Greetings from sunny Florida!
Early yesterday morning I snuck out of New York City under the cover of snow, only to find myself a few hours later in the land of early bird dinners. This is my 25th annual winter visit to see the grandparents. One of my favorite parts of this trip, aside from the home cooked food I’m commanded to eat, is the moment I step off the plane. Being enveloped by that familiar humid embrace is like stepping into a parallel universe where it’s summer a
ll year long.
This year, after picking up the rental car, I drove back to the airport where my sister, niece and nephew were waiting. Soon the four of us were driving south on I95, the kids in the back, exclaiming, “There’s another palm tree!” as our everyday stresses slipped out the open windows.
While hugging the grandparents, my sister and I were relegated back a notch, as the great-grandchildren took center stage. When my grandfather was done handing out 20-dollar bills to the kids, we sat down for lunch before going to the pool. But no sooner did the sunblock come out, my grandfather had other plans for me. As I drove his car to the gas station he said, “Another day maybe you can take me to wash de car.
“Let’s do it now,” I said. “Get it done.”
What are simple tasks for most of us are for him filled with anxiety. At 91, the world around him is going too fast. Technology he accepts, but doesn’t understand.
I pulled up to the gas pump. He handed me his credit card and we stood together watching the numbers roll quickly. “Look,” I said, pointing to a forgotten gas cap on top of the pump. “Someone must have left without it.”
“Probably a senior citizen,” he said.
“Or someone in the middle of a busy day.” Both of us recognized the mistake as something we could do. Next I pulled into the automated car wash. With the suds foaming the windows, Papa, his head resting on his hand, sighed. “I’m tired,” he said. “I don’t sleep so good. I’m up in de middle of de night.”
“Why can’t you sleep?”
“Remembering what?” I asked.
“My mother,” he said. “She was such a good woman.”
We were silent a moment as the rollers rubbed the soap away. Even in the middle of simple daily tasks, the past is ever present.