War Story

There is a place, a beautiful place, at the crest of a mountain range magically and aptly named Fancy Gap.  Fancy Gap is a really small town located in Carroll County, VA at the tip-top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.   An interstate winds down the mountain here, travelling south through the western VA mountains to the North Carolina flat lands of Mount Airy below.  The road wraps around the inside of the mountain range, creating completely unpredictable weather all its own.  Down that mountain and up another one, my only daughter attends Appalachian State University, studying Social Work in their Master’s Program.  She’s been in Boone five years now, four in Undergrad and one now in their MSW program.  Fancy Gap Mountain looms between us.

I have struggled with anxiety all of my adult life, probably longer.  I’ve always been a super conscientious type with a strong calling that I now realize as a leadership mantle.  What this meant as a first-born child was everything was either my fault or my responsibility.  My mother is an 80 year old woman-child.  My funny, handsome, passive dad died when he was only 53 years old.  I’ve been the grown-up all my life, even when I wasn’t particularly acting like one.

That mountain is a literal picture of my anxious life.  My child (who by the way is miraculously capable) travels up and down Fancy Gap Mountain at least a dozen times a year.  Because of the way the interstate lays, Fancy Gap is probably one of the foggiest places in these Blue Ridged Mountains.  Combine intense traffic, slow-moving trucks and treacherous weather and you have a recipe for traffic accidents.  Since Emma has been going to Boone regularly, I remember at least six multiple vehicle deadly pile-ups.  One involved 70 something vehicles.

I’ve vilified that mountain so that I’ve given it a personality.  And I have taken our relationship personally.  It’s me against the mountain.  And generally, in terms of my anxious thinking, the mountain usually rules. I’ve verbalized my fear that most of the time I figure there is about a 50/50 chance that the mountain will win on any given day.  Ridiculous odds.  I’m a statistics freak.  I can’t even begin to consider the math that has so jaded my thought process.  Historically, my family members have won for five years.  I don’t know anyone personally who has lost.  But I’ve been miraculously two cars behind a fatal crash and just five hours ahead of a super crash.

I travelled down to Boone in mid- September to visit my kid.  She really is my best friend, sometimes I think we share the same mind, which doesn’t quite serve two efficiently.  She lives in a small falling down college rental house in a nice family neighborhood with another grad student and a first year teacher. She invited me down to spend the night, have a nice dinner, take her shopping. I’m very happy to do that.   I don’t remember inviting my mom to stay in my dorm room, definitely not in my bed, ever.  I’m not even sure I remember my mom ever visiting me in college.  She was there for graduation, I do remember that.  I don’t remember spending any time with her though.  I was there for the culmination of the four year long party.  That certainly wasn’t her fault.

It was a rainy weekend this fall trip down to Boone.   Hard rain was predicted; in fact a flood watch the entire journey.  I seriously thought about blowing the trip off.  The dying on the way there or back jumped up drastically statistically in my always wandering mind.   I think I imagined it to be about a 93 percent chance that I would die either driving there or driving home.  But being the eternal optimist I talked myself into a more livable 86 percent and took the plunge.  It rained all the way down 221 towards Hillsville where I pick up I-77.  I took a deep breath and merged onto the interstate.  After three days of preparatory worrying and an hour drive of active panic, I remembered to pray.  God spoke to me.  He had probably been trying to for days but I was too busy listening to the demons in my head and playing with statistics.  He told me to stay in back of a truck.  A slow truck.  In the truck lane.  All the way down the mountain.  In that cradle I felt protected and loved on.  At peace for the first time in days.  As we hit the crest of the mountain I looked out to the unprotected south east.  For the first time in an hour the skies broke open, not with rain, but with brilliant light.  The entire valley was ablaze in sunshine.  We were still in the rain on both sides of the mountain, but the vista was crazy magnificent.  I sat in my truck cradle and admired the stunning view.  Before I knew it the five minute “do it and die” was done.  I was down.  It was still raining hard but not on the mountain.  It was insane.  God spoke to me again.  “Not only will I protect you but I will dazzle you in the doing so.”


Well, this was my first blog post.  And it really wasn’t that scary after all.