Last summer, we traveled to Arizona to move my brother (and his family) out of his apartment and into a house. My dad came up with a seemingly great idea: let Joe and Natalie host Thanksgiving this year in their new place. Although I loved the idea of getting away and going to Joe's, I was very wary about how mom would handle the trip. How would she do on the drive? Would she understand where/why she was going? Would she engage at all or be miserable out of her comfort zone? How would we be able to go out anywhere all together?
Not to worry, says my dad, the optimist. He planned to bring his fifth wheel trailer; after all, there is a trailer camp a mile down the road from Joe's house. Mom would have her own space to sleep and get ready. But what about throughout the day? we all wondered. Dad figured that if Joe set up mom's favorite computer games on his computer, mom would be content to stay at Joe's house throughout the day to play games and maybe, just maybe, engage with family.
Well...day one seemed to be off to a good start. Wednesday morning, dad dragged mom out of bed, showered her and had her in the truck, ready to go, by 8:00. That is a huge accomplishment for mom. Even though she couldn't understand where exactly they were going (she had it in her head that they were going to the mall and was annoyed with dad many times for going the wrong way), by the time they had arrived to Arizona and we answered the front door, mom came plowing through declaring,
"Joe? Joe? Is this Joe's house too?"
She came in and we all said hi and greeted mom, telling her how happy we were that she was there. Just why she was there, she had no idea. I suppose she thought they drove five hours to simply say hello. At any rate, we brought Joe and Natalie's 9 month old baby, Zach, over to mom and sat him in her lap in an effort to engage her. Most times, she will not look much at Zach and seems oblivious to his presence. But this time, she actually smiled at him and for a brief moment even held him (with Natalie's help, of course). It was such a touching moment to witness mom finally engaging (even if only very briefly) with her youngest grandbaby. It was a moment that I am sure we will all remember.
[And we'll all remember (with giggles) the moment afterwards when she pushed Zach back towards Natalie and said,
"She's your mom she's your mom, go to your mom."]
But alas, all good things must come to an end. Within a couple of hours, mom was ready to go. Dinner and medicine time were coming up and mom wanted to be in her space. Dad took her back to her trailer and we thought (or had hoped) that she would be content in her home-away-from-home. Unfortunately, mom was ready to go home. Nevertheless, she settled down and the next morning (Thanksgiving) dad was able to get her back over to Joe's....for a little while. She was restless again by noon time and insisted that dad take her home. Dad eventually gave in and took her back to the trailer for a nap. I suspect the only way he got her back over to Joe's later that afternoon was that she was hopeful he was obliging her requests to go home. Needless to say, she was not happy to be at my brother's house. For the next two hours, she paced, she complained, she tried to find ways out of the house (the closet, the garage, the front door). There were a couple of times we had to guard the door and a couple other times we had to bring her back inside after her attempt to escape to the truck. We tried to get her engaged in computer games, but that master plan failed. She wasn't familiar with Joe's computer, especially because it was a laptop rather than a desktop. She insisted that it wasn't right and would not even give it a second glance.
And my dad...his despair was plain to see. Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. I know he was really looking forward to all of us being together and spending time together as a family. He hardly spoke and I could see the sadness in his eyes. He didn't even eat his pie-we made both of his favorites: pumpkin and coconut. I hope I'm not crossing the line by writing about this, but how can you not feel depressed under these circumstances? As hard as it is for me and much as I miss my mom, she is my dad's wife, his life partner, the love of his life. We tried to get him to laugh during dinner and lighten the mood, but when he finally spoke, reality hit me hard when he said,
"This is the last holiday".
We all know this, of course. Mom barely engaged in the holidays last year. This year it is completely gone. And so it's hard for my dad to carry on and celebrate the holidays without my mom.
"The magic is gone," he says.
We tried to convince my dad to move the trailer in front of Joe's house that night; he was in no mood to deal with it. After mom swung her bag and hit dad in the back of his head (in an effort to get his attention to take her home), dad got up from the table and took mom back to the trailer for the night.
Originally, dad had planned to stay until Monday to beat traffic. But he was tired and felt like he was keeping mom prisoner, so he left with us on Sunday. Mom was restless most of the way home and was upset that dad was "going the wrong way".
"That's not the way you go, you shouldn't go that way, you're so stupid," she'd say.
When we stopped for lunch, we had to practically drag her inside the restaurant and dad had to trap her in a booth while we ordered his lunch. She kept trying to pinch him to get free and asked if we were at the "food place up the street."
"Is that store Stater Brothers over there too? Can I walk home now?" (We were barely at state line).
We made it through lunch without her escaping and continued our journey home. Because of the holiday traffic, our 5 hour drive turned into 8. Thankfully my dad had my nephew in the truck with him to help keep him sane, but it was a difficult drive, no doubt.
So there you have it. I wish I could say it was a wonderful trip with lots of grand memories made. Don't get me wrong, we had some fun and laughs and did make some memories, but I know it was a big let down for my dad. Needless to say, this was not only the last holiday, but it was also mom's last trip. I know we've said that the past couple of trips, but this trip surely sealed the deal.
And now...on to Christmas.