Mama, I’m coming home…

November 14, 2007 at 4:20 pm (On the road again...)

Time for the last leg of the journey, dropping Uncle off at his new home. Ready for a second overnight excursion, we pointed toward Vancouver.

Uncle’s new car has OnStar, a feature I’d not previously been exposed to. We booked a hotel room, complete with automated spoken directions, while in Boise. For some reason, this doesn’t work in Vancouver, Washington. We had a live voice, a young girl fluent in gum-chewing and ebonics. My uncle, unaccustomed to any accent not thoroughly whitebread, was confused, so I took over. She was nice and stayed with us online until we found the home. It took an extra forty-five minutes to find the place, thanks to one-way streets, a hidden sign and various other distractions.

After weeding through the streets near Vancouver Mall, we found the spot. A stately manor, nestled in the trees off the main road. I parked, and we went inside.

Until this moment it hadn’t registered that I was taking him to an ‘old-folks home.’ (Or a rest home, as they were called when I was a kid.) The place was clean, bright, smelled good and everyone was nice, vibrant. My uncle was greeted by several ladies as we walked past. (I got a wink from an old gal when I said “Fresh meat!”) The receptionist showed us to his new apartment, ($1,000 a month downtown, easy) and then to the guest room, where he would stay until his things were unpacked.

Dinner was being served, so I gave him a big hug, thanked him for the fun trip and bid him goodnight.

Now to figure out where ThatGirl was… A phone call revealed she was stuck on the interstate bridge. Traffic accidents in both directions had things all effed up. She’d be along directly.

Night had fallen while we were inside. I had a can of root beer and two Percocets to keep me amused, so I kicked back on the bench outside the home and waited. It was dark. The streetlights were half a block away, and no exterior lighting in the parking lot. I could see stars and the moon. It was quiet. This was perfect, after about eighteen hours of traffic-dodging and forced mental alertness.

I recalled the rest-home up the road from our childhood home. It was a scary place, down in a hollow over the hill from our house. Our occasional trips ‘spreading the word of the Lord’ took us inside, and I swore I never wanted to end up in a place like that. It smelled of piss, and there was always someone wailing, either in pain or from boredom. Residents would run away every now and then. We’d see some old person trucking toward town in a bathrobe and slippers. Mom would call the lady that ran the home and she would come fetch them.

My mother died in one. It wasn’t as bad as the one described above, but it was older and back in the woods, which added to its creepiness. Our last visit there was a sad one, and I was glad to have the experience over.

It was difficult to leave Uncle there. I’ve never really thought of him as an old person, just older. He’s vibrant for 86, but I’m glad he has a structured environment to live in. The memory lapses…

After about half an hour I saw ThatGirl’s little red car zoom by. By the time she had turned around I was walking in front of her, underneath the streetlight. We headed for the interstate, away from the jigsaw puzzle that is Vancouver. It was nice to be back in Portland.

Big Saturday night date? Takeout Mexican food and the Blazer game on TV. We watched the first half over dinner in the living room. As the second half started, she said, “We can watch the second half in the bedroom if you want.”

It was a tough sell, but I said okay…

I stretched out while she sat up knitting a cap for her son. After that awful bed in Boise, and three straight nights averaging 4-5 hours sleep, her soft, cushy king size bed with ample pillowage was a godsend. Ahh…

My eyes blinked open. “Blazers won,” she said.

I realized I’d fallen asleep moments after laying down. After an ice cream nightcap, I got the best sleep I’d had in ages. I slept through the noon hour, and rose only because I had to work. I thanked ThatGirl for her hospitality and headed for the bus.

And now we’re all settled back into the routines. Uncle is adapting to his new environment, I’m back in mine, and life goes on. I had a marvelous four-state two-day vacation.

Most importantly, I avoided the curse of the Shepherd’s Pie.

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