“Life surprises us every day, and some days more than others. One day, hour, or even minute can change everything. The unexpected can throw us for a whirlwind adventure – physically and emotionally. Whether it’s winning the million dollar lottery, the untimely death of a loved one, a traveling adventure, or meeting ‘the one,’ crazy things happen, and we want to hear about yours.”  So came the invitation from former student Maggie and her grandmother Jouette, as they embarked on their fall project to compile a collection of personal stories into a book called When IT Happens.  This was Jouette’s longtime dream and Maggie helped pull it off.  They published the collection last month and are donating proceeds to Sprouting Hope Community Garden.  Here’s a picture of the proud editors and here’s my IT story, a version of which is included in the book.

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When IT Happens book with editors

Jouette and Maggie Graham with their book

I stood at the payphone outside the ranger station in Glacier National Park, calling a hotel room in Vancouver, hoping he hadn’t left yet.   It was maybe eight in the morning and I’d awoken by at least five that day with the unshakeable certainty that this was it and I was willing to drive all day through Canada to get to him.

I was in the middle of a two-week road trip, camping and visiting national parks with my good friend Anna.  When we made the plans months before she suggested we consider driving into Canada.  I was against it.  Limited time, limited money, had to make tough choices.  Blah, blah.  We went over this several times and I never budged. 

During the trip she spent a few days with other friends in Glacier while I detoured through Yellowstone.  I made the long, remote, signal-less, dusty drive in to rendezvous with Anna at Glacier’s Bowman Lake Campground the night before the early morning call – the six miles from the ranger station took half an hour on the bumpy gravel road. 

This at the end of a day driving through Montana saying “Good God!” at the beauty around every bend, the truth settling in my bones with the miles:  I was in love.  Deep.

Woody and I had been in almost daily contact during the trip.  In the serendipitous way of things, he was embarking on his own travel adventure, to Canada.  We thought about trying to meet somewhere but plans were set and distances were long.  We weren’t kids anymore (I was 39 and he was 51); we could wait.  It was sensible to do our own trips and see each other again at home.  We had decided.  Done.  Resolved.  Blah blah.

But when I woke up in the tent that morning at Bowman Lake, I immediately sat upright with an elaborate plan fully hatched, apparently in the incubator all night while I slept.   I couldn’t wait another week to see Woody.  I didn’t give a hoot what we had decided.  I could barely wait for my friends to wake up so I could run this plan past them:  We were going to abort our previous plans and drive to Nelson, British Columbia (where Anna’s friends lived and she had wanted to visit all along), and which was roughly half way between Glacier and Vancouver.  Woody was going to meet us there – he just didn’t know it yet.

Once the other campers woke up and heard my outrageous plan (and wondered if I was just a little crazy), they agreed and I left them packing at the campground and drove as fast as I could those bumpy slow six miles to the first and only phone I could get to back at the ranger station.  I had no idea if he would be gone for the day already but I stood in the chilled early morning air, phone clenched to my ear, hopeful with my whole being that the rest of the day would take me closer and closer to the love of my life.  And the rest of my life.

When he picked up, I said the most simple direct true thing I could:  “I’ve lost all resolve.”  I married him ten months later.


photo credit:  © 2013 Maggie Graham, Used with permission