7 May 2013

Travels with Mom, continued.

So, as I have said in the past, once a month I try to rent a car and take my mom out for a drive to somewhere or other,.  We have been visiting old churches, waterfalls around the city of Hamilton, battlefields from 1812 and, sometimes, just driving through the countryside looking for something for her to draw. (For some reason, she is fond of drawing barns.)

Once a year, around her birthday and Mother's Day, I take her for a longer drive, somewhere farther afield.  Last year, it was Montreal all to see the Basilica of Notre Dame (I tossed in St Patrick's and Marie, Reine du Monde and St Andrews near Cornwall as a bonus)  This year, I asked her where she would like to go, and she said, unexpectedly, Point Pelee.  Also unexpectedly, Puff, Younger and Frodo came with us.

When I planned to take her to point Pelee, I was thinking of Pelee as the Southernmost part of Canada.  She was thinking of it as one of the most famous sites for birdwatching in the world.  As a result, I wasn't quite prepared when we found ourselves surrounded by birders.  These people were serious.  I saw dozens of people with expensive cameras outfitted with lenses that had to be close to three feet long.  You could photograph Saturn with those suckers.  I was embarrassed to be seen holding my little rinky dink camera in their presence.  But they were very nice people, and I can think of far, far worse hobbies than going out and admiring the natural beauty of our world. We had a great time.  When we dropped by the next day for dinner, Mom was on the phone, telling people about her little trip the day before.

But I do sometimes get asked, usually by my sister, and sometimes by others, why do I bother to drive so far (Pelee was about a four hour drive, each way) for merely a day trip?  There seems to be little point in that.   To which I say, yes, there is little point in that.  But, by the same token, there is no point in not going at all.  As mom puts it, half a loaf is better than none.

I also get asked why do I take mother?  The main answer is that she and I like similar things (except the barn thing, but what the heck) and our trips are fun.  People look at me oddly, as though a trip with a late octogenarian with a pronounced tendency to yak could not possibly be fun.  There must be another reason.  And, yes, there are.  As I said, the fact that we have fun is the main reason.  But there are other reasons as well, and they begin with Dad, and my regrets.

Dad was the best man I ever met and am ever likely to meet.  My first regret is that I never told him that. Dad's died about seventeen years ago at the age of 74, which at the time I thought was good, ripe old age, but now seems far too young.  Prior to his sickness, his mortality was not really on my mind.  We had time, and the years stretched out before us.  There was no hurry.  Then he became ill, and time was gone.  I would dearly have loved, in retrospect, to have had a last chance with him. Before he fell ill, he was a healthy, active and vigorous man.  We had time, and the years stretched before us.  Then he was ill, and time was gone.  There was no opportunity to say:  "Dad, let's go bowling, or golfing, or fishing, one last time, for old times' sake."  I could not even ask him to do my favourite thing again, and tell his stories, just one more time.  He was in too much pain, and didn't want to talk about such things.  One of our last conversations, I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to do or take care of after he was gone.  "Take care of your family," he said.  "And keep an eye on your mother when you can."  And so I visited him, did what I could for him, and watched him die.

Mother endures. She is in decent health. Her mobility is not bad for someone her age. It is not unreasonable to think that she could make it to a hundred.  It is also not unreasonable to think that she could be incapacitated by a stroke, tonight, and possibly die in her sleep.  I don't know how much time she has.  And, quite frankly, it is not my business to know.  My business is to do the best I can with the time I have, and to save myself from regret and the thought that there were things I could have and should have done with her, but didn't. That's not to say I won't be sad upon her death, whenever it happens.  On the contrary, I will probably be a basket case.  But, I will also be able to beguile my grief with the fond and happy memories of the time we had together, and know that we did not waste it.

So we drive.  She likes it, and I like it too.  There may be places she wants to go that are out of my reach and budget.  She may wish to go to Europe.  I can't do that, so I don't bother myself with it.  Pelee I can do.  Montreal, I can do.  Places in between, not a problem.  My job is to do what I can with the time that we have, to live as best, as well and as much as we can, so that, when our time is done, we will not find that we watched life, rather than lived it.  The ancients were wiser than us in this matter, and knew this truth well.  Horace put it best and most famously:

sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.
Be wise, pour the wine, trim to a short space
your long hopes.  Even as we speak, envious time has
already fled: Seize the day, and give tomorrow little faith.

However, this is the second reason why.  More accurately, it is the reason why I do something with mother.  The reason why the something I do is take her out for drives is because they are fun.  If they weren't, I would do something else.

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