Let me get this out of the way right now. I have permission to tell this story, directly from the perp.
Also, yes, the gravity of the situation and all the what-if’s and holy-cows are known and understood. The thing is – and I may have written this once or twice before – life (and all its situations) is never just one thing. This story has been instantly inducted into Dingle Family Story Hall of Fame, bypassing all nomination and voting processes.
Welcome to The Great Escape of 2018.
Wednesday was a typical – albeit very cold and very icy – Wednesday. The early morning involved me getting to Old Lady Spin Class (okay, not the official name) at the local YMCA. JoHn was traveling, doing work and stuff. So I was on my own.
I got up and took the dogs out and played with them, and then put them back into their condos (which are also their crates) and headed to The Y.
Upon arriving home, I noticed – without alarm – that the garage door was open.
“Huh.” I thought, “I swear I closed that when I left. Maybe there is an ice chunk in there and the safety thing made the door go back up.”
So I parked and stepped out of the car… when a different thought hit me.
And I froze.
I turned around slowly to look out the open door into the driveway beyond.
There, across the frozen tundra (seriously, about three inches of solid ice-covered the ground), was a Mini Cooper-sized rectangle of ice-free gravel.
Granny – the tiny, frail woman who cannot take four steps without needing an arm to hang on to…
The woman who does not even go out in the rain if someone else is driving….
The woman who hasn’t driven in two months and who handed me the KEYS TO HER CAR three weeks ago because she hadn’t driven for weeks and weeks and said she was giving up driving BECAUSE IT DIDN’T FEEL LIKE A SAFE THING TO DO ANYMORE?
I remember sort of scream whispering, “Noooooooooooooooo!”
Then I texted JoHn the following:
“OMG Mom’s gone.”
“I sh*t you not. Mini’s gone.”
I also managed to text that there was nothing he could do, I was just sharing my shock and awe, to which he responded with a comforting, “OMG”.
Then, in a fit of problem solving genius, reminded me: “But you hid the keys!”
I needed to make a plan, and quick, so I rushed inside on the off-chance Granny left a note as to her whereabouts. Which, miraculously, she had! This is what it said:
Going to <drawing of check mark> on hair appt. Then to Rite Aid. See ya!
She actually wrote, “See ya!”
I stared at it for nearly 30 seconds. Like, if I stayed looking at it, the words, “Ha! Just kidding. I’m upstairs!” would appear.
My plan was to wait 30 minutes in case Granny was on her way home, I didn’t want to miss her and be out looking when she was all safe and sound in an ice-free zone.
I couldn’t stand it.
Twenty-four minutes later, I was running-slash-skating to my car.
I should note here that Granny was doing nothing technically illegal. She has a valid license. But I’d been really impressed that she’d self-opted out of the driving thing (just rather wigged out that she had suddenly opted back in.)
So the frantic driving around began.
First, to the hair cut place.
On to Rite Aid.
All the way through the parking lot twice… and nope.
Back to the hair cut place with plans to walk in and see if she’d been there.
The Mini was parked across the street from the shop.
I pulled in to the first space available, which was about 8 spots beyond the hair cut place.
Then I watched my rearview mirror like a hawk.
My plan was to get out when I saw Granny exit the shop, and very friendly-ly invite her to ride with me on the way home (I considered, “Hey, little lady, want to see my puppy?” to get her into my car).
About ten minutes later, Granny emerged from the shop.
That’s when my plan went to… well… sh*t.
She made it to the Mini and started it and shifted it into drive and pulled out before I could exit my own spot and back up close enough to call out to her!
Then, because she has always had a lead foot, my eighty-five year old mother-in-law buzzed by me at the speed of sound (I know this because I heard a big thump (sure, it could have been my heart, but I’m leaning toward sonic boom)).
Three… THREE more cars went by me before I could safely pull out. I had dreams of catching her but, A) She was several cars ahead of me on a ‘You Shall Not Pass’ stretch of road; and B) She drives like a bat out of hell and I do not.
So I watched her drive and realized that she was right. She wasn’t feeling comfortable behind the wheel. She was hesitant, a little drifty. Me? I was a freaked out ball of tension covered in shards of disbelief.
Finally, we were off the main road, winding our way back toward home. I tried to hang back, which turned out not to be hard, mostly because I could not keep up in the first place.
Eventually, we actually made it home.
She pulled into the ice-covered driveway, and over that rectangle of exposed gravel. I pulled into the garage (I should note here that Granny hasn’t been driving her car, which is why it’s outside… who knew she’d be hoppin’ into it on this very day?!)
Anyway, I got out of my car as she opened her door.
Granny (all smiles): “Well, what a day I’ve had!”
Me: “Really. REALLY?! You had quite a day?” (okay, granted, I knew I was smiling (probably some sort of shock – I mean, we were both in one piece… all pedestrians along the way were in one piece… Maine was still here. All seemed okay in a world where all seemed doomed just moments before.))
Granny was still all smiles.
Me: “Do you… uh… remember handing over your keys a few weeks back? Maybe telling me you were done driving for… let me think here… safety reasons?!”
It is very important that you know that I am not lying here, or mis-remembering.
Granny: “I have stuff in the back.”
Still smiling, she pointed to her trunk!
I felt my shoulders slump. And then crossed the frozen tundra, opened the trunk, and pulled out the Rite Aid bags.
And then I turned around and saw her reach out for my arm.
Me: “No way.”
Now, of course, I did not mean ‘no way’. But there was a point to be made.
“Are you reaching for my arm? Like, to hold it as we walk inside?”
Me: “Oh no. Oh no no no. Let’s recap, shall we?”
Granny’s comfortable silence was my permission.
I cleared my throat.
“You just walked out the door, down the stairs, traversed a fully frozen walkway to the garage… then you climbed up the stairs, opened the garage door, walked across the floor which is slippery when wet. And then… THEN you walked the 50 or so feet across the frozen driveway to your car, got in, and drove down the ICE RINK OF A DRIVEWAY onto and also-icy street. You made it to Rite Aid, walked into the store and walked all around getting this stuff…” (I held up the multiple bags of stuff) “and then went to the hair salon and got your hair cut and walked out and led me on a high-speed chase all the way home. I do not think you NEED to hold onto me.”
And I sh*it you not – and she will read this so I cannot lie – she reached into her car to get something and pulled the something out so I could see it and said…
“But I brought a cane!”
And that’s when I thought I might murder her.
Which then made me realize that, oh dear Lord, I used to say the same thing about Grampa.
I loved him, even when I wanted to kill him.
After explaining the absolute ineffectiveness of a cane on ice – which was expressed as “Oh, Oh! You didn’t say you had a cane! Is it the new LL Bean ice cane perhaps?!” – I did let her hold my elbow and we made our way into the house.
I went out with the dogs while she sat down at the kitchen table. This gave me a chance to take breaths of air, which I think I’d forgotten to take for, like, 1.675 hours.
We talked for a while, the way we always have, honesty sprinkled with levity. She handed over the spare set of keys I didn’t know she had. And we talked about her health, and the fact that she’d truly forgotten her decision not to drive. All she was thinking about was the haircut (which I totally understood because haircuts are pretty important).
As a former psych nurse, Granny always smiles when she describes ‘working on everything above the neck!’. The above the neck stuff can be scary and uncertain and frustrating. At one point I leaned forward, asking her to look me in the eyes. I reminded her that, whether on stuff above or below that neck, we are in they together. She’s got ‘we’.
Our conversation meandered on. A bit of welling up, a bit of ‘thank goodness nothing awful happened’, and a lot of laughter around what I was calling The Great Escape of 2018.
It felt good.
Because it was real.
Life is a crafty pitcher, so good at concealing what it might throw at us next.
Or that beautiful meatball that makes a home run (or grand slam) a piece of cake.
We are fortunate humans; Granny, JoHn and I.
We have a heck of a support system…great docs, great family, great friends.
And, sure, even with all that, sometimes it’ll be a bumpy ride.
But I can assure you now…
Beyond a shadow of a doubt…
Bumpy ride or smooth?
Granny will not be behind the wheel.
Thanks for readin’.
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