Have you ever loved something but hated it at the same time? I do. It’s a song by Zac Brown Band called Highway 20 Ride.
Music has a way of transporting a person to a point in time like few other mediums. Many songs do this to me, but Highway 20 Ride is noteworthy, and if you’ve ever been affected by divorce, it might be for you as well.
My parents got divorced in the late 1980s when I was eleven years old. It stung, but it was probably as amicable a divorce that ever occurred, at least from my perspective. I don’t remember any fights, or ever hearing them speak ill of one another; even to this day, they are friends. But the marriage ended, and my sister and I were thrust into the world of every other weekend trips to dad’s house.
I ride east every other Friday but if I had it my way
A day would not be wasted on this drive
And I want so bad to hold you
Son, there’s things I haven’t told you
Your mom and me couldn’t get along…
We lived with my Mom in a suburb of Los Angeles. Every other Friday we would say goodbye to Mom and head out for the weekend, or for a couple of weeks in the summer. There are two routes we could take to Dad’s house about an hour south. We could take the cold stretch of L.A’s five-lane traffic laden freeways (101, to the 405, to the 10) and get there faster, or we could take a more scenic route: the Pacific Coast Highway. Dad always opted for the PCH unless the weather disagreed, and we preferred it as well.
This route was a joy for us. It begins with an adventurous swing through a mountain canyon road, filled with beautiful oak trees, jagged rock formations, steep cliffs, and a couple of tunnels. It dumps out at the campus of Pepperdine University and connects with the PCH at Zuma beach. Then it’s a cruise along the historic highway, watching the sunset across from Malibu, often stopping for dinner at a roadside restaurant. We were with Dad. We were happy.
Thousands of miles away, my wife was making the same drive with her Dad to his home in Palmer, about an hour’s drive from Anchorage. Her story is different but some parts are the same, and when Highway 2o Ride is playing we both go back to those moments, just happy to be in a seat next to our dads.
The ride home on Sunday night was different. For me there was a longing to be home, to see my Mom, but also a sadness. It wasn’t until I heard Highway 20 Ride after I had kids of my own that I began to reflect on what it must have meant for my parents, especially my Dad, or for my father-in-law, with the empty seats beside them.
So I’ll drive
And I think about my life
And wonder why
That I slowly die inside
Every time I turn that truck around right at the Georgia line
And I count the days and the miles back home to you on that Highway 20 ride
As hard as it was on us kids, I can only imagine the pain it must have caused the men who had to try to soak up as much of their children as possible in the fleeting moments 48 hours can provide. I am blessed to work from home so I can see my children all day, every day. That wasn’t always the case, but even before I got to see them every night.
A day might come you’ll realize that if you see through my eyes
There was no other way to work it out
And a part of you might hate me
But, son, please don’t mistake me
For a man that didn’t care at all
I don’t know what it was that caused my parents to divorce, and I’ve never asked them. Truth be told, I don’t really care. It was a thing that happened, and thirty years later we move forward. There is redemption and healing to be had, and we don’t get it by dwelling on what cannot be changed. Whatever pain it caused me was probably dwarfed by the heartache it caused them, and I understand that now.
Believe me, I understand there are circumstances where staying in the situation is simply not possible. I’ve known people in such marriages, and we’ve walked that grief-filled road with them in prayer, but I will say this: If there is any way to stay and work through it, don’t give up.
My parents were both remarried in time. While things were never perfect, they were also never that bad. There was plenty to look back on and smile, and even rejoice about. My wife’s story is different. Life is messy, and we all struggle through it in whatever way seems best.
We follow Christ because we’ve seen Him pick up the pieces of broken people and build some magical things. And He’s still doing it with us as we remember, and re-evaluate, and forgive – and as we listen to songs that break us, but we love all the same.
So when you drive
And the years go flying by
I hope you smile
If I ever cross your mind
It was a pleasure of my life
And I cherished every time
And my whole world
It begins and ends with you
On that Highway 20 ride….