to discover the friends were only temporary guests.

As tough and challenging as it is to integrate a puppy and young dog into our home, I can feel the healing already—even if my back can’t yet.

I am so much happier now, yet watching the dogs wrestle together surprised me with feelings of raw loss. One minute I was holding Abel, soaking in their complete joy and utter physical capabilities and the next I was thinking about how he was watching with pure longing—he was an old man (dog) wishing for younger days.

(c) 2011 Trina Lambert

That’s when I saw them all—Duncan, Chelsea, and Fordham—all my dogs who had crossed over that Rainbow Bridge. That’s when I remembered my first baby’s brokenness near his end when I was steeped in my days with two preschoolers and references from our lives together. As Duncan’s hips refused to work together and sat down without his consent, I used to think of Buzz Lightyear, armless and falling, singing, “Clearly I shall go sailing no more . . .”

As I broke into deep sobs, steeped with my previous losses and Abel’s impending goodbye, Sam stopped his play and bounded to me. With another leap up, he was in my arms, straining to wash the tears from my face.

Goodbye/hello all rolled up together.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert