The prompt is to write a post inspired by the word “icy.”
The 2000 Super Bowl was held here in Atlanta. Naturally, we had an ice storm that weekend, after having had an ice storm the week before that we had almost recovered from. We were cautioned to stay off the roads, because this is Atlanta, and when it gets icy or snowy, the tendency is to stay home and wait until it melts.
I would have done that, too, except Mary had planned on going to see her mother in Chicago that weekend and had a non-refundable ticket. She was looking forward to the trip, and I was determined to get her to the airport. Our house is about 25 miles from the airport, most of which is on Interstates, which were in slightly better shape than the surface streets.
We left about three hours before her flight and drove very slowly, taking I-285 as much as we could, because I had heard it was in better shape than I-75 and I-85. That doesn’t mean it was in good shape, and we still had to drive carefully, because not only was there ice on the road, it was dark and there were people who figured they could drive as fast on ice as on dry pavement and were learning no, they couldn’t.
We made it to the airport in an hour and a half, a little over twice the amount of time it takes to get there normally. This was the days before 9/11, when they didn’t strip-search you and rummage through your luggage before you got on the plane and when it was OK to accompany your loved ones to the gate and kiss them goodbye. Her flight departed on time, a TV first for planes flying out of ATL.
The sun was up by the time I left the airport. I turned on the radio as I was leaving. Captain Herb Emory (the dearly departed guardian angel of drivers in the Atlanta area) was reporting that traffic was tied up on the inner ring of I-285 (the side that goes clockwise around town) and to avoid it. I decided to chance I-75/I-85 going through Atlanta, buckled myself in tightly, and made my way slowly through town. I drove in the center lane the whole way, figuring people could pass me on either side. And they did, and on a few occasions I passed them later as they sat on the side of the road, their front fender crushed from the collision with the wall, their faces ashen.
It took a couple of hours to get home, but I made it safely, exhausted. There was a message waiting for me on the answering machine (remember those?) from Mary, telling me she got to her mother’s safely, about an hour before I did.
It turns out that was Mary’s last enjoyable visit with her mother. The next time we went to see her, she was in the hospital, suffering from colon cancer, and she died a few weeks later. In retrospect, it was worth the effort.