Krista and I just returned from our brief get-away (sans amigos), an overdue vacation in Tucson, Ariz. to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and visit some of Krista’s favorite spots from her tenure at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. We had hoped it would be fun, relaxing, quiet, and peaceful.
It was all that and more.
We ate great food that we didn’t have to prepare, on dishes we didn’t have to clean; we swam in a heated pool under crystal clear blue skies in an ambient temperature of 80 degrees; we slept as long as we wanted in a bed we didn’t have to make; we asked deep and important questions and provided thoughtful answers without simultaneously having to address interfering munchkins whose every sentence seemingly begins with “Hey, dad.…” or “Hey, mom….”.
On day two of our vacation a waitress asked where we were visiting from and why. After I responded she asked, “Do you miss your kids?”
My response? “Huh? What kids?”
We played tennis. In our shorts. At 8 in the morning. We shopped and watched basketball games in bed and toured the spectacular Pima Air and Space Museum (where I got my fill of airplanes for the next decade or so, thank you) and—dare I admit it?—we ate French fries and bacon and pancakes.
We also went hiking twice, in the Sabino Canyon section of the Coronado National Park, just north of Tucson proper. If you’re ever there and physically able, I highly recommend it. You’ll see amazing rock formations, saguaro cacti that are centuries old, lizards, snakes, and vistas that take your breath away. Our first hike was on a path blandly named “Phone Line Trail”, but it was anything but bland. It was challenging and long and beautiful—and induced a significant episode of vertigo for Krista. I didn’t think it possible, but our second hike was even more spectacular. We walked, trudged, jumped, and climbed for five miles to a pool of water at the base of a crevasse that contained a series of seven waterfalls. Krista had to coax me the last mile and a half—I was satisfied with the little eddies of water we found at the 3.5 mile mark. I’m glad she did, for the sights and the smells and the sounds were well worth the effort. Once there, I sat in the shade, chomped on a crisp apple, sucked down some water, felt a tad self-satisfied, and admired—again—God’s handiwork.
Yet for all these wonderful experiences, Krista and I point to one event as being the most impactful, the most special. We refer to it as our “Michael Moment”, and the story goes like this: We rented a car when we landed in Tucson and traveled the ten miles or so to our hotel. Having been assured that our gas tank had been filled, it never dawned on me to check the gauge for the next day or two. On the morning that we decided to first try our hand at hiking in Sabino Canyon we ate a hearty breakfast and began our trip north to the Canyon. I glanced at the gas gauge and spotted an arrow pointing at slightly below the half-a-tank level. I thought that odd, because the compact car got excellent gas mileage and we hadn’t driven very far. Still, the arrow signaled that we were a good distance from the single bar at the bottom of the gauge indicating “EMPTY”.
After that, several amazing things happened: (1) I took a wrong turn, taking us away from our destination rather than toward it; (2) when we discovered we were headed in the wrong direction I pulled into the only barren, sandy space present for miles in order to turn around. As I attempted to pull back on to the highway (in the correct direction), the car sputtered and wouldn’t start again; (3) We had run out of gas; (4) It turned out that the arrow on the gas gauge was meaningless—a completely wasted symbol whose presence still befuddles me; (5) The single bar at the bottom of the gauge indicated—at the time I first saw it—how much gas we actually had (i.e., very, very little); (6) Because we had made a wrong turn, we were actually closer to a gas station than we would have been otherwise—probably by miles; (7) We calmly walked about a mile to the gas station we had passed, on a gorgeous Arizona in the mid-morning, and purchased a gas can and two gallons of gas; (8) We met a wonderful British gentleman (a redundancy?) named Michael who drove us to our car, regaled us with the tale of how he’d ended up moving permanently to the Sonoran Desert, generously bought our no-longer needed gas can, and generally reaffirmed our faith in the general goodness of most folks.
There was no cursing or pounding of steering wheels, no kicking of sand, no “why weren’t you paying attention to the gas gauge?!?” recriminations. Just two middle-aged married folks taking a pleasant, unplanned walk to a gas station, a couple who encountered a good Samaritan along the way and who plan to pay forward a touch of the grace and good fortune God granted them during that Michael moment.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.