A little ritual had kind of developed between Dad and I over the last several years before his passing. We would go down to visit Mom and Dad. Sometime during the visit, I would take Dad for a ride. Usually those rides were around the more immediate rural area of the Michigan-Ohio border where they lived. The trips were of varying length, but served several purposes. It was a chance for Dad to get out of the house. It was a chance for us to talk about things; to have a father-son time. It was also an opportunity for me to see what was going on around the stomping grounds of my youth; to see how so many things had changed and how a few things had stayed the same; a way of reconnecting with my roots.
Those rides became more important as Mom's health and mind began to fail. On those rides Dad would tell me how Mom was doing. I could get first hand from him what was going on as the two of them aged and that aging slowly sapped their strength and vitality. We would discuss what some of their options were. It was a chance for me to reinforce some of the concerns and issues my sister had discussed with me regarding Mom and Dad's health and care. Dad needed the time out of and away from the house. He needed the respite from the care and worry over his now invalid wife.
It was this past November (2012) and the Thanksgiving Holiday was coming up. It had been more then a few months since our last visit to Mom and Dad, and I knew we really needed to make that two and half hour trip down to see them. The Friday after Thanksgiving would be the best time to go, and so it was the plans were made. That Friday morning my wife and I made the trip down to see Mom and Dad.
Mom was laying in the hospital bed set up in the living room. She was not able to stand at all. She was at the point where an aid was coming in just about every day , and Hospice was checking in a couple of times a week. She was not fully "there" in her mind though able to carry on limited conversation. She was still at the point where someone would move her to a wheelchair and bring her into the dining room to eat at the table with the rest of us. As it was, we would have to help her eat.
At some point in the afternoon, Dad and I went for our drive. As usual, I would drive and dad would sit there in the front passenger seat. We went to town and drove around the village. Dad had me drive around by the grain elevator so he could see the new office and scales, and the new grain silo bin that had recently been erected. We went through the cemetery by the stone marking my oldest sister's grave, and the stone with Mom and Dad's names on it, but at that time with only the years of birth.
We drove out north of town, swung east a mile then north again to the other near by village in the area that was also part of the local school district. In that small village we passed by the old school building where I had gone to kindergarten. The decrepit condition of that abandoned school building was an indicative statement of how the whole area of that broader rural community had changed. We turned west at the main corner and wandered through the country side until we found ourselves back at Mom and Dad's house.
I played the memory game with Momma. "Do you remember when we would go to the Britton reunions at the old Grange hall?" "Do you remember when we would go up north to the lake for vacation?" Yes, she remembered, and she remembered those things happened a long time ago.
My last meal with my mother was that evening's supper. I sat there and was spoon feeding her, much like she had done to me so many years ago when I was the baby. After supper my wife and I left for the two and half hour trip back to our home. A week and a half later we got the phone call. Momma had died at the age of 92. That Thanksgiving Friday had been my last visit with her.
Two weeks and one day after Momma died, Daddy died at the age of 95. I got to see him two days before he died and that was good. But then he was invalid and there was no thought of going for our ritual ride together. It dawned on me today, some few weeks later, that the Thanksgiving Friday was not only the last time I saw Momma alive, but it was also when Daddy and I went on our last ride together.
RIP Mom and Dad...
(Cross posted to The Billy Goat Blog.)