As I drive the seven hours to my mom’s facility where she is suffering from end-stage dementia, my heart beats fast and fills up with pale blue, silky pink emotions. At 6:30 a.m. I’ve been driving for over an hour. The sun begins its rosy ascent over the paved hard highway, and I’m lulled by the soft snores of my daughter in the passenger seat and my two young grandsons in the back seat, covered from chin to toe in soft flannel blankets. Continue reading
I shower and dress and gulp down a quick cup of “wake-me-up” tea quietly so I don’t wake up my sleeping guy. I even tiptoe while hunting for my shoes and lugging my suitcase to the trunk of the car.
My mom is anxiously awaiting me. At 92 and diagnosed with dementia, days and hours and weeks all merge into one long wait for her. I want to get there as soon as possible for the weekend visit.
I walk to the hallway table, the one whose drawer holds all the keys to our life: cars, house, mailbox, and a few that are “mystery keys” (as in, what the heck does this key open?).
I reach for my car keys and stop in horror. Continue reading
Well, kind of.
At 4 a.m. on Saturday, my daughter, 7-year-old granddaughter, and I hit the turnpike to drive from Boston to Delaware to visit my ailing mom.
Before we left the driveway, the 7-year-old was back asleep and stayed that way for almost three hours.
As I drove in the blackness of too-early morn, my daughter and I conversed quietly in the front seat. The dark shapes of homes and trees – then the lit-up highway signs and speeding cars and trucks – passed by like shadowy strangers.
We reminisced about her Nanny – my mom – whose strong feisty personality is dimming. We laughed softly as we shared a story or two of Nanny’s powerful presence in our lives, and then my daughter slowly, slowly, drifted off to her own dreams.
I was alone, then, in the quiet swiftly moving car, and I reached out for some music, something to fill the space of memories and sadness. Continue reading
Which is exactly what she is – a mighty woman.
Surprisingly, she and I get along, despite the fact that in many ways we’re polar opposites: she’s small, I’m tall; she’s feisty, I’m more precise; she takes no bull, I avoid bull(ies); she likes to party, I’m usually tardy, always reading a book.
But, somehow, we mix and match, always coming away during our time together with a mighty story.
Like the one that involves a cop, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a departure.
Mom and I are in the car driving toward the San Francisco Airport after one of her non-stop visits – both of us exhausted. But I’ve got a Barry Manilow tune playing (Mom’s favorite) and we’re humming along (“You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t laugh, and I can’t sing, I’m finding it hard to do anything…”) when a thunderous “Wrrrrrrrr, Wrrrrrrrrrr” causes us both to let out a yelp.
“What is that noise?” Mom asks, both of us peering ahead, the SF Bay sparkling on our left, the vast Pacific Ocean yawning wide on our right, traffic moving swiftly with us on the Bridge.
I glance in the rear view mirror and gasp.
“A motorcycle cop,” I sputter.
“Well why doesn’t he pass you?” Mom asks, turning up Barry.
“Um, because he’s motioning for me to move over!”
We both turn our heads backward and Mom exclaims, “Shit.” Then she takes the word away, “Don’t tell anyone I said that; I told your children I never use a swear word.”
“Shit,” I respond, “where am I supposed to stop?” On the Golden Gate Bridge, there are no slow lanes, much less empty lanes.
What, they have speakers in their helmets now?
“I’m going to give him a piece of my mind,” Mom shrieks as my heart races in anxiety. “He scared us to death – you could have had an accident!”
“Mom, don’t say a word!” I order. As I pull over and we both watch a humongous scowling man get off his motorcycle, his dark police uniform filled with hard lumps of muscle, I repeat louder and slower: “D O N O T S A Y A W O R D.”
The giant strolls over, John-Wayne like, as I roll down my window. Out of his rock-like face a thin hard mouth opens enough to spit out: “License and registration.”
My tiny mom crawls her upper body across me and shouts out the window to the cop: “I hope you make this fast! I have a plane to catch!!”
If looks could squash someone into a big crushed blob, my mom and I would have been two dead bugs on the Bridge pavement at this point. “I don’t care about your airplane. This car was speeding at 51 miles per hour.”
Before I could exclaim, The speed limit is 45, please give me a break, the policeman turns and macho-strolls back to his motorcycle, glaring up at us every three seconds as if we’re high-risk flights.
Ten anxious minutes later (after which my right ear is numb from listening to my mom’s protestations, recriminations, and demonstrations against the “insensitive, incompetent, insignificant, and impotent bully”) the officer approaches us again, standing with legs wide and expression as serious as dirt.
Before I reopen my window for him, I turn to my mom and plead, “Not a word – pleeeeaaaase.”
He returns my driver’s license, hands me a ticket, and remonstrates, “Speeding is not tolerated on the Bridge. Slow down. When you leave here, go through the toll.”
I swallow my retort and start the car, hoping to get away before my angry passenger can do any more damage. But she opens her window and throws her head out, screaming, “The least you can do is give us a police escort to the airport! I can’t be late!”
Lord above, the mean man stops on his way back to his motorcycle, turning around toward us slow-mo like in a Sylvester Stallone action film.
I gun my car and leave him in the dust, praying, praying, he will not follow, lock us up, and throw away the key.
My mom, after some loud mutterings that I refuse to understand, starts to laugh.
All the way to the airport.
May we have many more mighty fine trips together, Mom. Next time, though, I’m using the window lock position.