It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
Posted on September 17, 2012
My father may not have stormed the beach at Normandy like Teddy Duchamp’s dad allegedly did in Stand By Me, but he did serve in the military. I bring this up because there was a reunion this past weekend in Nashville for folks who served back then at a base in Germany. Mom really wanted to go since she’d gotten in contact with some of these men years back before dad succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. She wanted to see them, they wanted to see her and dad, and wouldn’t it be nice if dad had a chance to visit with them? Unfortunately, it was a 9+ hour drive. Might I consider going with them and helping with the driving? Also…um…<pointing to my wedding ring>…some of them might not be comfortable with that. Welcome to the road trip from hell. Now, allow me to break it down for you…
First, I give my mother credit for always having the best of intentions at heart. She does and I love her for it. She’s very much trying to give my father every opportunity to live his life as fully as possible because she knows there are dark years to come. Given my father’s current state with Alzheimer’s, I knew this trip wasn’t really for him or even about him. It was for mom and I don’t know if she’d admit that. Either way, I’m fine with it because she doesn’t have opportunities to get away often, even when I’m helping. That’s why I agreed to come along on the trip. I’m good with driving long distances and I knew I could do this. I wanted to do it for her. We also haven’t had a family road trip since I was in college, maybe even before then.
BUT, my first request was that I have my own room, even if I had to pay for it myself. Why? It’s not out of modesty. No, no. It’s completely out of sanity. My father uses a sound machine for white noise that plays crickets chirping…and he’s hard of hearing. The last time he and I stayed in the same room overnight, I turned it down and he didn’t sleep…and I could still hear it. Neither of us slept. So, thank you, no. I wanted my own room, which mom completely understood. Problem solved.
I admit I was concerned/annoyed with a conversation before we left regarding my wedding ring and that some of the guys might be uncomfortable with me being married to my husband. Mom absolutely wasn’t being judgmental as much as she was letting me know about a potential problem. But here’s the thing. I don’t go around announcing my nature (and do NOT bring up the DragonCon shirt because that convention is completely inclusive and I saved it until the last day anyway…for fun). If they don’t ask personal questions, I won’t volunteer anything. If they ask personal questions, I’m not going to lie. If they don’t like it, they can go talk to someone else. I won’t be offended. If they want to express something negative, I’ll be respectful and counter. I’m honestly at the point in my life where I don’t give a shit anymore if someone doesn’t like me for me. I just am.
Off we went Thursday afternoon, a day early just so we could break the drive up a bit…four and a half hours in an enclosed vehicle with a man who is now incapable of remembering a conversation he had two minutes earlier. I usually get upset with him during a forty minute drive when he thanks me ten times for taking him for that drive, so can you imagine the volume of things he could repeat in two hundred and seventy minutes? Do the math. Fortunately, it was aimed primarily at my mother and by the time we stopped for dinner before checking into a hotel, she’d had it. She’d had it bad. This was in Kentucky…at a pizza joint…where smoking is still allowed in restaurants…and she discovers this by asking the hostess.
“Is smoking allowed in here?”
“Of course!” The hostess informs her thinking it was the right answer. It wasn’t.
“Then we’re getting carry-out. I guess some states haven’t advanced as far as others.”
Mom is very outspoken on the subject of smoking and I was ever so slightly mortified. Not mortified because she’s outspoken about this subject, but mortified because we were so far from our comfort zone. I took her outside and calmly tried to explain it to her.
“If we were at home, it’d be one thing, but we aren’t. We’re four and a half hours away…and south! Consider this a foreign country. They like their meat, they like their cigarettes and they dislike their gays and Democrats, so let’s not go making waves. Or do I need to bring up the stereotype that has become the movie Deliverance?
She relented–albeit with a strange, confused look on her face–and we moved on to the hotel. Since the hubby has an Honors membership with this particular chain, I went in to get us a couple of rooms. Dad, meanwhile pestered mom to no end, prompting her to walk in during my aforementioned getting us a couple of rooms and announce her presence.
“It’s two rooms on a ground floor. How difficult can it be? Do they have them or not?”
“And that would be my mother.” I looked at the young lady behind the counter and confirmed her worst fear. “But it’s okay. Even though we’re from Detroit, we’re not armed.”
The rest of the night went without too much aggravation and the remaining four and a half hours in the truck Friday morning/afternoon weren’t awful either. As for the reunion…it was kind of what I was expecting. The group of guys and their wives were an absolute stitch to listen to! Some of them were involved in law enforcement while others went in every other direction. They were very kind to dad, engaged him in conversation and made him feel a part of the group inasmuch as they could. The only real interest dad had, though, was asking to go for walks, get food, and use the bathroom. That’s the part I expected. Meanwhile, I made sure to keep him occupied so mom could interact with the group. That was the important part, at least to me.
The folks never asked me anything personal and I didn’t have to tell the truth, so all worked out extremely well. Do I think–after meeting them–that things would have gone downhill if they’d found out about me? I’d like to think the answer is ‘no,’ but then who can tell? The amusing part for me is that they still looked at me like I was a kid. I might as well have been 12 or 22 versus 32…plus a couple of years.
We did, at dad’s constant insistence, find a mall where we could take him for a walk. I do have to say it was a slightly bittersweet end to the weekend.
“That’s a nice looking nail place,” mom informed us and pointed to a store we were passing.
“I could really use a manicure,” I muttered.
“They really wouldn’t have to wonder about you, would they?”
“I’ll watch it,” I try to put her mind at ease.
“That’s my top of a son.”
“Bottom,” I correct her. “Have you met my husband?”
“Right bottom. I really have to get the terminology down.”
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
4 Responses to “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time”
Katherine T. says:
September 17, 2012 at 9:33 am
OMG! You are still brilliantly funny and direct and sincere all at the same time. Love it! Glad the weekend turned out at least as good as you expected and not worse. And, God bless your mum. She’s a peach, for sure. 🙂
September 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm
I think there’s going to be a follow-up to this one on Thursday. Just some things I learned about taking a trip with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.
September 17, 2012 at 11:07 am
You do have a way, as Katherine says, of nailing your topics. Enjoyable, entertaining, and bittersweet. Good job.
September 17, 2012 at 11:27 pm
The more lemons life throws at me, the more sugar I try to throw on it. I’m not even sure it’s habit or a defense mechanism anymore.