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Joy Riding

June 23, 2013

I thought of my mother as I raced down the highway trying to outrun the storm. I glanced over my shoulder every few minutes and saw the angry black clouds as they marched across the sky. They were gaining on me…I put the pedal to the metal and prayed that I‘d make it to shelter before it hit.

Mom smoked heavily for all of her adult life and paid a heavy price for her habit with asthma, emphysema and congestive heart failure. She died at the young age of fifty-seven.

In her last months, she did time in Intensive Care on a ventilator. That was on Easter Monday…she made it until late summer when she finally surrendered.

Once she and I made out a living will and had a DNR order in place, she pulled out the vent tube. And she continued to breathe on her own. Turned out that ventilator did her some good; it bought her a little time. About four and a half months.

During those months, she had her ups and downs…good days and bad. She was in and out of the hospital, but never again on a ventilator. Most times, she was in a swing bed or a hospice bed.

Once, when she was home alone, my older brother stopped in to check on her when dad was at work. He found her sitting at the table in a state of confusion with her pills scattered across the table and strewn all over the floor. Tablets and capsules in every color of the rainbow. And we had no way of telling what, if anything, she had taken. That resulted in yet another stay in the local hospital.

After she was stabilized and returned home, we arranged for in-home care while dad was at work. She just couldn’t be left alone. We had learned that lesson the hard way.

Soon, it became clear that she had only enough oxygen to run her brain or her body, not both. Sometimes, she would sit at the table and have a perfectly logical conversation, then walk to the bathroom, and be talking crazy by the time she returned.

I remember one time when she was laughing as she retraced her steps to the kitchen table. She swore us to secrecy, especially where dad was concerned, before she’d divulge her dirty little secret.

Soon, we were laughing too, and we hadn’t yet heard her story!

She looked sheepish as she confessed.…’I drove the lawnmower…’

Really, where did you go?’ I asked.

‘To Alabama,’ she admitted.

We looked at each other in disbelief. To our knowledge, she had never, ever mowed a lawn, much less driven a riding lawnmower. She was obviously hallucinating.

REALLY,’ we chimed together skeptically.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘but that’s not the worst of it.’

Again we spoke in unison…’Ohhhh?’

She hung her head in shame as she whispered ‘I got a speeding ticket.’ She was so worried…and afraid of how my dad would react. She simply didn’t know what to do.

We couldn’t help but laugh as we reassured her that all would be okay…after we talked to Dad, he would understand. It wasn’t her fault; she had nothing to worry about, we said. And eventually she believed us.

Now, here I was…racing down the highway on a riding lawnmower. I wasn’t on the interstate, grant you, and I was definitely not on my way to Alabama! But I was on the main road in our rural community.

I had attempted to mow the churchyard when I realized that I would not finish before the storm hit. So with the job half done, I was on my way back to the parsonage at top lawnmower speed, probably about 3 miles per hour. My destination was about a third of a mile down the road from the church. I wanted to stow the rider in the garage and get myself back home. This storm looked nasty!

I made it home without getting wet…but barely.

Later that afternoon I was able to return and finish the job. I had to work fast though…another storm was rolling in.

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One Comment
  1. Greg Frosig permalink

    Love it, Karen!

    Sent from my iPhone

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