Today is the day, the day we take Kayla back to school for her junior year, the first time we’ll be moving her into an apartment, the end of summer. We take two cars up to Toledo. I drive Kayla’s car so she will have it there. Tywana drives her SUV stuffed to the gills, as is Kayla’s car. It’s a beautiful day for a drive we remark and begin the three-hour journey up I-75.
I noticed that the VSC warning light in Kayla’s car is on. This has been a nagging problem since last summer and seems to usually present itself just about the time we’re scheduled to take her back to school. We just had it in the shop a week ago and the light was out. Great. Another thing for me to deal with. Ten minutes from the house, we run into an accident that has I-75 shut down. Waze lets us down by not telling us to avoid this. We have to get off of the highway and start driving until Waze stops trying to put us back on the closed highway and finally routes us to the next entrance to the highway. We lose half an hour of time here.
It’s about 10 AM when we leave. This is very early for Kayla, so essentially Tywana is driving alone and I’m driving alone. Normally, we’d talk and listen to Podcasts on the way up. Thanks to technology we put our cell phones on speaker mode and just have a conversation like we’re in the same car all the way up. The rest of the trip is uneventful, but as we’re driving through stop-start traffic in Toledo I hear this grinding noise coming from the left rear brakes. Not good. I’ll have to make arrangements to get Kayla to take the car to the Lexus dealer Monday morning. This car is getting to be more trouble than it’s worth. But, for now, we’re here. I’ll deal with that Monday morning.
We get Kayla unloaded from the cars. She contacts her boyfriend and he meets us at her apartment. We head out to Target and Costco for some essentials. In Costco, I joke with Kayla that we are done shopping when the basket is full. Well, we filled that puppy up. Wow, have we spoiled that girl. She’s fully stocked with food. She’s got her blender, panini sandwich press, and toaster oven. Her apartment is a brand new building. This is just the second year it’s been open. There’s a giant tubular slide to get from the second floor down to the first. The pool area has a covered bar with a grill where they are grilling something for the kids moving it. She has her own bedroom and own bathroom and a walk-in closet. It’s a suite if you will. She has a key to the front door and there is a separate key for her suite.
As we’re coming out of Costco, we notice that the clouds that have been gathering have opened up into a downpour. But, they were so scattered, I’m sure it’ll stop in a minute. As Kayla and Gabe are buying smoothies for the three of them, Tywana and I take the groceries to the car. By the time they come out, the rain has slowed significantly. We grab some chicken from Popeye’s and take it back to Kayla’s apartment. I want to get on the road because it’s the last full night of competition for the Olympics and I really would rather not drive on the highway at night. So, we hustle out of there around 6. By this time, the scattered clouds have become solid as far as the eye can see and the rain is coming down in sheets. I get so wet making the two trips to the car that I may as well just have jumped into the swimming pool.
My theory on heavy rain is it can only rain so hard for so long. My theory for driving in heavy rain is to keep moving because the cells are only so big. If a cell is stationary, pulling off means you’ll just be sitting in the heavy rain. And even if the cell is moving in the same direction as you are, you’re moving 70 miles per hour. You’ll drive through it soon enough. This is also my philosophy on life. The heavy storms only last so long. Just hold on and they’ll pass. And never stop. Keep on moving. Well, that theory was tested last night. It rained like I have never seen it rain for over three hours and for almost 180 miles. Every time we got a break, it would start again. There were even times I’d look over to the right and could breaks in the clouds and pink from the sunset, but the rain would just start all over again. People were driving with their flashers on. People were pulling over. I just kept thinking “Keep moving. Slow down. Be alert. Keep moving. It can’t last that long.” By the time we were coming through Dayton, just 30 miles from home, I was negotiating “Just give me 15-20 minutes of a break for these last few miles. Finally, 10 miles out, the rain stopped. The roads were actually almost dry. I wanted to get home and get the dogs outside before the rain hit the house. Just as I pulled into the driveway, the rain started at home. Great! Let me get the dogs out before it starts to really pour.
We walk into the house, hands full of Kayla’s boxes and suitcases and I hear Stevie yipping in her kennel to be let out. We had a friend’s daughter come in at 4 to let them out so they wouldn’t have to go 12 hours cooped up. I hear Tywana saying "Where’s Zoe?” Zoe hates thunderstorms. We put Zoe in the mudroom when we leave and we put Stevie in her kennel and put the kennel in front of the door along with a baby gate. This keeps Zoe in, not that we really care, and Stevie has company. Zoe can get out, but hardly ever does. We figure with the thunderstorms, Zoe has panicked and gone someplace she feels safer. But she always comes when we call her- unless we’ve accidentally locked her in the basement or she’s gotten behind a closed door somewhere else. The girl who let the dogs out reported all was well when she left. So, we know Zoe’s got to be in the house. I go upstairs to look for her as I’m calling her and she is nowhere to be found. Our bedroom door is pulled shut. Kayla’s bedroom door is shut. The other two bedroom doors are shut. She’s not upstairs. I check my office. Panic is setting in now. I’m calling her name. Tywana’s calling her name. I check the basement. There is no reason the basement door should have been opened while we were gone and it’s closed and even locked now, but Zoe has to be somewhere. I call her. She doesn’t come. At this point, Tywana and I are both thinking the same thing. She’s dead. Where she is, we don’t know, but we know she’s dead. I’m wondering how I’m going to tell Kayla. I go all the way to the back room in the basement- the store room. No Zoe.
Now, I think she must have been left outside. In normal weather that would not be a problem. Zoe would simply wait by the back door until we got home, even if it were hours. But, it’s been thundering and lightning for hours. Maybe she panicked and ran off. I knew she was going to die, probably soon, but I didn’t want her to suffer. I think of her alone in the dark with the thunder and lighting and rain. There are coyotes in our neighborhood, too. I think of my friend who just lost his dog a couple of months ago and found his body days later. I’m thinking “How am I going to search for her in the dark?” Which way do I even go? I tell Tywana to call the girl who let them out. What happened? How did she possibly not know Zoe wasn’t in the house when she left.
Then, Tywana opens the door to the one room in the house that we hadn’t checked. The girls’ bathroom upstairs. Zoe is standing there, behind the door, silent. Zoe rarely barks other than when someone comes to the door. If she’ is stuck somewhere and we call her, she’ll just stand there by the door until we find her. She also likes to get into small spaces when she’s scared. Her favorite place is our closet, but our bedroom door was closed. She must have gone upstairs and when she couldn’t get into our bedroom, went into the bathroom. The third thing Zoe does is when she goes into these places, she will go behind the door and push it to with her nose. The problem is she doesn’t have hands, so if she pushes it too far she can’t get it open again. Sometimes she’ll bark and Stevie will come let her out, but Stevie had been in her kennel.
Ah… crisis averted, for today. Tywana and I talked about it on the way home. All those days you dread, the graduation of your kids, the death of a parent, your kids moving away, the death of a spouse. They all come, in time. Today, there were times when we both wondered if we’d make it home. I knew we had to, for Kayla. Today, I wondered if it’d be the day I had to call Kayla and tell her Zoe was gone. Not today. But the storms continue to roll in. Who’ll stop the rain?