Picture pulling your car out of the garage in the morning, that's right...click on your seatbelt, adjust your mirrors, and set the radio to NPR. You're looking good and feeling refreshed with the knowledge that the day is new with no mistakes in it. You-are-ready-to-roll but, no. The unmistakable sound of grinding gears fills your ears and you suddenly sense you cannot shift out of reverse. That's it...take a deep breath and start the self-talk. This is hard, but I'm doing okay. Give us a smile and wave hello to the neighbor out watering his lawn, go on your way as if nothing is wrong, even though today, it's clear, you'll be driving to town backwards.
I am lately a hazard. My friends worry about me and leave warm, supportive messages on my voicemail. I don't make plans. I carry my cellphone around like oxygen and jump when it rings. My doctor says I need exercise. My cholesterol is high. I am addicted to the Food Network and shoot up Cupcake Wars and Ace of Cakes when I should be sleeping. I cry because there's dirt under my refrigerator. My husband surely wonders why he married me. My son keeps his distance. My brother thinks I'm ridiculous.
I am on a road trip. I don't like it because I'm awful tired of driving. My dad was forced to hand over his keys five years ago, so he's in the passenger seat. AD wants to ride shotgun and pouts in the backseat; he's a thief and so we hate him and give him the silent treatment. This particular journey has its own set of directions, the map is worthless, and there's only one exit. The overall view doesn't change - same old signs, worn out towns, major construction delays, ugly accidents, bad food, and ridiculous radio reception.
What's it called when you get lost in a state of grief, but no one has actually died? There must be a word which loosely defined means something is seriously backwards. People on the street see me driving in reverse and scratch their heads while thinking What is wrong with her? There are some who shout out directions and driving tips. Pull over. Get out of the car. You're going the wrong way.
My father is back in Hospice with ESC - End.Stage.Cardiac. Huh. It won't be Alzheimer's Disease that is the end afterall. 16 years ago, a pacemaker was installed in his heart and the battery needs charging. He won't be seeing a mechanic. There's just no way. He's hanging in there as all solidly built engines do, but you can tell he's petering out and riding on the fumes. He slows down by midday, way down, and his color goes gray. I park him carefully in his recliner and speak softly. He needs wax. The nurse says it's day to day, but could take months. Again, with the shitty itinerary.
Clearly the end is in sight, and dear God, I am grateful for it. I say goodbye to my father every day as if maybe it's his last, though I suspect it is not. There's a few more miles to go but, still, my eyes are peeled - looking for an oasis. We could both use a clean, well-lit place to stop. It's up the road apiece and we can't miss it; there's only one exit.