Good morning, y’all. I’m a firm believer that the world can get along without my contribution until the sun is up and I’ve had the chance to caffeinate myself sufficiently to withstand the rigors of the day. Any deviance in that routine risks a change in the tides and bird migration. Be warned.
When we left off about one AM last night, it was New Year’s Eve day and I was headed across the hills to Asheville. I am on a mission to find out whatever state Mom was in. Jackson called me in route and said that he’d heard from Maggie. Maggie had been able to get Mom into the car. When Maggie had called Mom’s Doctor, he said to just go ahead and take Mom to Memorial Mission. They admitted Mom with a blood pressure of 60 over 46. Jackson asked if he should come on to Asheville or hold back. I told him to hold back because I didn’t know how much longer I’d be free. I knew that at some point I was going to be out of the picture for a while and I wanted to carry as much of the load as I could until then.
Let me take a small break here to point out that while I love American Iron, as my Firebird will attest, there is one indispensable piece of equipment available on new cars that the old iron can’t match, Bluetooth. Controlling a car on a windy mountain road while trying to talk holding a phone is at least one thing more than I am capable of doing at the same time. The infernal ding, ding, dings of Charlotte’s incoming texts and calls on my cell phone are enough to make me want to jump the curb, but I don’t. Anyway, parents, make sure your kids have cars with Bluetooth. Try to combat human nature at least that much.
I stop for gas and to catch up on Charlotte’s urgent messages. Charlotte’s text messages let me know what I already know. As much as I hate to do it, I’m forced to call her for more current information.
“Where are you?”, she inquires.
“About half way there”, I reply, “are you at the hospital?”
“No, Edna and I came over to Mom’s condo to clean up”, she says.
I am absolutely gobstopped. I have promised myself and Mulva that I am going to be the “adult” in the situation. For the next few days, I will not let my feelings run rampant. Besides being a good habit to develop, I also have my freedom to consider.
“Mom is near death in the hospital, and you and Edna are at the condo cleaning up?”, I say as tempered as I can.
“We figured we’d clean up before you and Jackson came in, you’re planning on staying here aren’t you?”, she replies.
“I don’t know where I’ll stay or for how long”, I reply, “I’ve got three days right now before I have to report back in person”. “It sounds like Mom is close to death and I don’t know what all that means”, I continue, “what are you and Edna cleaning up at the condo that’s so urgent?”
“Well, Mom’s been sick for about a week and I tried to get her to let Chris Coe come over and straighten up for her”, she whines. Charlotte then anticipates my next question, “Chris Coe is a fellow Edna met at church that cleans and does odd jobs for me and Edna”.
Now, I have visited Charlotte just one time in her new digs. It is a basement apartment in a building Mom owns in Asheville. It was back on that fateful Thanksgiving when I had a crisis of conscience in not warning her then current husband to run for the hills. Charlotte’s apartment looked like Fibber McGee’s closet had mutated to twelve hundred square feet. The only organized part of the apartment was the laundry room where shelves where filled with boxes of sterno, butane, toilet paper, meals ready to eat and bottled water. Floor to ceiling, a doomsdayer’s wet dream, just waiting for the apocalypse, or a spark. I had mentioned to Mom that one call to the fire department for an inspection would serve as an instant eviction notice for Charlotte, should Mom ever need to kick her out. Mom never played that card, she had Charlotte right where she wanted her.
“I gotta go”, I said, ” I should be there in about an hour”.
“Ok, bro, see you then”, she replied.
Again with that “Bro”. Jesus, I’ve got to cure that feeling I get when she says that. I nudge the Firebird a little over the limit, I figure it’s not going to be worth any Smokey’s effort to write me up for going six miles over the limit. I’ve picked up WNCW on the radio and I’m enjoying the Bluegrass as I motor along on the highway to Hell. I follow the signs to Memorial Mission hospital. When I arrive I am confronted with one of the 8 wonders of the world, the Memorial Mission parking lot. I tell you what, if Charlotte gets her Apocalypse, the two things left around will be cockroaches and that parking lot.
I negotiate my way to the lobby to a septuagenarian manning the information desk. Based on her attitude, I’m guessing she was a volunteer. I do manage to wrangle Mom’s room number from her. Mom is on the third floor in the Women’s Health Unit. I make my way to the nurses station, which is the hub centered to the rooms spoked out all around. Mom’s room is on the backside of the building. When I walk through the door of Mom’s room I am confronted by two indelible pictures, Mt. Pisgah through the room’s picture window, and Mom connected to machinery. If Mom was an octopus, all of her arms would be attached to machines with lights and digital numbers. If Mom was an octopus, she’d look better, even if she’d been out of the water for a while. In spite of our relationship, it still makes you catch your breath.
We’ll continue on more tomorrow.