I drove to my hometown Monday to take my mom to an unplanned doctor's appointment. I've been taking her to her appointments for a few years now. I live 90 miles away, which isn't that far. But in the past, the 90 miles seemed like a chore to drive, especially when my kids were younger and needed my attention in different ways than they do now. She was also in better health back then and needed me less. I hate to say it, but the drive through Northern Indiana where there are no mountains, ocean, rolling hills, or anything to break up the meandering toll road through farmland, can be a bit blah.
These days, I can probably make the drive in my sleep. It's as repetitive as driving to the grocery store. As usual in my routine as washing the dishes. Most of the time when I plan a trip to visit my mom, I am flexible rearranging my schedule to fit her schedule or am open to having a leisurely visit with no time frame attached.
This Monday was different. I was supposed to work. I had to call in. My house was and still is a lived-in mess. I will be honest. Making this drive was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to be home when my boys got home from school. This time, I set myself on a schedule. Once in my hometown, I planned for a four-hour window to take my mom to the doctor, go to lunch, and visit for a short while back at her house.
But while I was getting ready, a song came on that lifted me and shook me out of my mood. The Mamas & The Papas serenaded me with Monday Monday.
Monday, Monday, so good to me
Something nudged my attitude, and I thought to myself, I woke up today and am breathing. When unexpected things come up regarding my mom, I am lucky to have a work situation that is understanding for now. The same goes for my husband and kids. The autumn leaves are at their prime, and I have the opportunity to witness this incredible show of gorgeous color even if there is no ocean or snowed peaked mountains in sight! I took off and was on fire with gratitude as bright as the crimson-colored trees edging the toll road.
After her appointment, I planned for us to get lunch and run through the pharmacy. After visiting for a while at her house, I'd be back on the road to my family by 2:30 pm and home when the boys walked in. I was right on schedule, until after the doctor's appointment, where we waited at a red light.
At the intersection, my mom read the street signs and said, "We aren't far from the old neighborhood. 205. Let's go." I hesitated for a moment then thought, it's not that far (maybe 5 miles give or take) but not two blocks away like she thinks it is. We certainly had time to drive through her childhood neighborhood to see the house she grew up in before grabbing lunch and the pharmacy stop. So we did. I took the route she routinely drove while I was the passenger as a little girl going to visit my grandparents. Once we arrived at the house, we lingered in front. She didn't notice many changes and reminisced about the entryways, porch, the yard. Driving through the neighborhood, she named all the neighbors who lived in the houses 70-80 years ago. We drove past the old Italian neighborhood club and what once was a local grocer, the seamstress, the shoemaker, the bank. These all stood out to her as if they were still alive hosting the neighborhood socials, selling goods, threading needles, crafting leather soles that would uphold the miles of walking (her parents never owned a car), and keeping safe the hard earned money the immigrant community long ago made in this new world of promise.
When we passed by the church, she told me to pull over. I did. "Let's go in," she said. I glanced at the time. Hmmm. If we went in, it would interfere with my departure time. I didn't put the wheelchair in my car that I occasionally use with her for specific outings. It would take longer without it. The Mamas & The Papas sang in my ear,
Monday, Monday, can´t trust that day
Or can I, I thought to myself?
This church is where my mom was baptized, and she and my dad were married. How could I not take her in? And so we went. We took our time walking up the ramp to the wooden side door that is slowly shredding its color. I thought of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh not sure if my mom read about it in the paper. My heart felt a little heavier. Once inside, we were immediately greeted by the warm infused scent of burning wax, frequently now, a smell of the past. The sight of candle flames dancing in colored votives traveled through my mind as we dipped our hands together in holy water. The only people in the church, we slowly walked down the side aisle by the confessional. "This is where I made my first confession. I remember when they changed the carpet," she said. Sun poured in on us through the stained glass windows as we slowly strolled past statues and framed art all dedicated to or in honor of people associated with the parish. "I remember him. Our families were friends. That family was known for this. I remember this door. They must have donated this statue. This gate in the railing didn't use to be here," she said. My mom walked that church like she was walking through her home knowing every nook and cranny, each spec of dust and piece of polished silver. We traveled this space of peace away from the noise. Side by side. Hand in hand. Each step in unison with the pews that are 103 years old. Each memory for her relived as if it were yesterday. We dipped our fingertips in the holy water as we left. The double or triple dipping rule doesn't apply here. Does it? Again, I thought of the synagogue shooting. I gave my questions over to the flame of the candle we lit at one of the altars.
One of my aunts lives a few blocks from the church. We didn't have time to stop. Lunch and the pharmacy delayed. I wanted to leave in an hour. That was my plan. "Let's stop and visit," my mom said as we drove by. Why would we not? Visiting my aunt and my cousin who takes care of her is one of my favorite things to do when I go back to my hometown, but I usually plan and allow time for it.
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday mornin´ you gave me no warnin´ of what was to be
The Mamas & The Papas knew more about what was in store for this day than I did and what I had planned, scheduled, and not been willing to yield to when I first woke up.
We took our time climbing the stairs in the garage to enter my aunt's house. My cousin brought out cookies and brownies for us to try and give her our opinion on her new recipes. We talked about life. We reminisced. We labored over wanting and not wanting to shop at Costco and Amazon. We spoke in appreciation for caregivers, both my mom's and my late uncle's. We talked with our hands and hearts as we Italians do, and lifted our voices in praise of family and all it entails.
We eventually made it to lunch and the pharmacy, both through drive-thru windows. We met my mom's caregiver back at her house 45 minutes after I originally wanted to leave. Together, at the table where my mom for many years served endless homemade food to family, neighbors, and friends, we now shared a very late lunch. All three of us helping and caring for one another in a beautiful shade of golden yellow that nourishes the soul of the human family.
That Monday evenin´ you would still be here with me
It was 7 pm when I arrived back at my house on Monday. My kids and husband more times than not, expect my late arrivals. Regardless, they always ask me how the visit with Nonna went. This one was full of treasured gifts. One of the very finest Mondays I have ever had. I've decided to keep the priceless memories from it in my glove compartment. In the future, I'll pull them out to remind myself that having the willingness to be flexible and give in to a higher plan is rarely ever a bad idea. And for the record, Northern Indiana's scenery has never looked better!