This will be my first submission and I hope you like it.
Three years ago I got one of those phone calls everybody hates to get. The phone rings and it's around 1:00pm, daytime calls are answered normally without a second thought but just as I was reaching for the handset I paused. Just a gut feeling from out of nowhere froze my arm mid-reach for a split second, and then it was gone.
My sister Mary gives me the bad news, our youngest sister Sheila was in ICU at a hospital in San Diego and wasn't expected to make it through the night. She had been checked in several days earlier and no one in the family had been notified until that morning. She was on life support but fading fast. Sheila was an alcoholic who'd burned a lot of bridges and I think she just gave up and was trying to fade away quietly, no drama, no embarrassing questions to answer, and certainly no lectures from people who'd stopped answering her phone calls long ago. The only two sisters she kept in touch with were now on the phone, 500 miles from each other, making promises to get there before she went. We hung up and before I could set the handset down it rang again, my oldest daughter, getting back from lunch (she teaches high school English) and wanted to call and say hi. She never calls me from school, she's much too busy. I let her know what was happening, she volunteered to drive. I accepted and we set our pick up time, hung up and got moving.
At times like this you don't think you move. Grabbed my youngest as she came in and threw an overnight bag at her and she packed. I called my husband at work; he'd stay behind with the animals and business. By the time we hit the road it was 6:00pm. Angie (oldest) driving, her partner Ruth riding shotgun, Clair (youngest) and myself in the backseat. Now Angie is a stickler for rules and laws, no gray areas with her, ever. Speed limits may as well be one of the commandments as far as she's concerned, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to get where I'm going in one piece thank you. (My mother was the worst driver, there's a tree in my home town that my mom hit 4 times in 4 different cars).
We headed south from Tucson to San Diego, changed from interstate 10 to 8 and didn't stop for anything but gas. Got out, stretched, used the rest rooms. As I was washing my hands I looked up into the rest stop mirror and I froze. Looking back at me was Sheila. I had her wavy long hair (mine is straight) and pointy chin. I stood there staring when as Angie walked in and sees me and she says "Mom, you have Aunt Sheila's hair!", "I know, let's get moving". We jumped back into the car, pulled away and right away we're slowed to a crawl, someone up ahead had gotten the idea that it was OK to make a U-turn on the interstate. Why me Lord? Well, no injuries, just a mess of sheetrock they were hauling in their 'barely legal' pickup truck decided to make a break for it and ended up adding another 45min or more driving time to our already stressful trip.
By the time we finally got back up to the speed limit it was after 11:00pm. The entire time listening to Angie and Ruth's CDs. When they started discussing what they'd play next I begged for the radio and they gave in. Searching for a station in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night you take what comes in the best and that happened to be an Oldies station out of San Diego. As soon as the commercials were finally over and the DJ comes back on the air, this is EXACTLY what he said "And now folks, here is the number one song this week from way back in 1962!". Before the music began Angie says "It's Aunt Sheila" and then "Sweet Little Sheila" started to play... I looked at the dashboard clock and it was midnight. Clair said "Mom?". As we listened with tears streaming down our faces, Angie pulled the car over and stopped. The song ended, we all stepped out and looked up to the beautiful stars, and they just seemed so much closer and brighter that night. A few minutes passed and Angie's cell phone rang, she answered, listened, then replied "Yes, we already know", and hung up.
Once back on the road, we continued on to San Diego. Sheila passed at 11:41pm September 7th, 2007. Rest in Peace my Sweet Little Sheila, rest in peace.