Open Road

August 17, 2016


With mom out of the hospital and settled in to a new routine (well, maybe not settled at all–her recovery is going to take a long time and this 24/7 care thing is quite an adjustment), I decided to go back home. In the last nearly four weeks, I’d only been home three nights. I was needing some Davis time and time with my guys.

So.. back on the road.

The first hour and a half was spent stuck in LA traffic. Seriously, it took me 90 minutes to go 30 miles. I listened to most of a program on KPCC all about the upcoming Prop 64–marijuana legalization. I was gratefully preoccupied, so not too, too bothered by the frustrating traffic.

The show ended as I entered the San Fernando Valley and at the same time, finally, traffic began to unsnarl. Time for some music. I turned off the radio and switched over to iTunes shuffle. First up: a heart rending Simon and Garfunkel ballad. Then a weird thing happened..

It was like all the emotions of the last couple of weeks, maybe the last few months, just burst their hard-sewn seams. For the next hour, I was crying so hard, it was all I could do to drive a straight line. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried that hard. Most of the time I was crying about my mom, but at moments it would switch over to Peter (and our impending empty nest) especially if a song came on that was something Peter liked (Pink Floyd, for example).

I was content to just let it come, aware that it was a rare release…the sobs were racking, clearly coming from some deep place, and seemed like something I shouldn’t try to hold back. The whole thing was agonizing, and the crying was very.. indelicate. I had to wonder if people noticed, even many cars aways. But I didn’t really care.

I pulled over just past the Grapevine and called Jim. One thing I realized was that I needed to go back south, not right then, but soon. I felt like this was not the time to leave my mom alone with strangers. Jim and I decided I’d come home for four days and return to PV on Sunday.

I hung around Leval Road for about an hour–talking to Jim, calling my mom, checking in with Betsy, and by the time I hit the road again, I’d gathered myself a little. The plan felt right. The crying continued for most of the way home, but was more intermittent and a little less exhausting.

The whole drive was a bit of a revelation. I was glad for the depth of feeling–I’d wondered where it was, and when, if, how I’d experience it. For the last couple weeks, I’d handled conversations about my mom’s condition and her prognosis with control, because you have to. We’d talked about her advance directive, issues relating to life support (when/if), hospice (when/how), and all kinds of other end of life matters. All the while observing her in her most powerless state ever. By orders of magnitude. She wasn’t my usual mom.

In hospitals, everything seems unreal. The space is so institutional and prescribed, it’s hard to get your bearings, certainly your emotional bearings. Time is weird. It’s all disorienting and surreal anyway. You don a game face, and a game attitude–you have to for the people who are so vulnerable around you. You just wrap your own emotions up and they get buried somewhere. I didn’t know where they were.. I wondered if I had any.

And then, on the drive, I found I did.



(Somewhere near Gustine.)