Worrying in a Snowstorm
It snowed last night and it’s floating lightly down still. I feel enveloped in beauty and solitude. I haven’t seen Mama since Friday and now it’s Wednesday. I was sick Saturday and I didn’t want to expose her on my way to Seattle for childcare on Sunday. She’s expecting me today and I have no way to let her know I’m not going to venture down the hill. We do need to get her a phone; I’m sure she feels isolated.
I go for a walk in the woods leaving virgin footprints on the trails, but for the deer and rabbit tracks. It’s a wonderland in black and white. In mid-afternoon, though, the weak sun breaks out, melting the sidewalk and steps to the carport; and, according to the forecast—which is not necessarily trustworthy, since it missed the snow event entirely—the temperature is to be above freezing for a little while. I decide to try driving down the hill just before early dinner at the Manor when Mama will be up from her nap.
Rebecca checks in to see if I have been yet. I tell her I’m going shortly. She texts again. Mama has gotten an aide to call Rebecca on her cell phone so Mama could talk to her. She’s “worried sick because no one has come,” Rebecca texts, adding an eye-roll emoji.
Skidding in the driveway, I get to the road. It is not clear, of course. It may not melt for days at the curve under the trees with the temperature in the twenties at night. I have all-wheel drive, but my car is old. This was a bad idea. When it comes to driving in snow, I’m a worrier too.
When I reach Mama’s room, she practically falls into my arms.
“I was so worried!” she exclaims.
“That’s why I was staying home,” I say. “I thought you would understand I didn’t want to come down the hill in the snow.”
“Have you been home?” she asks.
“All day,” I say. “But you told Rebecca you were ‘worried sick’ so I decided I would venture out. And I wanted to see you,” I add belatedly.
“But I thought you were coming back from Seattle today.”
“I came back yesterday, Tuesday, like always. I left early, in fact, because of the forecast.”
“I didn’t know that,” she sighs.
Rebecca tells me later she told Mama yesterday I would be home last night, but Mama forgot. When Rebecca told her I was “on my way,” she thought she meant from Seattle, so she hadn’t stopped frantically worrying even then.
And she had thought Rebecca was going to the dentist at eight o’clock, twenty minutes away on two-lane roads; an appointment Rebecca canceled. “I had visions of you both stranded on the road, sitting in your cars freezing!” she says.
“You only have to remember one thing,” I say, knowing she won’t: “neither of us will drive out of town in snow and ice.”
I can’t keep her from worrying, she’s been doing it her whole life. But dementia exacerbates it and I will drive myself crazy trying not to be the cause of it. I don’t know if a phone in her room will help or not. I can think of a dozen pitfalls: she won’t hear it ring, she won’t take a nap for fear of missing a call, she’ll fall hurrying to get to it, she won’t remember how to use it, she won’t be able to hear, she’ll misunderstand, she won’t remember, . . . I don’t know what to do. I guess what we’ve always done, my father too: let her worry. It makes my stomach hurt.
I come from a long line of worriers so this story really hit home. I’ve been on both sides, and try as I might to be free of it, I suspect those pesky worries have now taken to the hours when I should be sleeping. I worry (ha,ha) that it will only get worse unless I find a way to deepen my meditation practice. This would have fit well in the book as a conversation starter, but now I will share it in the form of this newsletter and website. So glad for these deleted scenes. It must have been so hard to choose!
I’m so grateful my parents were so different from one another. I see evidence in my dad’s WWII letters that he was annoyed by his bride’s constant worry; and his countering what-will-be-will-be attitude. Grateful they were different, and that I am mostly my father’s daughter. It was hard to choose; and I love having material to share with those who want more!
Love how you were able to portray her worry. “she practically falls into my arms” Assuaging others’ worry is impossible, and it leaks out into everything. One of the hardest part of caregiving. Thanks for sharing this piece.
Thank you, Nancy. It surely does leak into everything.