I would assume that growing up, the idea crossed every kid's mind at least once that they must be adopted. For me, it was usually once a day. Even though my walk is unmistakably my dad's, and my mouth is without question my mother's, but still... something about me just didn't fit. Lately it's been occurring to me that maybe I wasn't adopted, but maybe I wasn't actually SUPPOSED to be here at all. Maybe I snuck my way into the universe like some cosmic accidental joke that God played on my parents. And then all three of them were like "well, Jeez. What are we gonna do with this one?" Nothing has ever quite worked out the way it "should have" for me. I have been coming to terms with the fact that I won't ever have a 60th wedding anniversary, or a burial plot next to someone. And that's ok I guess, since I really want my ashes scattered somewhere really fun, so people can remember me every time they hang out there. But I still think that maybe I just don't fit into this life quite right. I am a square peg in a round universe. Maybe, just maybe, I am SO accident prone that I have unintentionally missed every rendezvous with death that has been appointed to me. I showed up late, true to form, for all of the stellar alignments that would return me to my rightful place in the Order of Things.
All of this crossed my mind as I was leaving Walla Walla yesterday. Walla Walla is the epicenter of my existence. The place that destined me to birth, if such a destiny was in the first place. The beginning of it all. I was there for the memorial service of a great Uncle/Cousin named Solomon Frank, whom I remember meeting as a little girl, probably between Easter Egg Hunts and visits from The Real Santa Claus, who apparently lived across the street from Grandma Schiffman in 1983. Solomon Frank was triple related to me, since at least three Schiffmans married at least three Franks, and both lines crisscrossed repeatedly in a somewhat Appalachian fashion. Volga Germans, the Franks immigrated INTO Russia (I know, right?) under the reign of Catherine The Great and set up German colonies along the Volga river, and then crossed over to the US when Russia started thinking maybe German-Russians shouldn't be a thing after all. Staunch Lutheran Reformationists, this family, getting all mixed up with the ever-imbibing Schiffmans, hard drinking Germans with a penchant for all sorts of vices. I was there with my parents and my Aunt and Uncle and clone-cousin, and we had some interesting conversations about what made us the person(s) that we are, which is quite nearly the same, and a repetition for all intents and purposes of our great grandmother Francis Hawk. Who was neither Frank nor Schiffman, but threw in her own dash of awesome for the perfect mix. Francis was a woman ahead of her time. She was on stage with Adam West, the actor who first portrayed Batman on the big screen. She helped excavate and curate the historical site of the Whitman Mission, an amateur archaeologist after my own heart. She was a photographer, an artist, a mountaineer, a mother, an a journalist for the Associated Press back when they were worth their mettle in World War II. My cousin Hannah and I have (often unintentionally) pursued almost the exact same exploits. It's a little bit eery.
Anyway, I left Walla Walla and foolishly followed SIRI's directions off into the wheat covered hills of the lower Palouse. I was lost in thought as I travelled a couple of different two lane, winding highways dutifully, disregarding a curious note that they were oddly named roads, but trusting the painted double yellow to not be destination-less. After about 45 minutes SIRI told me to turn on to a gravel road. Sensing immediately that this was it, her final play to do me in, I disobeyed. As far as I knew, I didn't need to take a gravel road ANYWHERE between Walla Walla and Northport, and it was obviously nothing more than an attempt to shake me. Nice try, SIRI. I continued on the two lane for another 20 minutes or so and then it ended. Well really, it turned into a gravel road. Which was disconcerting. The gravel road was well maintained and pointed int the general direction of the Columbia River which gave me some peace. I reassured myself that I wasn't in a hurry, and since I was already looking at backtracking at least 20 miles I might as well try it. SIRI started sputtering about having no service and Proceeding To the Route, which apparently now was off in the middle of a wheat field somewhere. I followed the gravel for 18 miles and at last there was a tiny little farm town. I knew a highway had to be nearby. Until I got close and realized that the tiny farm town was actually just a huge farm. With lots of campers. and no highway. I tried taking the road through the farm and it was fenced off in the direction that SIRI insisted was the way to Northport. South facing, interestingly. She's vicious. I took the only road out and started thinking about that family that got lost on the forest road in Oregon and the dad starved to death. I figured my odds were slightly better because there was lots of wheat around, plus all the fire snacks I brought home, and if I ever overcame my pride and the hint of terror that the farmhouse might be the den of a serial killer, I could always ask for directions. Fortunately, after another 20 minutes of driving too fast on a gravel road, with no cell service and no radio reception, so basically, running for my life, I ran into WA State HWY 261, which I didn't even know existed. For the record, it is my personal belief that HWY 261 is actually a roller coaster. hiding in a witness protection program after a few too many suspicious theme park deaths. I survived that road/ride with only a touch of carsickness and then raced my gas light to the nearest gas station, which it turns out was NOT in Washtucna. I met a nice family of healthy black widow spiders living in a public restroom provided by the Washtucna Lions Club. (Note to Lion's Club - get in there with some big boots and a shop-vac STAT!) Once again, narrowly escaping the death that has been pursuing me since my unintentional inception. Somehow I got to Ritzville alive, and remarkably, ahead of schedule.
All of that near-death-defying experience made me think about accidents, the unfortunate ones, and the serendipitous ones, and how a wrong turn can be the thing that makes your life what it is. The extra bends and turns and the little bit of uncertainty that makes your heart beat a little bit faster. Knowing for certain that there are a LOT of wheat fields out there that you can't see from the highway. A lot of stuff to see and know, that you can't reach from a direct route. It's ok sometimes to get off course, both to see the sights, and to know that you won't die. Not at the hands of a serial killer or a black widow or starvation. And that it's ok to go with your gut - sometimes you wind up on a questionable gravel road, but in the end, it all works out.