Driving home in the dark
By Cynthia Smith
For the second time in as many months, I found myself driving home from Minneapolis in the dark of night, following a "farewell" party given by the Group Home residents, and staff, where my adult son had lived for many past years. It was a happy send off for him, as he is now living in a nearby suburb in a Pathways to Community townhouse, one of four townhouse owned by Pathways, occupied by one resident per bedroom.
We are overjoyed as there are never enough housing opportunities for the adults who are willing to work, just seek as much independence as possible in their communities, and follow societal rules with their attempts to be "on their own". I feel great relief that even now, if my life comes to an end before I'm eighty, he will be settled, cared for and, near his peer group activities.
So as I put pedal to the metal (or is it mettle?) my mind has the tasks of keeping me awake until I reach my driveway - takes me about four hours. My mind also has to make sure I don't miss a turn or rest stop. I use my seat massager to keep my back from locking up, as well as cruise in the more level sections of Highway 52. I left Minneapolis a day before I planned as the weather forecasters were predicting up to a foot of snow possible for the end of the week - that was nothing I wanted to contend with.
Scenario: all darkness around me, but safe enough, given dual lanes on Interstates. Let my mind think of other things - adult kids all okay. My grandchildren okay. MY GREAT grandchildren all okay, even the one new girl, born on the day I drove up. It was a treat to hold a seven pound girl on her first day of coming into our growing family. Now I have four greats: one boy three years, one boy two years, one girl one year and today a girl just born!
With my cruise set, I bypass rural towns like Lewiston, St.Charles, most of my windshield views are in the darkness and still. But along I-90 I see a huge milking barn, fully lighted. It must be mechanized to milk what seems to be a couple of hundred cows, lying down side by side. This gets my mind whirling. Poor cows, don't they want to rest in the dark? I can't imagine they like resting in full brightness. Do cows like their lives in a dairy situation? I try to place my brain inside a cow. Do they ever get to go into a pasture and graze? Never before have I thought too much about the life of a dairy cow. But as I can't see much else as I pass them by, their lives come into my pondering. There is MUCH I don't know about cows - other than their owners have jobs that are round the clock!
My neighbor has some pigs and I collect my scraps for them each day. My husband had a pig named Lily that he rode as a kid, out on his grandparents' farm in Missouri. Lily being the focus of many of some outlandish tales of that time in his life. Of course, Lily eventually wound up on the dining table.
We must love our animals, whether they are an actual "product" we raise for income or not. I love the squirrels, birds, and pigs I feed. I feel a loss when I see a raccoon along the highway and worse (to me) is a dead deer. When the Mississippi is crowded with swans, geese and ducks I love to watch. To see the eagles return to hatch another brood gives me a thrill and I thank whomever got the fortitude to go up and place a nest cam. It is like becoming a naturalist from my kitchen table.
I turn from I-90 and travel southward on Highway 35 toward home, mulling and wondering - what do the cows think as they rest in the dark night but their home in these barns (I don't know the proper name for a milking barn) that is fully lighted, a spot where they all are lying down, side by side. They ARE a herd animal, yes. But, are they talking to each other as they lie there? Does one cow say to another, "I wish the farmer would turn off these darn lights so I could truly sleep!"?
I SHOULD be grateful. Their lighted see-through shelter prodded my thoughts and made me ask questions in my musings. "How now brown cow?" Thereby keeping me alert and awake for another hour to home where I will turn off all the lights and hit my own hay.