As my wife and I approach our twenty-third summer together, there are many times when our thoughts are eerily in-sync.
On car trips, in particular, we tend to be able to read each others’ thoughts with uncanny accuracy. For example, I know when she will want to stop for lunch (always exactly at noon local-time, no matter which worldwide time zone we happen to actually be in), and she knows exactly when I will want to stop for lunch (never).
That’s the great thing about a car trip, particularly on the interstate highways: There’s lots of time to talk and lots of time to think. The roads are relatively straight, the speed is pretty consistent, and the mind can focus on both the road and on something else.
On our most recent trip, cruising through Missouri, I started thinking about other possible trips we could take once our kids are no longer draining our time and money.
I’ve always wanted to visit China. I’ve always dreamed of driving the length of Route 66. And it would be fun to buy an Amtrak pass and just circle the country.
It would be nice for just the two of us to get away, a reward for 20 years of raising children, kind of like we used to do a lifetime ago.
That’s what I was thinking, dreaming while driving, and that’s what I assumed my wife was doing as she sat quietly in the passenger seat.
“Where is the safe deposit box key?” she asked out of the blue, her face contorted and concerned.
“In my office desk,” I told her.
“Where in the desk?” she asked, more insistent than before.
“In the pencil drawer,” I responded. “Why are you so interested?”
“Well, if one of us dies, it’s important to know where all of the important papers are,” she said. “I mean, you know where everything is but you haven’t told me.”
Pointing out the number of times we’ve already had this conversation wasn’t going to endear me to her. So I said nothing, hoping to return to my thoughts about traveling the world with her.
And then it struck me: She wasn’t talking about “one of us” dying, she was talking about me kicking the bucket. First. And she wasn’t worried about our next trip; she was contemplating my final trip.
I pointed out this dichotomy, gently of course, and waited for her response. She smiled slowly, laughed a little nervously, and quickly changed the topic, pointing out that her side of the car seemed a little stuffy.
So I returned to my thoughts, wondering now whether I should start saving money for the trip to Beijing or whether I instead needed to consider setting aside some funds, perhaps piled high on our dining room table for all to see, for a final journey to a less expensive place.