Frozen in my mind: Let it go


My mother warned me about days like these. She said we would get old. I didn’t believe her.
Every year my Sweet Al has Botox surgery, a 30-minute operation; they open up his throat so he can swallow better. My Sweet Al’s appointment for surgery in Albuquerque was scheduled on Valentine’s Day. No problem. We love day trips, a great book on tape, and warm sunshine streaming in through the windshield. What could go wrong?
I have learned that when traveling with our children, they have their own agenda. We go along for the ride. Last year was no exception. It is still frozen in my mind. Our daughter drove us. She made plans for the day. We stationed Al at the hospital, in his hospital gown and we told the nurse we were leaving him there. We’d be back in three hours.
The nurse answered in surprise, “Aren’t you going to wait until he goes under?”
“No, we have a small window and we have a list of things to do. Costco run, pick up veggies and run by Kohls.”
In the car, our daughter said, “We need to go take my rings to the jewelry store. While we are there, lets go by Chick-fil-A, where Al proposed to me.” (Her husband’s name is also Al.) Then she said, “You have to experience fried cheese on a stick.”
“OK, as long as I’m back in time for your dad.” I had no idea how we were going to get it all done in time.
When we picked up Al, the nurse gave us a list of dos and don’ts. Don’t let him drive for 24 hours or do any work for three days. Don’t let him eat anything that is hard to swallow.
When she gave us the list, we looked at the nurse in disbelief, like we have a pizza in the car and we are ready to leave. My poor Al, propped up in the back seat, watched us eat pizza in the front seat. We did stop and get him a milkshake.
This time, our children were at work and our son was flying in from Georgia the same day. He’d meet us at the hospital. We’d have two cars in Albuquerque and we’d follow each other home. That was the plan.
Al had a new doctor, Dr. Mason, who would be operating.
I told Al, “That’s your middle name, you can remember it. When the nurse asks you which doctor, don’t tell her Dr. Al.”
We went to the wrong hospital, where we told him to meet us. I can’t keep up with Al’s specialized doctors and where they perform surgery. They all look familiar.
Stephen figured it out, rolled his eyes and drove us to the right hospital. I thought I would get some sympathy from our son, so I said, “Your dad was pulled over going 10 miles over the speed limit.’
“Are you sure he wasn’t going 10 miles under?”
“Don’t jest. Not only that, he played with the dials and gadgets on the new car. He’s still in that new-car-smell modem. I told him to stop it until we had a chance to read the manual.”
Like a mischievous child, he kept fiddling and trying each button until the gear went into a low granny gear and the drag took us down to 2 mph. This happened at Cuba and we crawled until he finally hit the right button.
Our son said, “Let it go, Mother.”
We settled Al at the right hospital. Then we left. Our son wanted to look for flooring, which took us all over Albuquerque.
When we picked up Al, we heard the weather had changed for the worse. I was to follow behind our son. No driving for Al. It amazed me how he was back-seat driving when he had just come out of surgery.
We left that morning with two books on tape by one of our favorite authors, C.J. Box. We put on one tape, “Off The Grid.” Game Warden Joe Picket was following a man-eating bear through the Red Desert of Wyoming. We were on the edge of our seats, the bear ate a man and it added more tension to the blinding snow hitting the windshield. Then he came after Picket.
There were no sunbeams splashing against the window. Snow was mounting thick on the road, a blizzard sweeping across the reservation took us off the grid.
Al was manning the audiotapes. He was putting tapes in from the other C.J. Box story, “Vicious Circle.” Picket’s house burned down and a crazy woman with an ax was trying to kill his daughter.
I said, “This story doesn’t make sense. What have you done? You’ve changed stories. You’ve got the disks mixed up. We are listening to two different stories.”
I dropped the speed down to a crawl, one eye on Al’s switching disks and the other eye looking for our son’s tracks, which were disappearing. The snow came down harder and harder. That wasn’t in our plans. What happened to our leisurely day trip?
When we arrived at the gas station in Dulce, our son said, “What took you so long? You were driving like an old woman.”
It was the wrong thing to say. “I couldn’t get reception on the phone. I wanted you to slow down, and I didn’t know where the defroster was. I had to drive with the window down and snow was coming in. Your dad was giving me driving instructions while fiddling with two stories and mixing up disks.”
“Let it go, Mother.”
Final brushstroke: This day has been frozen in my mind. It took six hours from Bernalillo to home. Every year, it’s my same Sweet Al, same Botox surgery, a different child, a different story and a year older for Al and I.
Our children refuse to let us get old. Heaven forbid if we slow down in a snowstorm or get confused with hospitals or want a little sympathy. Life isn’t getting any easier and I’m running out of children and patience.
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