And there's plenty of time to feel badly if it doesn't.
It wasn't just me. Last year, 2016, was a monster, and nobody warned us. So we're not looking back, we're moving on.
(1) Best Laid Plans
I scheduled loosely, two patients in the morning, two in the late afternoon, hoping to get a little quality time with one of the grandkids, still on winter break, a person who makes the most sense to me. It is worth it, driving back from work to take him out, having to drive back again later, just to have that time alone, give the relationship a little more meat, a few solid memories.
Good memories we're hoping for.
The live box of bees in the museum consumed the children, whet our subject's appetite. Mr. Science just knew there had to be all kinds of things, even better things out thar' in them thar' woods.
So today, New Year's Day observed, we'll make it right, except that the nature center is closed, locked up, the gate to the hiking trails quadruple locked, tied in triple knots. The kid gives me that look, the one that tells you you're in the doghouse, once again, for disappointing him. All I can offer is an aquarium water change. He likes doing that, so why not do that?
No dice. He wants to see deer. In that incomplete mini-adventure with his cousins, he did see a deer, a stag mistakenly trapped in a pen, some type of preserve. He and his cousins see the deer take a running dash, then, to everyone's amazement, the animal leaps over the seven-foot chain link fence. It is like something out of a movie, this enormous animal, caged and furious, running, leaping, flying through the air.
Naturally all the children, average age six, are running after the animal, now free, and my son and I are running after them, way behind. This is a terrifying moment, a snapshot memory for all of us, unquestionably.
And now we're face to face with a dead bolt and a combination lock on a gate, multiple chains, and the kid is digging his heels into the dirt, telling me he isn't leaving until he sees a deer. It is 1:00pm and office hours begin again at 3:30. This is a big town. A person can cover a lot of ground, but I don't want to be late for that 3:30.
Fine, I shrug. Let's go.
Forest preserves line the western border of the city, and Chicagoans in contiguous neighborhoods have a suburban life, a forested backdrop, if they take the time to notice. We drive through, find an entrance to the woods, and one of many parking lots. The trails ahead are buzzing with bicycles, joggers, strollers and power walkers. It is cold, make no mistake, about 42 degrees fahrenheit, but still dry and crisp, no wind. Lots of happy people off of work for the holiday observed, exercising, having fun. After all, there is no mail, no bills, the banks are closed.
Me and the little guy are on the move, hunting deer. We're regretting that we forgot binoculars. He stops with an epiphany.
Let's ask someone if they saw any!
We stop a couple gingerly walking along, holding hands. They look at us like we must not be from these parts. No. No deer. Not in these woods.
We see ducks. A professional duck swami has gathered them at the river, offering bread crumbs. My grandson isn't impressed. He'd like to see something bigger, a mammal, something with four legs.
But I'm impressed and happy.
We follow what I think is a loop back to the parking lot, take it a long, long way, and it is starting to drizzle, large drops of water fall. The crowd thins, but I'm thinking we're on our way back to the car, so we keep going, and both of us, I think, are a little resigned to the negative thought, there may be no deer, not here. Then I hear him whisper. There's one! There's a deer!
Of course there's a deer. It is Bambi. She is gray, and grazing, senses us and lithely scampers away before I can even get a picture. But he saw her, the biggest doe he has ever seen, he will repeat this to anyone who asks, anyone who listens.
But now we're at the end of the loop, near a parking area that is definitely not our parking area. My car is not among the rest. In fact, there is only one car in this lot, because most people had the sense to get out of the freezing rain. I see an older, petite woman in a jogging suit coming toward the lot and ask her if she knows which way is south. She has no idea. Do you know which way to go to get to Devon Avenue? Again, no. But she offers to drive us to our car, and thinking that I certainly must be very close, in an obvious psychotic state of denial, I say No, it's all right.
My phone has Google Maps, with a walking option, and struggling to keep the phone out of the rain, I tap in the data. The voice behind the app instructs tells me to turn around, go back the way we came, so we do that, but now it is really coming down hard and I can't hear her instructions, and my grandson is really cold and getting tired and lagging behind me. We make it to a street (a street!) but it is not the one we want, which is very disappointing.
I admit defeat, worry aloud that going back to the trail will be a waste of time and energy, fearful he might need carrying, and that I can't lift him. I call my daughter, knowing she's been out running errands, to rescue us. We had planned to meet in the middle of the city anyway to hand off her son.
That hour's walk, to me, feels like something out of Wild. Our down coats, hoods, shoes, and socks, are soaked. It will be 16 minutes before his parents find us, and it is still raining, that cold, wet drip, the kind you're supposed to watch from inside the house, not outside in a forest, not even at a bus stop, no where. A very long 16 minutes. All of the plans, the luster, the mission to make good memories, backfired, trashed.
And I'm thinking, wondering, has he lost faith in me? Have we lost what we had, this special thing, this common interest in simple living, fish, trees, deer? Do I look like a crazy old lady to him now, a person who takes a young boy on an unnecessarily perilous mission? Could he get sick from this? (FD always told me that cold weather doesn't make people sick, but still, what if he's wrong, just this one time?)
Soon we're in the car, warm and dry, it is heaven. His toes are tingling. His father suggests he take off his shoes. The parents are incredulous, curious, surprised, but the story seems ridiculous, lost in the woods, woods with signs and paved paths. And we still have to find my car, a challenge which proves confusing at first, but successful soon enough. My son-in-law tells me he can see how in this neck of the woods a person could get lost, the sky so rainy and gray, the precipitation 100%.
At my car, about to go, I turn to my grandson. Forgive me?
For what?! he replies. I was never even mad at you. We saw a deer! That's what we said we would do. Right?
I guess. That was the plan. Find a deer. Let's move on, not look back.
Happy New Year, friends.