My Blog

August 24, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Visiting Dignitaries

“You mean I can actually take a nap? In the middle of the day?”

I have wonderful friends who occasionally visit my 98-year-old mother at her Residential Facility @CarriageInn for an hour or two. Visiting dignitaries who actually stay for three days, however, are a welcome relief. They also learn what it is really like to care for someone at a facility.

My cousin, blessings on her, arrived from the far north with the gift of a soft stuffed Panda bear for a three day stay. For these three wonderful days, I have been free to clean my own house, attend meetings without guilt, and take a nap in the middle of the day. We still drive to the Residential Facility together in the mornings and came home together in the evenings, but she has taken care of Mom during the day.

Although they missed 10 am Bingo, she got Mom to lunch and 2 pm ice cream social while I was out gallivanting. She even suggested taking Mom out to dinner at the new Japanese place. Nothing averse, Mom had very sloppy Udon noodles and a drink called “Sex on the Beach” decorated with a pink parasol. Not something they serve at the Residential Facility.

My cousin came with plans to help Mom relive her past. She brought notepad and pen to take notes and preserve the stories. All too often when I am caught up in the day-to-day rigors of cleaning, dressing, feeding, changing, and feeding again, I don’t have time to preserve the past. No, as my hubby says, I don’t TAKE the time.

I haven’t gotten to listen in on all the stories but the bare-bones facts that I do know are fascinating.  Mom and her sisters (my cousin’s mother) were very close. They were brought up with summers at their beautiful Frog Park home near Utica, New York and winters in Miami at the large house their father built on Brickell Avenue. The Miami home is still there, part of a convent on 15th Road.

The family traveled extensively. When Mom, the eldest, and her two younger sisters were 7, 5 and 3 respectively, their parents decided to drive across the United States. In 1926, when they set out in a large Erskine car, there were, if you can believe it, no highways that connected the two coasts. There were occasional stretches of asphalt roads in and around the cities. Out in the country, however, the roads were mostly just wagon-tracks with muddy bogs. On several occasions farmers with mules had to pull them out of the mud.

With the kids piled in the spacious back seat of the car, it took them several months to drive from New York to California. They carried food and water with them since restaurants were only found in cities. They also carried cans of gas as well as spare tires. In 1926, gas stations were still few and far between. It wasn’t quite the scene from Grapes of Wrath or the Clampetts from Beverly Hillbillies with Granny riding on top of the truck but it was that same period, just a nicer car.

Nights when they weren’t near a city, they spent camped out in a field in a large canvas army tent. (World War I had ended eight years earlier).  They cooked over an open fire and slept on cots. Once they reached a city of any size, they tracked down hotels, had a chance to wash up and ate in nice restaurants. The days of the motels along the highway were still in the far distant future.

They returned to find that the Hurricane of 1926 that devastated Florida had hit the new home on Brickell Avenue. Fortunately, they hadn’t yet moved all their furniture in, but the specially woven 26-foot rug from the Mohawk Rug Company  in the living room had been ruined. They had to order another one.

Two years later, their father decided they should spend six months doing the European tour. They sailed to England and bought another car. In it they drove across Europe which was much more car and tourist friendly. My grandmother wrote down the places they went and her notes are somewhere in my mother’s things. I’ll have to dig them out.

From Italy, they sailed across to Egypt. Mom still remembers vividly going down into the pyramid. A turbaned Egyptian fakir with a smoky torch led them down long stone steps into the dark interior. Inside the silent, cold burial chamber, he sat Mom in the stone sarcophagus to tell her fortune. Not something one forgets even nearly 100 years later.

My cousin will have to fill in the details. As I return to the Facility from my day off, I wonder how many other fascinating stories the people at this residential facility could share. What a book that would make but who has the time?

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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