We were on Hour 4 of our 13-hour Mama-boys road trip to a championship for Superhero 1 in East Lansing, Michigan.
The route was one we knew well. Before they moved to our state, my parents used to live in Michigan, and between trips to Michigan and trips to visit family still living along this same route in Ohio, we’d made the long trek multiple times over the last few years. We knew the roads, we had exact change for all the tolls and we were ready to put our Pilot on auto-pilot and breeze through these familiar paths with ease.
Until we hit a highway road closure, and a detour ruined our awesome, easy-breezy, we-had-already-transitioned-to-cruise-control-and-audio-book-mode, simple and streamlined road tripping life.
As Google maps directed us off the highway and recalculated our route, I became frustrated. We’d already left before the sun got out of bed that morning, and with nine hours left to travel and a limited shelf life for three boys who had surely used up their best behavior on our early-morning drive (no one had yet beat the other with a makeshift sleeping bag light saber), I didn’t think we could afford to take this detour.
I was the point person for Superhero 1’s team — the one in charge of arriving first, signing in and setting up everything in the dorms where our team’s families would be staying for the week.
I had responsibilities and I had deadlines, and I had three boys in the car who could truly expire at any second. A 13-hour-turned-14-hour-long road trip was not in my plans.
But it was in God’s.
As we veered off the highway, the GPS app instructed me to make an odd turn. An odd LEFT turn. And then another. Then another. Until, about 15 minutes into our detour, we were no longer anywhere with a gas station, a restaurant sign or a bathroom.
Our paved, 65mph, two- and three-lane highways quickly transitioned to slow, 25mph, too-narrow backwoods roads … the kind that probably hadn’t seen traffic (or repair work), well, ever.
As I navigated the route I should have been traveling at 65mph at a mere 25, and sometimes 15, I became irritated. I could see the highway from where I was at — we were driving on a rickety road running parallel to it. But I couldn’t get to it. I couldn’t access it. And while I watched the road crews speeding along the route I was supposed to take, my patience grew thin and my blood grew hot.
God! I complained. This was not the plan! I prepared! I left early! I plotted this route! I packed entertainment for 13 hours! Could you not find a way around this detour?!
I huffed and puffed as I pulled up to another highway entrance that should have been open but featured work crews at the entrance to notify me it was closed. They directed me to a half-gravel road with cones and a “closed” sign in front of it and told me to drive around them for six or seven miles … on the “special” route.
But I don’t WANT to take the special route! I thought to myself. I just want to get to my destination as fast as possible taking the normal route.
Or that’s what I thought I wanted … until I looked up.
As the boys and I navigated around the sharp switchbacks that punctuated the route, the mountains we had missed on our dozen or more trips through this state suddenly appeared in a grandeur and beauty we had never noticed.
Streams and creeks we couldn’t see from the highway played background music we’d never heard, and flowers and greenery we would have missed captivated the boys who were singing, laughing and peering out their windows with an excitement they’d never displayed while making this drive before.
The boys ooh-ed and aw-ed in the back seat as they pointed out the rustic churches and barns and farm equipment and coal miners’ signs that peppered the countryside, and when we approached tiny, one-lane bridges that didn’t look like they could hold the weight of bicycles, not to mention vehicles, they giggled hysterically as they nicknamed the rickety crossings the “creepy bridges of death” — and then stole my phone to photograph them.
For almost an hour, to the tune of belly laughs and babbling brooks, the four of us took in the beauty and the wonder we had somehow missed on nearly a dozen trips through this state, and we reveled in the stage this backwoods drive set for awe and wonder and togetherness.
We continued driving parallel to the highway, but after a few more minutes, none of us wished we were still on that fast-paced lane. Because what we experienced on the “special route” was far richer, far more beautiful, far more rewarding and amazing than anything we would have spotted from the highway above.
But we would have never known that truth if we hadn’t taken the hard left.
Just like with special needs adoption.
It’s not “normal” to take the special needs adoption route. It’s not the typical route. It’s not the typical lane. It’s not the quickest way to a destination, and it’s not the way most “efficient” people go.
But it’s the most beautiful route.
It’s the richest route.
It’s the most FUN route.
It’s the most REWARDING route.
And even as you’re crossing over “creepy bridges of death” — medical diagnoses and surgeries and hospital visits and long-term care plans — from this route, you can spot the other, and somehow you know.
Though it may take longer, though it may require a whole life slow-down, though it may cost you your time and your energy and the things you once thought were so important to you, the view from HERE is far richer than you could have ever imagined from up there.
And you realize that this route isn’t the detour — it’s a destination.