It was summer 1991, I was 19 when my Father flew to Dallas to donate his bone marrow to my Aunt for a transplant. My 3 day freshman orientation at the University of Colorado was about a week away when Dad decided that he wanted to come home. Everything about the operation had gone to plan, and he was bored looking at his hospital room and felt that he was missing too much work just sitting around. Problem was though, while he was cleared to leave the hospital, he was not cleared to fly, So right before my mandatory orientation, he asked (told) us to come get him. My Father was that type of man. He said jump, didn’t ask how high, you just jumped like your life depended on it. 

Mind you, they lived in a ski town high in the Rocky Mountains, so it was not like popping out to the shops for some groceries, but a pretty good trek. So my Step-Mother, 9 year old sister and I set off in the Wagon Queen Family Truckster to collect him. The S.M. and I drove straight through in shifts (no mean feat given the bird-like size of my sister’s bladder and the fact that our relationship was not a great one).

We get to Dallas, T-2 days before I HAVE TO BE in Boulder because of course I had put off orientation until the last date. So quick hugs all around, check of my Aunt before we go, get Dad swaddled in nice and tight (and high as a kite), and hit the road back north-less than 8 hours after we got there.

The return trip took a little longer simply for the fact that Dad was still in a lot of pain (pills can’t quite match that morphine drip he was on), and my S.M. would not let him smoke in “her” van, so he was mean as fuck and reminded us of how piss-poor our driving was on any slight imperfection in the road.

When we got home, I had less than 3 hours before I had to get up and make the 4 hour drive to Boulder to make it there for registration at 8:00am. I made it about 45 miles from the house when the exhaust system fell off my car in the middle of the highway. No time to turn back, I just stopped, drug it to the shoulder of the highway, and set off in what could only be described as the loudest, meanest sounding ‘77 Rabitt god had ever created.

Get checked in to the orientation, get my room assignment, sit through half a day of lectures, etc., etc., all the while wanting nothing more than to climb into bed. We finally break for lunch when my name is called and I am told to call home for some sort of emergency. There had been some sort of complication, and my Aunt had died overnight.

So back in my car, 4 (very loud) hours back to the house, I was met in the driveway with a change of clothes and my Father sitting behind the wheel of the van, ready to go. Remarkably , my sister’s bladder had not grown, nor was Dad in any less pain, but now the stress of it all finally got to my S.M. Needless to say, it was not a fun drive.

Back in Dallas, out of the car for a bit to buy a suit for myself for the service, sit through said service (my Aunt had all contingencies planned out), then all of us- Grandparents, my brother, my 4 other uncles and their families, my Aunt’s 18 year old son, my Aunt’s late husband’s family, and some close family friends then all traveled in caravan (behind the hearse at 50 mph) to the burial next to her husband in San Angelo!

After spending the night in San Angelo, since my Grandparents had ridden with us, it was back to the big D to drop them off, them back to Colorado.

So, all told, 2 round trips from the house to Dallas (approx. 970mi./16 hours each way), 1 round trip the house to Boulder (240mil/4 hr each way), and 1 trip from Dallas to San Angelo (265mi/4.3 hr each way). For a total of roughly 4000 miles in 80 hours in just over 4 days, including 2 funeral services and a half day of orientation-with a 9 year old who had to pee all the time, my Father who had just had major surgery and was on some serious painkillers who subsequently lost his older sister, trying to come to grips with that while not being allowed to smoke in the van and understandably not having any of it, and my S.M. harping away at everything that bothered her. It made the first return trip home with dad seem like a trip on the Love Boat. I just kept my Walkman on, and my head down when it wasn’t my turn to drive.

Impressive? Yes. Something I ever remotely want to do again? Fuck no.