Eye Drive

During my daily lunch constitutional, a father and son rolled past. The father was on a bicycle, while the little boy pedaled along on his plastic 3-wheeler. “Oh no!” exclaimed the toddler, as his back wheel caught against a fire hydrant. “You okay, buddy?” asked the dad with a grin as he turned to help the boy, who was already cutely managing to extricate himself.

I continued on down the sidewalk, and slowed down as I passed a small parking lot in front of a veterinary office. A girl was backing up in the parking lot, looking over her shoulder to watch the metal railing and brick steps in front of the converted residential building. I didn't want to cross the driveway until I'd made eye contact and she acknowledged a pedestrian. Once I noted that she saw me, I crossed safely.

The crunch sounded a lot worse than it probably was, but I looked back down the block over my shoulder and her car was clearly butting into the steps. With her windows rolled up, I couldn't make out whatever she was shouting at the heavens, but I imagine there were some choice words. In a brief moment of ego, I imagined that she was so distracted by my rugged good looks that she floored it while in reverse. This was followed by a moment of panic, fearing that it was somehow my fault. I lingered long enough to note her car wasn't dented and she seemed okay, then continued on to the shopping center. After lunch, when I walked back past the building I noticed a few scuff marks on the black metal left by the white car.

Driving can be challenging to different people for different reasons. I seem to have my driving-induced anxiety spells(or whatever they were) under control again, and my autopilot is operating at near peak capacity. When I pulled in to my driveway after work on Friday, it dawned on me that I was “suddenly” home. I love when that happens. With parade and feast season in full bloom now, it's very important that I'm able to traverse great distances without incident, now more than ever. In the past few weeks, my father was diagnosed with cataracts that have gotten worse at an alarming rate. He went from seeing a few blurry spots to “I can't see that traffic light...” in a matter of days. He was originally going to postpone his surgery until the end of the Summer, when the music season was winding down, but the sudden decline forced him to move up his timetable, and he's having the first eye worked on next week.

I'd imagine eye surgery is worse than going to the dentist. The thought of having your head in a vise, with metal clamps keeping your eyelids open while doctors moved in with blades or lasers is terrifying, though I haven't shared this opinion with my dad. A woman at work told me a horror story about her husband's procedure, in which anesthesiologists put a shunt in his arm then forgot to hook up the IV line. Afterwards, he admitted it was an ordeal, and they soon realized he went through it without being sedated. I told my mom to make sure nothing like that happens, although my dad is both tough and numb. I've seen the skin on his hands cracked open while getting caught against metal inside a car, and he's continued working despite the mix of blood and grease. I wish I had a nickel for every time I had to ask, “Uh, do you know you're bleeding...?” only to have him admit that he did NOT know, then dismiss it as nothing.

My dad's driving has been limited to local places, though even that will have to stop until this problem has been fixed. He confessed that he may or may not have run through a few lights coming home from church on Sunday morning. He claims he sees fine when it's cloudy out, but the sun is too much. Now he understands what one of our friends in one of our bands goes through. A trumpet player in his 80s with one glass eye, our friend Bill developed inoperable cataracts in his good eye a few years ago and could no longer read signs or see traffic lights. We've been driving him to jobs ever since. Now that my dad has the same problem, I'm the only one that can get the three of us where we need to be. Supposedly, if all goes well, my father's vision will actually be better. We've spoken to a few people who, after having their cataracts worked on, didn't need glasses anymore, or only needed reading glasses.

It's an inconvenience, but he's managing. My mom can handle driving while I'm at work during the week, and his biggest concern has been reading music. Unable to make out the notes, he's finally being forced to memorize some songs, which I knew he could do even if he thought otherwise. When he expressed surprise after our last few jobs, I pointed out that he's played this music like 800 times, and it's in his subconscious. I never use a book during feasts; it's one less thing to carry, and most of those old Italian songs are (badly) handwritten.

“Could you help me with something tomorrow morning?” asked my dad as I walked in the door on Friday night. Just about every night this week he's had a request, from helping him enlarge sheet music in a photocopier to putting up screen windows. “I didn't say right now!” he'd insist when his son, tired after full day of work asked if it could wait until Saturday. By Friday he'd learned to specify a timeframe for his requests.

“I need you to check the bumper. Your mother stepped on the gas instead of the brakes and smashed up the car.”

I don't think our screen door even had time to close once he hit me with that. I was back out in the driveway, checking his car. I asked if they were okay, and he said they were in the parking lot at the supermarket, and as my mom pulled in to a parking space she suddenly floored it and hit a concrete planter. I headed to the backyard where she was gardening to make sure she was okay and, if so, to tease her mercilessly.

“I hadn't eaten,” she explained, pointing out that she had to fast for a blood test. Ever since her bout a few months ago with an irregular heartbeat, she'd been on blood thinners to control the problem, while doctors check each week to make sure she's on the right levels. Instead of coming home after the test though, they opted to stop at the supermarket, a normally simple task.

“I hope I don't need to hire a driver for you two,” I half-joked. Later when she came in I asked if she managed to garden without crashing the wheelbarrow. Kidding aside, it is a bit worrying now if neither parent can be trusted behind the wheel. I really can't be around during the week to drive them places, unless they can wait until I come home to go shopping. Most of their doctors are local so they could walk if necessary. My mom insists it was a one time lapse, and reminded me of the time I did the same thing with her car and drove into her shed. Anyone can step on the wrong pedal. After dropping me off near my car following an office Christmas party, one of my friends once forgot her SUV was in reverse when she floored it and backed into me with enough force to send me spinning. Earlier in the same day my mom had her little collision, I witnessed that girl in the vet's parking lot do nearly the same thing.

My mom is the sharpest one in this family, and the one we depend on the most. I can usually go out with a clear conscience, knowing the house, the cats, and my dad will all be fine and exactly how I left them when I return. For at least another week or so, she's the most/only reliable driver when I'm not here. “Now I have to worry about both of you...” I realized aloud when I was done making jokes.

Some companies have “bring your child to work” days. I might have to look into a “bring your folks to work” policy at my job. Then again, if I did that, I'd probably need to look into therapy too...


Blogger Grandma Julia said...

I love reading real life snippets which pictures beautiful relationship between parents and child.

I would be back for a regular visit.

6/02/2008 2:58 AM  

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