Sunday, February 17, 2008

Turn Around When Possible

Last Saturday my family convened in California for my grandmother's funeral. After the services we were all going over to my dad's cousin's place to see their new winery. As five of us climbed into my brother Jon's car, my brother Jason asked for an address so that he could plug it into his GPS.
Angie, my sister-in-law, gave him the address. She had been very careful to get it from my mother during the funeral luncheon.
“I have to put in the city. Is it in Lodi?” Jason asked.
“Oh, I didn’t ask what city it was in,” Angie said, “I guess she assumed you would know. Your mom said you would all know it when you saw it.”
Yes, we had all been to cousin Tom's place many times. We would go there every summer to play in the river that wound through his grape orchards, to pick blackberries and elderberries for pies, and to visit with the folks in the old farmhouse that great-great grandpa Jack built. But none of us had ever driven there. Especially not from the chapel in Galt.
“Here, use mine,” my brother Jim said. He got out his own GPS and passed it up to Jason in the front seat. “It doesn’t make you put in the city.”
“It’s in Acampo,” Jon said.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to ask for directions?” I suggested.
“We have two GPS’s!” Jason said, as if he couldn't believe my lack of faith. “We’ll find it!”
As we drove we talked and enjoyed ourselves, often talking so loud that Jon missed the GPS saying “Turn right in 300 feet” or “Make a left turn.” Jason had to keep telling him to turn around and get on the right course. We reminisced about summer visits to the ranch; all the peaches you could eat fresh off the tree, the walnuts, the river, the blackberries.
“Okay, who can do the best sheep impression?” Jon challenged us.
Jim, Jason, and Jon all burst out in amazingly accurate renditions of sheep vocalization. We were all laughing. It sounded just like sleeping out in the camper trailer at the ranch with the sheep singing to you all night long, an experience we had all shared many times.
At first the landscape all looked familiar. Country roads, farm houses, grapes and fields and the occasional dairy farm. But then, after a while I noticed that we were driving in country I had never before seen. The land was flat and swampy. We drove past a flock of birders with their spotting scope, standing by the side of the road looking at waterfowl.
“It says we’re here,” Jason told us as we drove by the gate of the bird sanctuary. I didn’t even know there was a bird sanctuary near the ranch.
“This doesn’t look like it,” Jim said.
“Doesn’t look like it at all.” I agreed.
“What did you put in for the town?” Angie asked. "Did you put in Acampo?"
“I put in Lodi,” Jason said. “It came up as a valid address, so I figured I’d got it right,” He poked at his GPS for a few moments.
At last the GPS spoke, “Turn around when possible.”
Jason moaned. “You guys do not want to know how far away we are.”
“How far?” I asked.
“You do not even want to know.”
“How far?” we all insisted.
“Fifteen miles!” Jason told us in a laugh-choked voice. “There’s a road with the same name in Lodi and it has a house with the same number. Who would have thought!”
We all laughed and moaned and called dad to let him know we weren’t dead and that we were on our way. It would have been easier to ask for directions.

No comments: