Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Donna and Dan - 22
I wanted so much to see Donna, but was it even going to be possible??
While my first college career began and ended before that first semester at Murray was over, the Dan and Donna love story did not. After spending much of our free time together that first semester, taking walks, talking about God and the Bible (yeah, we were Baptist geeks) and Contemporary Christian Music (yeah, we were CCM geeks, too), talking about Donna's classes and our plans, it came time for me to leave Murray, knowing I wasn't returning.
Knowing it would mean a huge physical separation for our newfound love.
Murray State University and Donna's home are both nearly five hours away from my Louisville home. And here I was, going back to my parents' home as a college drop-out and no job. My only plan was to look for work and to start a CCM band (oh, boy!) in the meantime.
But we made phone calls. We made plans to visit and, when that first Christmas rolled around, my parents graciously (foolishly?) allowed this 18-year-old manchild to borrow their old VW microvan and make that five hour trek to the dark corners of far western Kentucky to visit Donna at her parents' home for the very first time.
The problem was that their VW had no heat.
In fact, even with the vents off, cold air blew in.
And the weekend I planned my trip was a bitter cold one. And a snow storm was a-brewing.
Nonetheless, I dressed in layers, grabbed a blanket to drape across my lap and put on my gloves and ventured out into the cold, to make the long frigid trip across the barren grounds of a snowy western Kentucky.
The first fifty miles or so, I still pulsed with enthusiasm and energy, but the snow was picking up and I still had to drive the endless empty stretch of the Western Kentucky Parkway. Being winter, night fell early and the cold winds blew straight through the VW windshield, icing it over. I had to continually use the ice scraper on both the outside AND inside of the windshield.
I reached Beaver Dam, the halfway point, an hour behind schedule and freezing and tired. I warmed up with some hot chocolate at the rest stop and, with my strength renewed a bit, headed back out to make the second half of this Arctic trek. Hoping I'd make it alive.
On and on I trudged. Stopping occasionally to try to warm up and wake up (to no avail), scraping the windshield and moving on again. Having nearly reached the end of the WK Parkway, I was about defeated. It was getting very late and I was worn out.
I stopped at the Eddyville Penitentiary exit, found a payphone at a dark lonely gas station and called Donna.
"I d-d-don't think I can m-m-make it, sweetie. M-M-Maybe they'll put me up for the night at Eddyville?"
"But you're nearly here," she lied. "You can make it, can't you? Please??"
And so, I re-wrapped myself in my insufficient cocoon of shirts, jackets and blankets, pulled my thin gloves over my trembling fingers and restarted that cursed VW.
After leaving the main highways, I trudged, trembling and trepid, down the one lane roads towards my final destination. What seemed like hours passed, snow drifting across the road and entrancing me as it whipped towards the windshield, with me forcing my eyes open in an act of superhuman determination.
When finally, I spotted the house as it was described to me, its lights shining barely through the blizzardy gusts of snow and ice. I pulled into the driveway, praying I had reached the right place.
There she was! Donna came to rescue me, prying me from the frozen VW and helping me get into the doors.
Instead of greeting anyone, I ran straight for the cast iron woodstove in the corner of their living room, holding my frozen hands over it to begin the thawing out process, hoping against hope that no fingers would be lost.
And her parents' first impression of their future son-in-law was the teen-aged college drop-out who had run to a decorative (ie, NO HEAT) woodstove to try to warm himself up after barely being able to drive a few hours through a beautiful winter night.
Bad first impressions aside, they graciously welcomed me into their home and we all warmed to one another in time.