In 1966 while we were living in Tucson Arizona my Dad received a phone call that one of his twin sisters, Nellie, had had a heart attack. Apparently, it was a bad one and they didn’t expect her to live more than a couple of weeks. It was a Thursday evening and the decision was made to leave the next morning and drive to Seattle Washington as quickly as possible. Because of the urgency, my parents decided to drive straight through with them taking turns driving. The next morning we left before the sun came out and started the long 1650 mile one-way trip.
We headed toward Los Angeles so we could take Highway 5 straight up to Washington. My Dad and Mother took turns driving for 8 hours each. First, my Dad drove while my Mother slept then my Mother drove so my Dad could sleep and so forth. My sister and I sat in the back seat reading, playing games, watching the scenery and sleeping. About 10 pm that Friday evening my Mother woke up and took the wheel and my Dad found a comfortable way to recline and he was soon asleep. My sister and I also fell asleep. It was hard to stay asleep because my Mother had a horrible habit of whistling. It was never a tune, just a sound and it was never loud enough to actually figure out what it was, but it was loud enough to be annoying. In the quiet of the car, it made sleeping next to impossible, at least for me.
I guess I finally did fall asleep at some point because all of a sudden, we were all 3 jarred from our slumber by a horrifying scream. The sun was just coming up over the Eastern Mountains illuminating the gorgeous pine trees and making the sky appear red. Of course, it was hard to enjoy these beauties because there was my Mother, sitting in the driver’s seat, both hands on the wheel, holding it so tightly her knuckles were white. She had brought the vehicle to a complete stop and she had a look of terror on her face like none I had ever seen before. She just sat there screaming to the top of her lungs. My Dad tried everything to try to calm her down and he even tried prying her hands from the wheel. Nothing helped. Looking behind us there was a line of cars and trucks piling up for miles and some of them were honking their horns. Remember this was the mid 60’s, this was only a one-lane road going in both directions. There were no passing lanes. My Dad climbed out of the car, walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and literally picked my Mother up off the seat. He had to yell at her to get her to turn loose of the wheel. Finally, he was able to carry her around to the passenger seat and put her in the car. He then reached into the glove box and pulled out a large handkerchief and made a blindfold out of it. Once he made sure it was securely in place, he then got in the car and he drove off. It still took several minutes for my Mother to quit screaming. All my sister and I could do was to hold our hands over our ears.
My Dad drove to the first rest stop and parked. My sister asked, “What happened?” My dad explained that my Mother was terrified of heights and she didn’t know she was driving through the mountains until the sun came up. She had frozen in fear and that is why we were left holding up traffic on that mountain road.
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