Since after my father in law’s funeral in August, we have made the 400mi round-trip to feebly tie up loose ends and visit my mother in law. It’s not much of a secret and certainly, there’s a need to speak to why she isn’t living independently as a brave widow, like many women do. My mother in law is 80 and my father in law had spent his entire adulthood married to her. When their son, my husband, was diagnosed with ALL (a lymphoma) I knew I had to decide where my energy would go. So, for the past 2 years, all my cells have spent their energy on my husband’s care. My father in law, aging at the speed of sound, was a stubborn Polish man and my best guess is he did the best he could caring for himself and his wife, who had been exhibiting signs of dementia. Since his passing, she has resided in a care facility, safe but admittedly very lonely. It is overwhelming to be packaging grief and care at the same time. She has to be carefully guided through the order of events. They can be bewildering to her. They are frustrating as well. Their home was left as if an alien ship landed and vaporized it’s residents. Her coffee cup, still sitting on the counter.
We have made two visits to the cemetery. My father in law’s niche is in a columbaria, the third row in a Veterans National Cemetery near the Huachucas Mountains that roll off the nearby Fort where he served as a fireman for his civil service career. She’s a tiny woman these days. She struggles to reach the niche, it’s on the 4th row up. It doesn’t matter the time of day, the sun is strong and the mesquite trees are too far to offer any shade. She has moved through some of the grief and come from wanting to crawl up into the niche with him to accepting the idea that she can one day join him in that cubicle space. I’m torn. It’s very difficult to leave her alone. I suppose it is much like leaving children who don’t want to be left at daycare or surrendering a pet to the pound. I have to walk away….drive away….decompress about the state of things and hope that a solution presents itself. (Well all know they don’t really….one has to make things happen.)
The 200 mile drive home has been unremarkable. Twice a week, we enter the freeway 5 minutes from home on one end and 5 minutes from the nursing home on the return. I have become comfortable with the stretches of road that are rough and where the sun becomes a nuisance. I mindlessly set my cruise control to the changing speed limits as we enter and leave Tucson. I look forward to the first few and the last few saguaro cactus seen along the way. There’s opportunity for long held memories….eating at Nickerson Farms (now just crumbling asphalt and a fading highway sign)….it was one of the few stops on I10 on the way to Phoenix. I anticipate the horizon unfolding. It rarely offers anything new…maybe a dust storm that makes Picacho Peak hazy. This Sunday, there was a funeral on the reservation, East of Sacaton (before the Coolidge-Florence exit with a mega dose of feel good from a road trip to Globe with Karen and her Mom,Twila. That infusion keeps me from completely losing perspective and possibly my composure) Twila always said if you have something difficult to do, do some research and get to work. Easier said than done.
I find myself scouring the roadside and taking note of what changes. Though, not much changes in a few days time. Much of it is the same…my to go cup of coffee, a basket of snacks, flip flops, NPR broadcast from Phoenix until Marana, then NPR from Univeristy of Arizona. The yellow Daisy – ish sunflowers suddenly appear East of Tucson, about the time the Ocotillo spring out of nowhere. There’s a seemingly terminal line of Union Pacific locomotives just off the highway. They sit, like a little boy had arranged them in a mile long string and ran off for dinner.
So, in the video above is a stretch of road just before Casa Grande. In the last few frames, there is a Jackrabbit just outside the yellow stripe. I have reimagined his story everytime I have passed him. He’s not like a box that has fallen off a truck or a bag that has blown across the farm field. He doesn’t move. He is stretched out long, like rabbits do when they are resting under a tree in the afternoon. The sunlight still comes through his ears, the only part of his anatomy that makes him a rabbit.
One day, he won’t be there. It might be a force of physics that changes his coordinates, but it will be something and I think it will be my cue that something will change for me, too.
I’ll look for him. I’m ready for the change.