Distractions

I got in my car and started the engine.  That’s when I spotted him on the windshield.  Apparently, he noticed me at the exact same time because he quickly scurried out of sight.

Where did he go?  And how do I know that he’s a “he”?

Suddenly, he crawled back into view and settled on the dashboard.  Two tiny white dots, pretending to be eyes, stared back at me.  A slight shiver went through me as I noticed his furry, fuzzy body set atop eight hairy little legs.  (I dislike spiders.  I know they serve a purpose, a useful one, in nature.  However, the inside of my car is not nature.)

He scurried out of site again, finding a hiding spot at the edge of the windshield.  I didn’t have time to hunt him down.  I needed to leave.  I put the car in drive and said a silent prayer that my uninvited passenger would stay put, hidden out of site.  I turned the radio up, pulled out of the driveway, and drove away.  I watched the road.  I watched the scenery.  I watched the corner of the windshield where I last saw Mr. Spider.

Pay attention to the road.  Death by distraction is not a headline anyone wants to see or be defined by.

As I focused on the road, I spotted a trailer ahead of me hauling a huge stack of square bales.  Between us was another truck.  The hay truck was traveling about 45 miles per hour, and the smaller truck was bobbing and weaving, try desperately to pass.

Tiny pieces of hay flew off the trailer and floated past me like pale insects looking for a place to land.  Insects.

Where is that darned spider?

My eyes quickly scanned the dashboard.  The windshield.  No spider.  Good.

A large chunk of hay broke off the top bale, struck my windshield and was quickly blown off.  The scent of freshly baled hay reminded me of when my husband and I were first married.  I would help him in the hay field.  I got the easy job of driving the truck while my husband stood on back and stacked the square bales.  My biggest fear was that I’d let off the clutch wrong, causing the ton truck to lurch forward suddenly, and my husband would tumble off.

A blue bird swooped directly in front of my car.  Bright blue, like the clear blue sky, like my husband’s eyes.  The bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.  At times, when we’re talking, I can look directly into those baby blues and completely lose my train of thought.  And when he wears his blue denim ball cap, his eyes absolutely sparkle.

HOLY CRAP ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!!!???

I suddenly glanced down at the steering wheel.  Mr. Spider was sitting directly in the middle of the emblem, one foot away from me.  I don’t remember if I swerved or not.  (I’m guessing “not” since the car wasn’t damaged.)  I looked for a spider-squishing weapon but found nothing.  In desperation, I swatted at him with my bare hand.  He jumped out of reach, toward the driver’s side window and hid between the air conditioner vents.  I quickly shut the vent, hoping that he’d meet his demise as a tiny spatter of spider goo.  I drove on, content with the age-old phrase, “out of sight out of mind”.

I arrived at my destination, pulled into the driveway and put the car into park.  As I turned off the engine, I reached for the air vent and a napkin simultaneously.  Anticipating the need to wipe remnants of Mr. Spider from the black plastic, I flipped open the vent.  No spider.

Gasp!  That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.  Does that hold true for spiders?  Do spiders hold grudges?  Was he intelligent enough to understand that I was trying to squish him?

Maybe his terror mimicked mine, and he was simply hiding from me.  Shaking.  Scared.  Hoping I’d go away.  Yeah, let’s go with that one.  For now…

 

Feisty

For the first and the last time, in a single day, I pushed Mom in a wheelchair.  It was the first time that she’d left the hospital and had been too weak to walk out on her own.  It was the last time because I nearly killed her in the elevator.  Well, that’s her side of the story.  My side is less graphic in nature.  Let’s just say, for the record, that (1) I’d never pushed a wheelchair before, that I can remember.  (2) Modern technology has given us the means to fabricate super-duper smooth-rolling wheels.  (3) Pushing a wheelchair is no where near similar to pushing a grocery shopping cart.

She fought a valiant fight.  Chemo duration:  19 Months.  It was during Month 4 that we learned her cancer was treatable, not curable.  Kinda put a dent on Christmas that year.  Our family gift exchange consists of everyone bringing a random present, then we draw numbers and choose based on our place in line.  The gift Mom chose was a set of bath products that contained a bottle of shampoo.  “I won’t be needing this,” she joked.  She’s a feisty one.

She was in the hospital for two weeks.  We blamed the doctors and nurses, but in reality, it was most likely the cancer/chemo wreaking all the havoc.  It was easier to blame The Humans.  We could see them coming and going, not administering her meds quick enough to suit us.  We couldn’t see The Cancer.  It was easier to blame what our eyes could see, rather than what our minds could imagine.  It was way too convenient for me to pester the heck outta the nurses when they didn’t immediately enter the room right after Mom pushed the call button.  I’m a feisty one.

We were sitting in her hospital room, talking and waiting impatiently to be officially released, when the topic of ironing came up.  She loves to iron.  I detest it.  She irons pillowcases.  I do not.  She irons bed sheets.  I definitely do not.  Grandma used to iron pillowcases.  I remember the sizzle of the hot iron and the heat from the steam as she pressed the white cotton into crisp smooth submission.  Each pillowcase was hand-embroidered with colorful flowers – blue and purple with green leaves.  They don’t make them like that anymore.

“Why do you iron sheets?” I asked Mom.  “I’m particular,” she said.  “But it’s unnecessary.  They get wrinkled as soon as you lay down,” I replied.  She just smiled and shook her head, but I knew what she was thinking.  She ended the friendly argument by not replying.  It was a true because-I-said-so moment.  She’s a feisty one.

Sticks

As a very young girl, I spent many a Saturday afternoon outside helping my parents with yard work.  I usually got the chore of picking up sticks.  Mom seemed to love it.  She was always picking up sticks – even during the work week.  I didn’t like picking up sticks.  It was boring.  I wanted to use the push mower.  It looked like so much fun.  I begged and pleaded with Dad and finally wore him down.  He started up the mower for me, and I took my first swipe around a large stump.  Weed-eaters didn’t exist back then.  We used a pair of manual hand-clippers around the trees.  (Squeeze hand.  Clip grass.  Get a hand cramp.  Squeeze hand.  Clip grass.  Is that a blister?)  It took forever.  I figured if I could get close enough to the stumps, I could alleviate that chore.

So, in my first swipe, I totally succeeded.  I got very close to the stump.  And, with my second swipe, I created a wide, deep line straight through the middle of the bright green grass.  Dad sprinted in my direction, frantically waving his hands in the air.  (OH NO, IS THERE A BEE BEHIND ME?)  He grabbed the mower handle from my hands and quickly turned off the engine.  He never said a word.  He simply looked at the close-shaven line that ran through the entire back yard and shook his head.  Later that morning, we headed to the hardware store, and Dad bought a new mower blade.  I didn’t understand why we needed a new blade.  Ours was working perfectly earlier this morning.  It wasn’t until a few days later, when the wide, deep line turned a drab shade of yellow that I understood what had happened.  Even then, Dad never said a word, but it was years before I was allowed to use the push mower again.  I was banished back to the sticks.

Fast forward to present day.  Mom is tired.  The chemo is wreaking havoc.  She’s frustrated.  I’m anxious.  Dad’s worried.  There must be something I can do.  I research her symptoms online, write down the list of recommended foods, and go shopping.  I take the food to Mom, but she’s not hungry.  I hover.  They send me shopping for more supplies.  I return and hover some more.  This is nothing I can do.  NOTHING.

I call her every day, twice a day.  Two days later, she tells me she’s called the hospital ER for advice.  She won’t go to the ER, and she won’t call 911 for an ambulance.  I should go visit her again, I think.  Maybe I can talk her into going to the hospital – then again, maybe not.  I already know how that discussion will go.  Mother knows best.

I walk outside.  The bright sun is warm on my face.  Daffodils sway in the breeze.  In the yard, I see sticks.  We had some wind the night before.  I start picking them up without thinking.  My hands become full.  I walk around to the back yard and get the wheelbarrow.  I spy a dead limb on a nearby shrub.  I walk over with the intention of snapping off a single twig, but half the darn plant breaks off in my hands.  I have a mini-meltdown.  My handsaw is nearby.  I slash.  I hack.  I sever.  I carve.  I chop.  (I get out my thesaurus!)  Five minutes later, the shrub is gone.  Only a small stump remains.  I feel better, but I’m not sure why.  Mom is still sick, and I can’t fix it.

Looking back, I remember how Mom loved to work outside – picking up sticks, planting flowers, pulling weeds, growing a garden full of vegetables.  And, suddenly, I think I understand.  (Light bulb!)  It was something she could control.  Something she had created.  The crap of life continued, but she made her part of the world just a little better, a little brighter.  Mother knows best.