My mom, with my twin sisters in the car, picked me up from my house to carpool to the Med Center to see my dad, who is quarantined in the cell and gene therapy unit of the hospital, after having a stem cell transplant. This weeks-long hospital stay fell on Thanksgiving this year, and I didn’t want the holiday to pass without seeing my dad. “This is the first time I can remember in a long time that I’ve had all three of my girls in the car with me” mom said. We tried to think. It must have been when I was in high school was the last time the four of us shared a car ride together.
The parking garage she chose was one I wasn’t familiar with. I’ve taken a lot of trips to this hospital this year. First, for my mom’s hospitalization and ER trips and now for my dad’s cancer treatments. But mom likes trying new ways and new roads and the garage she chose to park at was one I had never explored myself but it felt oddly reminiscent. “Have we parked in the garage before, Mom? When I was sick? Or Papa?” There was something familiar about the structure of it. The way the metal slats allowed light in without a clear picture out into other buildings or the street. I remember as a child squeezing my head to the edge of the furthest piece of metal to try and view the street below before I was beckoned to follow the adults to the elevator. “Yes, we’ve definitely parked here before in all our years coming to the Med Center.” Mom replied.
Following Mom’s lead, the four of us loaded into an elevator that took us to a basement where we winded through the hallways to find the main elevators that would take us to Dad’s floor. I asked, “Mom, did you ask someone for a new way of getting to the same place or did you find all of these directions out by just exploring.”
“I’ve been married to your dad so long his adventurous spirit has rubbed off on me and I just went exploring. I’ll always end up somewhere.” she said.
I’ll always end up somewhere…that reminded me of my early driving years when dad calmed any directional nerves as I faced the 4th largest city in the US on my own…”Just make sure your tank is full and don’t worry; All roads lead to somewhere and eventually, something will start looking familiar.” Which tells me two things: Not to fear and that I’ll find something that looks familiar because I’ve explored outside of my own world before. He was encouraging me to explore and step outside my comfort zone. His advice has subconsciously become a mantra for me in so many areas of life.
“Adventurous. That’s your dad.” said Mom.
I’m just like him.
My mom is a servant. This past week she took me to have an ultrasound done on my eyes. MY EYES, PEOPLE. I’m freakish about objects of any sort touching my eyeballs. She knows this. I tried to suck up a 4 hour neuro-ophamologist appointment a few days before where they ran a million tests and poked needles into my eyeballs! I’m exaggerating. They weren’t needles. They just dilated them and poked them around a little bit. So she looked up what the ultrasound entailed and because she didn’t want me to have to deal with eyeball harassment and driving alone, she volunteered to take me.
It was the week of Thanksgiving and the head ultrasound doctor was out of town leaving his associate all alone to handle all the cases by herself. Mom and I sat in a small waiting room, that could only fit seven chairs, for two hours waiting for my turn. We were joined by 4 other women and for 2 solid hours we all talked. It was a wonderful time of connection with complete strangers. One lady, while conversing, was working on folding and stuffing Thanksgiving cards for work. And my mom asked how she could help. So my mom and this lady sat there, folding-stuffing-folding-stuffing, and talking to each other like they had known each other for years.
My mom has that gift – the gift of making you feel like you’re known by her words and her serving.
She served my dad this Thanksgiving and brought him Thanksgiving dinner in his hospital room. And with each visit she washes his dirty clothes and brings back a fresh batch of clothes. Because his immune system has been wiped clean with his transplant much like a hard drive is reformatted, there is lots of hand washing when entering the unit. And in the unit. It’s glorious. #germaphobe Because of a few complications (that are getting better), outside of dad’s door were lovely plastic robes, plastic gloves, and masks. We suited up and settled in for a few hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad. We laughed. We joked. We goofed. We talked. It was…
And I was thankful for the familiarity. It felt like the sweetest parts of my childhood. The Christmas mornings and the relaxing Thanksgiving days. The summer evenings grilling hamburgers by the pool, the weekend yard work together once the weather was cool enough to not cause a heat stroke. The late-night father-daughter runs to Home Depot just because. The remote control car building and the model airplane construction. Cooking with mom in the kitchen. The Christmas Eve last-call Christmas shopping filling a basket full of random toys and gadgets because Dad really wanted to play with them too.
As we were leaving the parking garage, mom said, “I’m going to drive y’all to the roof so you can see the pretty view of the buildings.” And we swirled in parking garage circles until we reached the top where the bare night air was cool and crisp. We parked, got out, and took in the buildings around us. It was beautiful and calming to this city girl.
On our way through the streets of the med center we pulled up to a stop sign that was directly in front of the giant McGovern waterfall that was lit green and slowly shifted to blue. My mom was in awe and said, “We’ll just sit here and watch it until someone pulls up behind us and we have to go. I wonder what color it’s going to turn next.” She took her hands off the wheel and crossed her arms ready to wait. We didn’t have long since someone rounded the corner and pulled up behind us but before it was out of our sight we saw the color fade back to green.
“So cool!” someone said. “That’s pretty!” said another. “My money was on purple but still pretty!” I said.
With that, we set off on the familiar drive back to our side of town. And in those moments of driving through the Houston dark, car lights blinding by, the moments of sweet familiarity on the evening of Thanksgiving whizzed by and, even as a grown woman, I caught them. And I put them in my locket. And I hold them close to my heart.