My heart leaps into my throat, as I slam on the breaks just in time to avoid a cataclysmic crash. Sitting there in my car, I’m breathless and bewildered. I don’t understand how one moment the coast was clear and the next a car was dashing towards me. Pulling the car over I glance in the mirror. Startled sea green eyes stare back at me. I smooth over my curly gray hair and sigh. When I’ve finished recollecting myself, I resume my journey towards home with the groceries in the trunk.
As I pull into the driveway, I'm immersed in a tunnel of foliage. Towering trees form a red and orange canopy above. When I turn the corner, there sits our charming house in the middle of a modest clearing. The house is brown with a brick chimney attached to the left wall. The tin roof creates a rhythmic melody when it rains, and it cracks from the heat in the summer.
‘’Great Grandma!’’shriek my youngest great grandkids, Alec and Jace. I park my car beside the house. They bolt towards me. I crouch down to their level and hug them. My eldest grandkid, Cassy, walks out of the house to help me bring in the groceries. Though I tell her I’ve got it handled and load them up on my arm.
Later, my daughter, Susan, her son, his wife, their kids, and I sit around the kitchen table watching him illustrate the event with his hand.
‘’Remember that one time, Grandma, when you got me and Charlie that dirt bike for my birthday. We were just going ‘round the lawn doing wheelies. But then you saw us and said ‘Don’t be such babies! It’s a dirtbike have some fun and go crazy. I’ll show you how a real daredevil does it!’ So you set up a little makeshift ramp from a couple spare pieces of wood, grabbed our dirtbike and went sailing over the ramp!’’recalls my grandson. He does hand gestures to illustrate me flying over the ramp on the dirtbike.
‘’And now 38 years later, at the prime age of 84, I could still show you up!’’ I retort.
‘’Yeah Grandma your still a crazy driver, on dirt bike or not.’’
Laughter bursts from around the table. Even those who’ve heard the story before still give a hearty laugh, but I just nod, slightly offended. The kids give a faulty laugh to feel included. We continue to reminisce over a bountiful of humerus memories. After dinner we exchange goodbyes, and my daughters, son and their family head home.
Once it’s just me and my daughter she looks at me and says, ‘’I noticed you were late bringing home the groceries. Did anything happen? Oh, please tell me you didn’t get into another accident?’’
I sit still on the couch, and the expression on my face says it all.
‘’ I didn’t get into another accident. I stopped the car before any damage could be done.’’ I retaliate.
‘’It doesn’t matter. What if next time you don’t stop soon enough? I knew I shouldn't have let you go out.’’continues Susan.
I retain my silence. My daughter gets up from her recliner to scrub the dishes from dinner. I walk up beside her and scrub my share of dishes in silence.
Early in the morning, my daughter and I depart for Brook Trail on Tumbledown Mountain. Based on the events of last night, my daughter wouldn’t even let me touch the radio in the car, let alone drive!
We start on Route 17 in Byron. The wheels of my daughter’s Subaru Crosstrek finally stop on Byron Road as we reach Brook Trailhead. The beginning of the trail starts out simple. However as trail continues, the hike escalates. My feet push off rocks as my daughter and I trudge up the mountain. Susan follows behind me because she’s worried that I might fall behind. I chuckle at the thought because she's usually the one stopping for breaks. Though, to help steady me on the trail I do carry a hiking stick. It was a Christmas present from my great granddaughter, Cassy. She made it herself from a branch in her backyard. Carved down the length of the walking stick are designs of my favorite animal, the wolf.
After weaving and winding up the trail, we finally reach the summit. We spin around in awe. Though my daughter may just see this visual as a stunning sight, I see it as so much more. I hear the soft sound of a fall breeze harmonizing with a few chickadees. I smell the great pines, the strong scent of home. I touch the brittle bark of a tall tree as if it were the hand of my lost husband. I see the mountain.
I could stand like this forever, but sadly I know we must go. When we walk through the front door, my daughter and I begin to cook supper, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hashbrowns. I love breakfast for supper.
Once we’ve gobbled up every last bit of supper, we decide to sit down and watch the Channel Eight afternoon news.
‘’Ah that hit the spot. Do we have any ice cream left?’’ inquires Susan as she strolls towards the fridge. She opens the door and to her disappointment there doesn't seem to be any left. She mutters and returns to the couch. By the time the clock has hit 7:30, Susan has decided to go shower since she got a little grubby on the hike.
Promptly, an idea formulates in my head. My eyes flicker towards the car keys on the kitchen table. I run through the scenario in my head. Sure I have gotten into some trouble with driving in the past but if I could go to the store surprise Susan with ice cream and come back safely, maybe both my problems could be solved. Susan would see how responsible I can be driving while munching on some mint chocolate chip. With all those things in mind, I swipe the keys off the counter and head towards the local Hannaford in Susan’s Subaru Forester.
The rush of driving flows through my veins. Something about driving makes me feel independent and young again, reminding me of how it felt to get my first car. I felt free from my family’s farm and ready to be me not just Farmer Connick's daughter.
Lincoln Street, Closson Street, Water Street, 27, Brunswick Avenue, and I’m there in the Hannaford Parking lot. I quickly rush through the aisles, open the freezer door and swipe espresso chip for me and mint chocolate chip for my daughter. When in my car, I look towards the clock, 7:37, I need to hurry home if I expect to be home before Susan’s out of the shower. I lurch the car out of the parking lot and onto Brunswick Avenue. At the bridge intersection there is a red light. Just my luck! Antsy, I continue to switch my eyes from the road to the clock. The corner of 27 and Water Street, 7:39. Ugh! she’s going to be out of the shower soon. I have to hurry. The corner of Water Street, and Closson Street, I quickly look around the corner and back at the clock. That's when it hits me. Not a thought, not a realization, but a car.
The steady scream of the hospital monitor echoes across the room, waking me up. My vision is blurry but I can still make out the figures of my family and a nurse. After several minutes of silence, the nurse begins to escort them away. I muster up most of the strength left in my body to grace my fingertip with Susan’s wrist, but I can’t seem to reach her.
‘’What . . . happened?’ I whisper, surprised at the raspy tone of voice.
I hear the words, crash, and other people…The mother has a broken rib. The nurse islooking down at the white floor.
The blood rushes from my face making me as pale as the walls that cage me. My mind r uns a million miles an hour asking questions I can’t answer. How could you do that? Why didn’t you look more carefully? Why didn’t you listen to Susan’s warnings? Susan looks at me, then back at the floor.
“ Why did you take the keys?’’ says Susan.
‘’You wanted ice cream.’’
‘’Why didn’t you listen to me?”
“You wouldn’t understand. There is something about driving that makes me feel independent. It reminds me of when I got my first car and drove far away. Nothing but me, my car, and the radio. My independence is something I need at this age. Everybody sees me as frail and in need of help. Driving is one thing that I can do without anyone trying to help me.’’
Susan doesn’t respond. The nurse must sense my dismay. She escorts my family out of Room 726 and carefully closes the door behind her, leaving me left alone with no company except my haunting thoughts.
Once again the wheels are turning on the Subaru Forester. I sit in the passenger seat, my hand out the window, dancing in the wind. Gravel crunches underneath my feet, as I tread up the mountain. Specks of light break through the trees onto the shadowy trail. Rocks form sharp angles in the side of the mountain. Squirrels scurry from branch to branch in search of food. We point out strangely angled trees and odd shaped rocks as we saunter up the trail. Once again I travel with my walking stick. The rhythm of my hiking stick thumping off the ground is the only sound to be heard.
The trail begins to widen as we reach the peak. A wisp of white hair hides behind a hill in the trail. Continuing my rhythm, I walk further on the trail waiting to see the full figure behind the hill. Two feet further, a full head of white hair. Two yards, a plaid shirt wrapped around weak shoulders. I reach the figure and we gaze into each others eyes. I know those comforting deep green eyes. The eyes of my husband. Unstartled, I entwine my frail fingers in his. Joined together we walk forward. We find a rock overlooking Camden Harbor and sit in unison. I rest my head on his shoulder and he rests his head on mine.
The world seems to pause. The trees stop dancing in the wind. The chorus of birds stop singing their soft song. All that seems to exist in the world is my husband and me. Two people holding hands in death as they had been in life. Two people reunited.