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”.

     I walk to her and give her a hug and hold her, “It will be fine, Mommy.  You’ll see.” I take her hand and lead her to the other room; the one in the middle of the long hallway that separates her room in the front of the building from the shady master suite in the back.  We stand in the middle room and I point to the closets and say “Mom, you can have this room if you like.” 
“No, no now! I thought you said the other room is mine!? What are trying to do? Huh?” She blurts out. 
“Dang, Ma!  I did not mean any harm, okay?  It is your choice.  You like the other room?  Fiiiine.”
“Okay!  Y’all ready to go!?” I scream over my left shoulder and make my way to and down the staircase.  
     While I stand looking at the sky and praying for God’s guidance, my Mother, Sister and Wife walk to the church across the street.  It was closed and no cars were in the parking lot, but the three of them walked and look and talked amongst themselves. 
“Hello? Ma’am?” I spoke into the phone.

“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 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.

     When they return, I hug and kiss my Sister on the cheek saying, “Okay, thanks for coming and taking a look.”
“Oh no, thank you. It looks really nice.  You guys will have plenty of room”, she says smiling. 
“Yeah, it needs some home touches, though”, my Wife adds.
“Alright, we’re gone.  Drive safely”, and I pull off with my Wife and Mother, heading out of the city back to Mom’s apartment.



     My Wife loves sushi; I love sushi; we return to our urban condo from a sushi binge and are settling into bed with our food comas; she and I do not have a clue that we are about to get hit by a tsunami.  It is one of those summer nights where the heat is oppressive and “decent folk” know better than to call at that time of night; my Sister’s caller ID was showing as my cell rang; and I answered. She begins to describe that a County Sheriff’s nurse from a neighboring state just called her and is trying to identify Mommy!  My Sister is emotional; and although she is scared, she sounds brave too.  I listen long enough to get the jest of the situation, but soon interrupt her to ask, “So, where we gonna meet?”

     My Sister and her husband live in the suburbs of the city; he drove them hurriedly and about forty minutes later, they arrive at the intersection outside our building. “Follow me, I gotta get some gas!”, I yelled to my Brother-in-law; and he does.  We find a gas station across the street from an ATM machine and, while I stand, gassing the SUV for a trip from the city to rural “east bubble-fcuk” State Road, my wife runs to the ATM, my Brother-in-law and I shout to one-another about the best route to get to the aforementioned location and my Sister “two-way” calls my Brothers who live in different cities on the West Coast. We decide on a route and I suggest that my wife and I follow behind them.  I turn to put the gas hose back in its place on the pump; replace the gas cap, close that little door and get back inside.  By this time, My Wife is in too and we are off; I drive on auto-pilot as I tail the parking lights of their truck in front us. Along the way, I turn to my wife and say,” What in the hell could have happened to get Mommy two hundred miles away from home?” All the way,  I think and say too,”I told them that Mommy was acting different”; “I told them that she is impossible to reason with”; “I told them that it is difficult to have a conversation with her by telephone”; “I told them that something is wrong with her”.

     Before 9-11, air travel was fun.  There were no restrictions on movement; even connecting flights were hassle-free.  I was going home.  Although I had left home nine years before, home was where Mommy and Daddy were, so that was where I was going.  For the weekend, at least, I was Baby Boy; visiting home from the big city in the East.  Dad had his weekend routine, so Mom and I were off together to do her work.  She had a huge storage space, and we drove there early in the morning. In it, she kept the donations that countless businesses gave to her to give to those in need.  My mother would pick-up these donations in her Ford Astro-Van, store and distribute them on a daily basis.  She delivered hundreds of items:  toiletries, canned goods, baby clothes, toys, kitchen ware, paper products, so on and the like.

     We were going to “Small Farms,” a scattered and largely squatter community of wonderful people.  My mother drove her Astro-Van; it was roomy, and looked regal because she was doing God’s work.  We pulled into a dirt driveway to a modest home; a darkened doorway kept me from seeing inside.  Besides, I never went inside anyone’s home.  Mom never allowed it. We gave this husband, wife and their children bags of bread, canned-goods, paper products, clothing . . . blessings.  “God gives to me in such abundance, so I make sure people get plenty of what they need.  Yes, Lawd!” is what she often said as she bagged and boxed items and quickly gave them to me; I passed them along to out-stretched arms and grateful faces.  Sometimes she would stand back from the van’s doorway and direct me to lift heavy boxes out of her way; Mom was always in control.  Most angels are.

     It was always a treat to look back and see people carrying their blessings into their home as we drove off.  Over the years, my mother would give away millions of dollars in brand goods.  Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club were benefactors of my Mother’s work.  This was her avocation; she was a retired social worker, a staff member at the city’s comission for women, managed several shelters for battered women and was a court appointed child advocate.  Mom had reach; she cared about people and believed that she had to do something to help people who were less fortunate than her to get the things that they needed to survive.

     Back at the gas station I say to my wife, “Why is she calling them [my Brothers] ?”. I said, “They ain’t gonna do s*%t anyway.” Well, we are many miles out-side of the city and, driving behind her now after she and my Brothers have been on the phone for about thirty minutes and my Wife and I listen to my Sister’s voice through my cell phone’s speaker. She says that my Brothers and she are going to speak with an attorney about getting guardianship for Mommy. I listen and do not say a word; my wife (also an attorney) expresses some thoughts and concerns.  My Sister closes by mentioning that she also spoke with a Sheriff’s dispatcher and that Mommy is enroute to the county-line via police escort and that her truck has been towed and can be retrieved at any time.  After my Sister disconnects, I turn and say to my Wife, “We’ll see how that turns out”; I enforce the comment with a sour-puss facial expression and turn up Lil’ Wayne and Drake on the radio.

     Like something out of a movie, we arrive at the intersection of two roads, the county-line; in moments the headlights of the approaching squad car catches our attention.  I can see that Mommy looks normal; she is well-dressed as usual.  She gets onto her feet out of the squad car and smiles at me saying, “Hey sugar? How are you doing? Come here. Come give Mommy a hug.”  She feels the same; but she has a body-odor. “I love you, Mommy” and I kiss her cheek. The officer drives away and my Brother-in-law stays in his SUV while I stand on the road opposite my Wife and in between my Mother and Sister.

“Where are the keys, Mommy?!” my Sister says in a raised voice, reaching for her purse.  “Don’t treat me like I’m no damn child!” Mom yells and snatches back.  “You got us out here in the middle of the night!  Where are the keys, Mama!” my Sister replies reaching again for my Mother’s purse.  My mother begins to grab my Sister’s hand; she scratches her arm and neck, drawing blood, with one hand while the other hand is scratching my Sister’s neck. “I’m the Mother! You ain’t gonna treat me like no damn child!” she yells again. Finally, I am able to hug my mother in an effort to restrain her, while my Wife pacifies my Sister; reminding her to stay calm and that Mommy is clearly not well.  Mommy says to me that she wants to go get her truck, but I respond that her truck is not available and that we will handle it tomorrow; it satisfies her for the moment and it gets the focus off of the keys.

Cooler heads prevail; my Sister and her husband speed off down the road to get Mommy’s truck. This was difficult for her, my Sister; she had recently relocated to the area and had “stepped-up” in recent months with regard to checking in on Mommy weekly, contributing to some monthly bills, and making an effort to spend quality time with her.  This is the night before she and my Brother-in-law depart for a week-long cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary; she has to work for a few hours in the morning and with the flight leaving for their port of call right after that, I thought it best that she and he go home and get some rest. It would have been a four-hour drive round-trip and she was not at her best; after we parted from the rendezvous spot, I called her cell and said to her, “Go home and my Wife and I will see to Mommy’s truck in the morning.”

I drive my mother and Wife to my Mother’s apartment about 30 minutes in the direction we had just come and Mommy is having hallucinations the entire way there. For twenty minutes or so, she repeatedly says to me, “Slow down!  There are people walking along-side the road!” Once the three of us arrive and are inside my Mother’s apartment, my Sister stops in to love on Mommy and say good-bye because she will not see her for over week.  My Brother-in-law stays in the van; my Sister is in and out in five minutes; and just like that the search and rescue party of four is now two. We locked the door and the three of us lay down; my Wife and I are in the guest room and I kiss Mommy good-night as she walks pass her open bedroom door, heading to the apartment’s only bathroom.

     When she put the Astro-Van in drive, we were off again; onto the next one and the next.  An hour or so later, we were on our way home to have dinner with Pops.  On the way home, my mother began to ask questions about my life and made comments that she was worried about me.  “Wait a minute!” I replied, “You are going into the housing projects and giving away ‘free stuff’ and you are worried about me?” I challenged her. “God! He is with me,” she instructed me.  It was not the first time we had quarreled like this; but we drove home just the same.  My mother is an angel; I stand by this; but she is a mother first.  I kissed her on her cheek and told her that I love her and that she was my “smother”.

     Dinner with my parents at that time was always fun.  Although the TV was on, the three of us talked amongst ourselves.  My parents had such witty repartee about world events, his job or her work.  I was an adult, having adult conversations with my parents; you have had these moments (hopefully) and they are priceless. “After two nights, people are like fish.  They start to smell bad.” This is what my father would say in reference to visitors and to being a good house-guest. Stay two days and one night and you will always smell fresh.  They dropped me at the airport bus stop; we prayed for my safe travels and a safe return; I blew them kisses from my seat inside the bus as it drove away slowly until they were out of sight.

     My Wife and I cannot sleep, but we try; the sun comes through the Venetian blinds in the guest room where we are and I get up to check on Mommy.  Aside from the events of the night before, it was nice to be in Mommy’s apartment.  It is going to be a hot day and the sun is already doing its part by making the place stuffy; and I notice that my Mother’s apartment has that “old people smell”. She has long since, I notice, abandoned the impeccable southern cleaning standards and practices she taught me and my siblings to have.  She also stopped sleeping in her room’s king-sized bed; opting instead for the living room’s plush couch and its over-sized pillows.

     I walk into the living room and see her sitting on the couch with her back to me holding a pad of paper with both hands. I focus to make sure I see what I am seeing; she was in a state; she was conscious, alert and speaking aloud.  Studying the pad of paper, she displays a prolonged and deep sense of investigation on her face.  And because she can neither hear nor see me; I stand there and, not knowing  what to make of what I am witnessing, I freeze and hear her say, “Bananas at the top of the page. Bananas at the top of the page.”

   I turn and walk back into the bedroom where my Wife lay sleeping; never speaking to my Mother as intended and I text my Sister, “Should I retrieve and hide Mommy’s gun?” I lay down. The still of the apartment was peaceful; I felt a calm come over me.  My Wife begins to rub my back, yawns and whispers, “Is your Mother alright?”.  I relax for the first time since we returned from our sushi binge; my cell begins to buzz from the vibrate setting when my Sister’s return text, “YES” comes through; I mutter “Naahhh” and fall asleep.

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