It has been three and one half months since Mother’s “midnight ride” and because of it, my life has changed; I am still married, but it is no longer about me. My wife and I have found a three-bedroom house and are moving Mommy out of her apartment and into our new home. Time has shown that Mommy’s situation is acute and she should no longer live alone; I had plenty of time to observe her and although further observation was needed, this was a decision in her best interest.
We, my wife and I, arranged for my Sister and Mom to come with us during the final walk-through with the Realtor. ”Oh my! This is wonderful!, my Sister shouted excitedly. ”Look Mommy. There are stairs going up to the bedrooms.”
“Let’s take a look at the kitchen first”, I said and led the four of us through the living room and dining room, underneath it’s chandelier and into the eat-in kitchen. ”This is our refrigerator Mommy.”
”That’s nice, but I can keep my food in my room”, she replied.
”What?! No, Mama, food is to be kept in the refrigerator only!”
”I ain’t none of your child! Look, I’ll just stay at home if I can’t do as I please!”
“Aight, forget it Mommy.” I turn to my wife and motion to the doorway, “Let’s go to the garage and check it out.”
She follows me through doorway, out onto the deck, down the stairs and sidewalk to the garage. We walked in one by one; my sister and I were exhausted from the amount of time and effort required to do anything with Mommy. After walking to and standing in silence in the garage, I ran the garage door up. . . and down; I was addicted to the peace. ”You guys can go upstairs and I will be right up”, I spoke to my Wife and looked at her to let her know that I need a minute.
She turned, “Ya’ll want to follow me this way?” and the three of them left the garage. I was alone; and as I stood looking out of the open garage door across the alley to the lot in back, I recited Invictus.
“Out of the darkness, black as a pit from pole to pole . . .”
It was twelve degrees outside and my Father and I walked to the garage. I heard and felt the crunch of frozen snow beneath my high-tops as I stepped upon the garage door’s threshold and turned the key with one glove-covered hand while pulling the door’s knob with the other.
“Grab the battery”, my Father directed. “I will get the hood”, he told me.
On really cold winter nights we put my Father’s truck and my Mother’s vehicle batteries in the garage so that it could stay warm and not freeze. In a few minutes, the hood was down, the truck engine was warming up and inside the cab so were Daddy and I; we sat listening to NPR ‘Morning Edition’ while he sipped black coffee before we backed out of the driveway at 4:30 in the morning.
We drove the two miles to the Masjid every morning; going to make morning prayers at the Masjid. When we got there; we unlocked the front door and turned on the lights; my Father turned on the heat and I stood in the empty prayer room and made the Athan into a floor-stand microphone.
I was careful to make the Athan as my Father was taught me to. I sang out, in Arabic with a certain tone and cadence that is traditional:
“Allahuakbar, Allahuakbar! La-illaha Ill-la-lah!”
My voice spilled loudly through the loudspeakers outside and onto the streets where no one listened. I was also taught to make wudu or absolution by cleaning the hands, face, nostrils, ears and feet; we did so before leaving the house; he said that afterwards each step toward the Masjid is a blessing in the eyes of Allah.
Within twenty minutes, we were in and out; we made our prayers, off with the lights and heat and were back in the truck, listening to NPR again on the way home.
I was a teenager of fifteen or so then; however, ten, nine, and eight years earlier, before my brothers and sister left for college, Daddy, my siblings and I would make prayer five times a day in our home. After Fahjr, we would take turns reading suras from the Qu’ran. Over the years, iyat by iyat I listened to the Qu’ran in English and recited prayers in Arabic.
“Did you finish your Mathematics?”, my Father would say to me as he walked the length of the living room heading away from our prayer area and into the kitchen.
“Yes, Daddy”, I replied.
“Alright then, place it on the table and put the pot on boil. You know what to do?”, he asked.
“Alhamdulillah”, he would say. It means all blessings due to Allah.
Daddy taught his children, me specifically, to be a Believer of faith. He was a measured and productive man. He was often in observation of me.
“. . . Now pay attention Son! Don’t stand in your own light!” he would say to me time and again.
Daddy was a welder by trade and a mechanical engineer by profession. He came of age professionally at a time when experience was equally as valuable as a college degree. He held down a full-time job; was an Imam or Islamic religious leader and ran a successful business out of our garage. He was the example of faith.
“Alright, Son. Now listen. Take a good look at the two problems I circled here. Sit and think these through again; and pay attention . . . okay?”, my Father instructed me.
“O.K. Daddy”. I’ll get them right!
“Inshallah, Son.”, he would say often, meaning that it is God’s will.
After we were done here, I was thinking, I would have to drive Mother all the way home, then drive back again. I had quite an evening ahead of me and I closed the garage door, locked the doorway and returned to the house.
I can hear the three of them; my Wife, my Mother and my Sister. Their laughter is comforting to hear while I am climbing the narrow and steep stairway to the second floor of the grey-stone rowhouse. I immediately notice that the carpet is in need of shampooing.
“Excuse me!” I yell.
“When are these carpets going to be cleaned?!” I yell again; but, I hear nothing.
“Where is the man?!”, I shout to the group as I make my way to the back room from the staircase.
“The carpets have been cleaned, Sir”, said the realtor as he comes into my view inside the room with the others. “The carpets were cleaned last week”, he offered me.
“We’ll they need to be cleaned again, but before we move in. Have you seen the dirt out here? What do you ladies think? Am I blind or what?”
“Uhmm huh. . .yeah” , said my Wife.
“I agreed”, added my Sister.
“You got that right!” Mother chimed in.
I turn to and say to the gentleman, “We’ll see to these carpets, but first I would like to have you come with me outside because I have some questions” and reach to shake his hand and as we shake I say to the others, “It looks nice in here huh? Make sure you check out each room so that we can feel comfortable with our new home, okay ya’ll?”
My wife and I had already spoken about how I want my Mom to become familiar with her room; how I want my Sister to play a role in helping my Mom during her transition to and settlement in a new space. Taking the Realtor aside, I created the space necessary for my Sister and my Mother to work these things through, so I thought; but that was my thinking.
The Realtor and I go downstairs and outside. We walk the grounds of the property and I ask questions about the property line, fencing, landscaping, trash removal, etc. After ten minutes he and I return to the house.
“I would like a minute to speak with my family. Is that alright?” I say to him.
“Sure, take your time”, He responds.
“Great, we shouldn’t be long. We’ll be right down, sir. Thank you”, I offer him as I take the steep staircase to the second floor.
At the top of the stairs, I call out for my Sister and pull her into an unoccupied room, pulling the door to for a little privacy.
“So, did you show Mommy her room?” I asked.
“Nnnoooooo?” She replies; looking as if the question itself was odd.
“Well, how is she going to know if someone doesn’t tell her?” I say in a kurt manner, opening the door and walking out into the hallway to find my Mother.
“Mom! . . . .Mom! Mamma come with me so you can see your closets, bathroom and where you will sleep.”
I took her hand and led her into the sunlit bedroom in the front of the building with a view of the street.
“This is your room, Mamma. Do you like it?
“Yeah, it’s okay.” She says plainly.
“Over here, Mamma, are your closets. You got plenty of room too. What do you think?” I say looking into her eyes.
“Yeah, it’s enough for me”, she concedes.
I can hear her feelings. Images flash through my mind of all of the houses my Mom had; all of the spaces she inhabited; all the rooms where I was instructed and showed love by her.
I take a step outside of the bedroom and walk into the adjoining bathroom commenting, “Look Mommy, you got your own bathroom! Nice, huh?”
She takes her time, walking just through the doorway of the bedroom and peeping around the corner and says, “Yeah, it’s nice”.
“Hello? . . . Yes?” a faint voice responded.
“Yes, I am the Son of the lady you helped the other night? Do you remember her?”
“Of course. . . .How is she doing today?” the voice asked.
“She’s okay physically, I said. But, she is not well. You know my Sister told me some of what you and she had discussed, but can you tell me? She’s on a cruise now and I kind of want to piece everything together.”
“Sure, I understand. My husband is the police officer that first arrived on the scene. Her Ford truck had stalled in the middle of the two-lane Interstate right out-si.de of town. She had run out of gas . . . no problem; but she could not say where she was from. She did give him her driver’s license when asked, but could not say where she was going either. We did make out later that she was headed to Indianapolis, though. My husband, the officer, looked at her address and realized that she was about 200 miles from the address on the driver’s license.”
“Okay, that is why the truck was impounded”, I said.
“Well, towed. There were no fines or even a ticket. It was blocking traffic. I was asked to come over from the hospital to see to her, but she would not tell me her name, even though I knew it. I asked for the name of her children or neighbors that we could call; but she would not budge. I could tell that she was loved. She was nicely dressed and groomed. Finally, I decided to keep talking with her and distracted her so that I could get her cell phone. I kept calling numbers in the phone until I reached someone. I got your Sister.”
“Hmm. . . so . . . wait, uhh . . . so, what time did she get to the police station?
“She got there sometime after three o’clock in the afternoon. I would say that she had been there about eight hours or so.”
“Daaaamn.” I slipped.
“Yeah, I know, it was a loooooong night for your mother, but she held up!”
“Yeah, she was alert when the trooper dropped her off.”
She smelled kind of gamey I thought, but did not dare say this about my Mother to a stranger.
She says, “You know, your mother had quite a turn, even before I arrived, I was told.”
“Really, what happened?”, I asked.
“Apparently, your mother was seated, before I arrived, in an area where civilians wait and conduct police business, I mean, she was not under arrest or anything like that; so the desk Sargent would peep in on her every so often to ‘checkup’ on her with her . . .you know, get her to give them the name of someone they can contact to come and get her. Now, when I got there, just so you know also, your mother would not give any information to me; hence the tricks. Anyway . . . so, the desk Sargent comes back . . . and she’s gone! It’s dark out at that point and a squad car is sent; she is found looking into the window of a nearby bank tapping on the window as if she were trying to get someone’s attention. The officer said that she was nice and called him ‘cutie’; he said she was worried about getting her money so she could get some gas and go home; he also states that he agreed to get her home once they can speak with someone where she is going. I was called to come and evaluate her from a mental health perspective, so that is when I met your wonderful Mother. She told me I was ‘Mrs. Fiiiiine’!”, she laughed out loud.
“Yaaap! That’s Mommy! And I laughed out loud too,” I added. “How did you trick her?”
“Well,” she said, “I have worked on the psych unit at the hospital for a while and ocasionally we get older people with memory problems . . . aaaaand, it’s easier to get them to get them to do things if you distract them with conversation; so I acted like I had a problem with my phone, got her to ‘help’ me and soon she pulled her phone out to look at it for herself, then she kept it in her hand and I asked her to come with me where the two of us could sit at a table. After sitting, she sat it down for a second and I grabbed it. I had to duck behind a screen in another room to start making calls. By the time she discovered it, I had already excused myself from the room.”
“Wow, you are gooood!”, I exclaimed.
“Well, thank you. Your Mother is a sweetheart! I’m just so glad she made it home to her loved one’s”, she replied.
“Yeah, she’s back home and I don’t think she should be living by herself and she definitely will not be driving”, I said.
“Well, my husband’s Mother had Alzheimer’s disease and I was her caregiver; I took care of her and it’s going to get weird at first, but you soon come to realize that you are now the parent. My husband had a tough time with that. You’ll see; and too you’ll find that it gets easier with time. Good luck, you will do juuuust fine”, she concluded.
“Well, thank you. We will see.”, I replied. “One last thing, Can I get a written account of the first responding officer?”, I asked politely.
“You mean, my husband? Sure! No problem, it’s not like a standard form, but sure, I’ll have him write you something. No problem. Glad to do it”, she offered.
I could hear her smiling through the phone.
“Oh, and uhhh . . . what would have happened if you had not reached someone for my Mother?”, I inquired.
“She would have been transported to our County Mental Health Hospital. I am glad we got in touch with your sister”, she proclaimed.
“Indeed”, I responded.