from 12/1: Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?
Our trip begins in Massachusetts. We drive 785 miles through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana mostly on I-90 W. Anything can happen on the open road, this is the thrill. An endless stream of new faces, radio stations, and roadside scenery.
I pick up the newspaper outside our hotel room on Thursday, August 27th. Ted Kennedy passed away on Wednesday.
This is the first of many unexpected events.
With an active toddler in the car, the thirteen or so hour drive lapses into three days each way.
We stop often, L holds our hands while we walk around the rest stop parking lot.
Big rig trucks fascinate him, so do little dogs.
We eat crackers with sunflower butter, apples, carrots, and nuts.
We visit Niagara Falls for the first time.
When arrive in Goshen, Indiana it's late afternoon on day three.
We check into our hotel then drive into town to pick up dinner from the local co-op since we're all tired and cannot bear to sit in another restaurant.
The next morning, we drive to the nursing home where my grandfather lives.
No one greets us when we walk in. We watch several residents being wheeled to lunch.
We find a rolodex on the desk and find grandfather's name and room number in Wing B.
Grandfather sits in a wheelchair parked in the hallway.
He's thinner than the last time I saw him. His arms are wrapped in bandages and he slumps forward in the chair.
My heart pounds when I walk up to him.
D holds L behind me. Neither one has met my grandfather yet.
"Hi, Grandpa," I say.
"What," he asks.
I lean in close enough to his face. His lips are covered in sores and several teeth are missing.
"It's Nikki," I say, "your Granddaughter. We're here to see you."
He lifts his head. His eyes are soft blue and locked in a faraway place.
"I don't know you," he says.
I try to explain.
We stay for an hour. I give up asking if he remembers me.
After a while, I tell him stories about our trip. Anything to fill the stale air.
He is lost in thought.
D brings the maple candy from the car.
"Here, we brought this for you."
"What is this," he asks, "how do they do this?"
I give him the small box. He tries to open it, but his hands don't know what to do.
I feed him a piece of candy. His hand curls around mine. This is as close as we get to the past.
The lights flicker. A woman asks D if it's time for lunch. She wants him to take her for a walk. He tells her he doesn't work there, but he's sure she'll go to lunch soon.
I hug grandfather and hold him as long as he lets me.
"Goodbye," I say.
He doesn't know who I am.
I learn to accept this.