The Getaway Car

Summertime and the livin’ is…

George Gershwin

Midlife crisis. 

He had all the outward and visible signs. He started wearing a baseball cap to cover his balding head. In his late forties, he got a tattoo for the very first time. 

And he got a getaway car – the classic imported convertible kind. Even used, it was a car we could barely afford.

I should have paid closer attention.

One day, he jumped into that car and escaped — never to return. A getaway car indeed.

Please, do not feel sorry for me. I strongly believe that just as it takes two people to get married, likewise it takes the same two people to get divorced. It’s not a no fault situation. It’s more like there are plenty of faults to go around.

And for eighteen years, I have cherished my independent life, as he does his.

And because of this, I have come to more deeply understand that everyone, from time to time, needs a getaway car. Literal or figurative.

The world keeps crashing down in ways both private and public.

Have you checked the weather? 

The planet is warming, ice shelves are melting, the seas are rising, and as I write, a witches’ brew of storms are beginning to percolate in the Atlantic and Pacific.

Have you read the news? 

No matter where you get your news — CNN, FOX, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal — the news is not so good. It never really is, is it? Especially that 24/7-news-cycle-news. I just want to cover my ears and chant “lalalalalala” so, none of  the nasty stuff can get through. At least, for a little while.

Very, very, very hard to do in a pandemic year, right? Covid-19 has sucker-punched us, overwhelmed us. The virus has turned so much upside down – our work, our family, our faith, our hopes, and dreams. And our vacation plans!

But with 50% fully vaccinated in the U.S. things are looking up! Not quite everything is coming up roses but we are getting there. So, who right now does not want to jump into their very own pandemic getaway car!

And where to and for how long? Just how far will we go to getaway?

Getaways come in different lengths and sizes. Short. Medium. Long. Forever.

As do the problems we are trying to escape. Momentary. Temporary. Passing. Permanent.

Have you ever read Anne Tyler? She is one of my favorite writers. In her novel, Ladder of Years, she tells the story of Delia Grinstead. Abridged, this is my paraphrase of Tyler’s own words:

Delia is forty years old, a doctor’s wife and daughter, and mother of three. She packs up her family for their annual trip to the shore. Bethany Beach is soothing balm for the blistering heat of Baltimore. 

A summertime escape to the seaside.

But this particular year, Delia finds the beach a burden.  Her family is just as demanding by the sea as they are back home. (Have you seen the satiric Onion headline? “Woman washes dishes in closer proximity to the ocean.” )

Delia’s domestic duties overwhelm her.  She feels trapped, resentful, ignored.

After unloading the car of all their luggage, making beds and stocking the fridge, Delia orchestrates the family trek to the beach. With all the clutter and all the stuff.  Beach chairs, blankets and boogie boards. Sunscreen and insect repellant. Plastic buckets and Turkish towels. 

They stake out their territory on the sand. When everyone seems settled, Delia in her swimsuit dons her husband’s robe, slips on her sandals, and walks into the sunset, not looking back. 

With a $500 traveler’s check in her pocket, Delia hitches a ride inland to Bay Borough, a town she has never laid eyes on before.  She buys a few necessities at the dime store and purchases a dress at a second-hand shop. She rents a room at a boarding house planning to stay just one night,  just to make a point.

But one-night stretches into a week and then a month and then a year. She gets a job, as a secretary.  Her new life is spare and sparse. Clean and uncluttered. Quiet and uncomplicated.  No possessions, no family, no fuss.

But before you know it the people of Bay Borough intrude into Delia’s routine.  The landlady at the boarding house, the single mom from across the street, the cashier at the Rick Rack Café.  Pretty soon acquaintances become friends and friends become like family. And Delia, alone on her bed with a book, begins to ache for that family she left behind. 

Maybe it’s time to get back in the getaway car and go home again.

Back to family. Back to work. Back to the real world. 

After a year, Delia did go back, and she was better for it. And so was her family that had taken her so for granted.

This June, I am going to hop into my little blue Hyundai and head out of town. I love my family. I love my work. I care about this crazy world. But I will be better at loving and caring about all of that, if I give Joani a little tender loving care. Three nights. Four days.  Bumping around a nearby historic town, exploring used bookstores, sunning by the pool, drinking Mr. Jefferson’s wine.

The following Wednesday, I promise to come back; I will definitely return. My money will run out, so I can pretty much guarantee it.

So friends, as Covid restrictions ease and the road is calling, where are you going to go in in your getaway car?

Mental Health

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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