The next morning after a hearty breakfast, we set off without too much fanfare. We said most of our goodbyes the previous evening. As we loaded up the car, I half expected Snow to jump into the car with us, but she stayed glued to Barbara’s thigh on the chaise lounge. I ruffled the fur on her head and kissed her fuzzy face, promising to see her in a few weeks when we got back home. She wagged her tail and gave me a little yippy bark, which I assumed meant “See you later.”
Matt made sure we had plenty of water and snacks that don’t melt in the heat. I assured him the Road Service provided by the car company was in working order. He reminded me to start looking for a gas station as soon as my tank was down to half. One last kiss for Matt and Barbara and we set off for Phoenix.
I drove the first leg of the journey. It is my car, after all. Chris spent time looking over the owner’s manual on my phone. He played with the satellite radio and found a jazz station he liked. He adjusted the passenger seat until it was what he called the “perfect comfy,” for him. He set the memory for his seat preference. He played with the AC vents, the windows, and the internet settings on the display between the seats. Finally, he announced, “The only way this car could be any better is if it drove itself.”
“Well, it does. It lets you know when you are straying out of your lane and it has that automatic system that slams on brakes if you get too close to an object in front of you.”
“Not to mention cruise control,” Chris added.
“All the toys are included,” I reminded him.
Then, Chris asked, “You want to take a side trip to the Grand Canyon? I have never seen it.”
“Me, either. Yes, let’s.” Chris entered the new information into the GPS. “So, it says 7 hours to the Canyon. We’ll have to get a hotel. Let me see if we can get some reservations.”
While I drove, Chris searched the internet. He made calls to four places before he finally announced, “Okay, we have reservations at the Grand Hotel which is about 6 miles from the state park entrance. I guess you heard that I got us one room.”
“I heard,” I said and made no further comments. I just agreed to spend tonight and every night for the rest of the trip with my husband. I hoped it wasn’t a bad idea.
We stopped at the You-Are-Entering-Arizona sign to take the selfie. For the first time, Chris and I did a proper selfie, heads close together, smiling with the Arizona sign behind us. I emailed it to Mr. Cartwright, Lily, to my sister and to Barbara and Matt.
We stopped at fast food restaurant on the interstate and both of us got a salad for lunch. We shared one hamburger and did not order fries. As we approached the car Chris said, “Can I drive? Please, please, please.” He looked about fifteen years old, so I said, “Sure. It will give me a chance to play with all the gadgets on my car.”
“I really like the color, by the way,” Chris said.
“Thank you. So do I.”
In a repeat of Chris’s investigations, I played with the satellite radio, the AC vents, the GPS, the seat settings and anything else within reach. I called the car’s concierge and a friendly lady answered the phone. “Hello, Mrs. Archer. My name is Amy. What can I help you with, today?”
“Amy, what is a good restaurant for dinner near the Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon?”
“Do you prefer casual dining or something more upscale?” Amy asked.
“I have two choices for you. El Tovar is more upscale and the Coronado Room is a little less so.” She gave me details on both and the asked if I wanted to make reservations at either. I selected El Tovar and she asked me to hold. Within three minutes she came back and announced we had dinner reservations for 10:00 PM. She asked if there was anything else she could do and I told her no.
“Oh, my gosh,” I said to Chris. “Unbelievable fun. Amy is like a personal assistant.”
Chris laughed at my enthusiasm.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon just before dusk and watched the sun go down over the distant horizon. The stars popped out and gave us a view of the sky I had never seen before. A man standing next to us told his lady friend, “You don’t get a lot of light pollution, so you can see more stars.” He kissed her and they walked away arm in arm.
My view of the canyon was limited and my imagination filled in a lot of the blanks. I wondered if seeing it in the daylight would live up to my expectations.
Chris and I got back into the car and drove to the restaurant in silence. I almost felt like I was leaving a part of me behind on the rim of the canyon.
We were seated immediately when we arrived at the restaurant and ate dinner in near silence, eat of us only talking when necessary.
Back at the hotel, Chris went into the bathroom and got ready for bed. I took my turn, putting on my pajamas, brushing my teeth and my hair. Chris waited for me, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“You were deep in thought at dinner,” Chris prompted.
I sat beside him on the bed. “I thought about the canyon and how I felt very small, but still a significant part of the whole universe at the same time. Humbling. Also, I desperately miss Lily and Snow. I didn’t really mind leaving Snow with Barbara, but it is almost like another part of my family is gone from me; like I have no one left.”
“You still have me,” Chris said, quietly.
Did I really? How could I trust what he said. He told me he broke up with Kathy and that is definitely a step in the right direction. I couldn’t shake the feeling that his affair was my fault. Not because I was older or bigger, but because I neglected my husband.
“There is something else bothering you, isn’t there?”
“Yes,” I said. “But I don’t want to tell you what it is, yet.” I blew out a sigh. “Chris, I love your singing voice.”
Chris’s eyes grew wider. “I didn’t know you ever heard me sing.”
“You do, mostly when you think no one is listening. You sing show tunes, like that one for South Pacific.”
“Lillian loved show tunes. I was raised on Oscar and Hammerstein.” He paused and said, “Anne, you have done a remarkable job of holding this family together. I wasn’t there for you to share you grief over losing our son. I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t stop to think that grief doesn’t end for you on the day of the funeral. It didn’t stop for me, then. I guess I didn’t take time to consider that you would be feeling the same way.” He paused for several moments and I thought he was finished talking. But then, “Snow will be back with us when this trip is through and so will Lily. We are still a family, even though a separation from all of them for a short time was necessary.” He ended with, “I love your cute curls.” To prove his point, he gathered a handful of my hair and kissed it.
I got up to walk around to the other side of the bed and Chris sang in his glorious baritone, “‘Once you have found her, never let her go. Once you have found her, never… let… her… go.”
1 thought on “Road of Change: Santa Fe to Arizona”