Monday, May 26, 2008

Following Directions

My parents have always been amazingly good at taking jokes at their expense. To me this is the epitome of good humor, humility, and self-confidence. I only pray they haven't changed.

About a year ago my mother's sister passed away. My cousins had a dedication for her at the cemetery to put up the stone. It's a nice tradition, brings people together. And the stone is very beautiful. My aunt would have loved it.

I like these things much better than barbecues.

As soon as my cousin announced that the dedication would be on Memorial Day, I called my parents and said, "I'll take you."

They're in their 80's and still drive short spurts, but it's a long way to Waldheim and there's no point in everyone driving. "We'll come to you," Mom says, meaning they'll drive their car to my house and then come with me.

"There's a sale at Macy's in your neighborhood. I'll be by you anyway."

"Uncle M. needs a ride, too."

"No problem. The more the merrier."

A few days before the dedication Mom calls and asks, "What time are you picking us up?"

It's a 10:30 ceremony and she thinks she’s the only one that hates being late.
"I'll be at your house at 9:45."

"Come earlier. I don't want to be late."

"We won't be late."

"Come earlier."

"It's a 40 minute drive."

"If we're late, I'll kill you."

Already I doubt myself. What if I make them late? But I've been to this cemetery many times and being a therapist think in terms of time and increments of time. When I visit people in general my visits tend to be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour. On the money. It's uncanny. I don't even have to look at my watch. I don't even wear a watch.

That morning I wake up and try to pick out something to wear. Ordinarily this isn't that hard, but I'm thinking, “What would my aunt like? What would she say?” She always noticed what people wore and she always complimented them. She liked cute things.

So I tried to be cute. Not an easy feat at my age.

Mom makes the call the night before. "You won't be late, right? This is very important."

"It's all good, Mom."

"Just be on time."

Because she's so nervous I put aside the stubbornness and decide, I'll get there by 9:30. But I don't tell her that, which is a good thing. Nervous, I take ten minutes to print out directions and get there at 9:40. Now she has me nervous that we'll be late. This is the subtext, of course, in these situations.

Between my father, my uncle, my mother and myself, we all have to use the bathroom. This steals at least ten minutes, completely blows my early arrival, and adds to my stress. Yet they seem to be okay.

Everyone piles into the car. "Seat belts," I command.

They're compliant!

"Personally," I say, "I hate them. They're so uncomfortable. But you have to wear them, right?" My father doesn't even grunt. He's resisted seat belts in his youth, but gave in at some point, I can't remember when, exactly.

Then it started. I knew it would.

"Which way are you going to go?" asks Mom. "How do you want to go?"

From my uncle in the back seat, "Take Dempster to . . ."

"I was going to go to the airport, pick up 294, then take the Eisenhower to Des Plaines Road," I say.

My uncle tries again. "I think you can get it on Dempster, the toll way."

"Oh, that's a great idea!" I exclaim, remembering this is indeed a good way. I'm a little worried about the construction by the airport, too.

My mother's not so sure. "I know there's an exit north, but I don't think there's an exit south."

My father authoritatively commands: "Take Dempster."

This throws me, what my mother has said about there not being a south exit on Dempster. What if I go all the way west to the toll way and can't get on? It's a long shlep for nothing.

I get on the Edens Expressway to the airport.

"NOW where are you going?!" Mom cries.

"I'm going to take the Edens to Cicero to the airport spur and pick up 294. Trust me. You'll be okay."

"I wouldn't do that," she says, very irritated. "Just take this downtown and take the Eisenhower. I know how to go from there."

I really don't want to say it, I just want to distract them somehow, perhaps talk about people we all know and surreptitiously get us to where we want to go, sneak the trip in without anyone noticing. But I say it.

"No way. That's the worst way. It might work at 4 a.m., but it might not be a good idea today. It's a holiday. Memorial Day. Maybe there's something going on downtown, like Bike the Drive or Taste of Chicago."

"I don't want to be late," she says.

Then (sorry for jumping on her, she is getting up there in age), "Mom. Do you really think they would start without you? You're the sister! There's no way they would start without you."

"Really? Do you really think so?" (My mother is so wonderfully, honestly, self-deprecating.)

"Uh, huh."

Dad pipes up. Get off at Cicero and take it to . . . no, never mind."


"But if you take the toll way," Mom continues, "Well, I'm not so familiar with the toll way."

"We won't be trapped on the toll way and end up in Indiana, honest," I say, and hear this as possibly being rude or impatient, become angry at myself for showing irritation in my voice. The truth is I know where I'm going. "I know where I'm going."

"Well, it's a good thing. Because I sure don't," Mom says, laughing at herself.

"It's what you pay me for. It comes with the cracker jacks, directions." I toss her the printed handout, the directions from the cemetery's website.

Dad's asleep. We get there in record time and greet all the cousins and in-laws and friends. It's a beautiful ceremony.

When it's time to go home, Dad's awake. He turns to me, serious.

"When you go home, take Ridgeland all the way. Don't bother with the highway."

"Dad, I don't want to slug through city traffic."

"Its faster. Do you have any idea how many times I've commuted back and forth to the city in my lifetime?"

I think I'm going to find out. He starts multiplying, 40 years, twice a day, no, 50 years, twice a day, times 365 days, no, make that 300 days.

A nicer person would have said, “Fine. Let's take Ridgeland.”

A better daughter would have said, “You know? You're right. Let's do it your way.”

But I'm a tired person. I get up automatically at 5:30 every day and although we're only half-way through the day, the first trip was long and not stress-free, the ceremony emotional. I'm a little tired and could use a little refreshment, and it is, no question, at least a 40 minute boring drive home. So I say nothing and get on the highway; do it my way.

About half-way home he says, "If you would have done what I told you to do, we'd be home by now."

"You're right, Dad. I just can't stand the stop and go of city streets. But you're right." We're flying, by the way, there's no traffic on the highway.

"I know I'm right."

"I should have listened to you."


"My old man knows a few things."

"Yes he does."

copyright 2008, therapydoc

Directions to Waldheim Cemetery

From Downtown (Approximately 10 miles from the Loop)
Take the IL-43 / HARLEM AVE exit- EXIT 21B- on the LEFT
Turn LEFT onto DES PLAINES AVE, end at 1400 Des Plaines Ave.

From O’Hare and the Northern Suburbs (Approximately 17 miles from O’Hare)
I-294 S toward INDIANA
Take the DES PLAINES AVE exit- EXIT 21A
End at 1400 Des Plaines Ave.


Anonymous said...

Cute post, therapydoc

Isle Dance said...


jeanie said...

Ah - but its these little aggravations that remind you of their love and that you will always remember with fondness... one day.

therapydoc said...

Not one day Jeanie. Every day.

HiHoRosie said...

Hee hee! How funny and yes, aggravating. I was beginning to stress too that you weren't going to make it but glad it all worked out. :) Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this post. i felt bad that at thirty a visit with my parents can still turn me into a sullen and/or smart-mouthed teenager.

therapydoc said...

Caroline, that's the truth. It's very much up to us to keep a lid on it.

We're going to get to anger management. Don't worry. :)

Anonymous said...

I loved this.

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