Page 16 - WTP Vol. XI #5
P. 16

 One day I was chauffeuring my mother around town in Dumbo, her pachyderm grey van, on
our way home from one of her doctors. Perhaps the podiatrist who ground dead skin off her neuropathic, numb-yet-ticklish feet while she giggled like a little girl. Or maybe the eye doctor who said she wasn’t a good candidate for cataract surgery after she freaked out over a single eyedrop. “You do know that post- surgery she’ll need eyedrops four times a day,” he
told me while “Maa”—that’s what I called her in my rhinal Chicago twang—rubbed her doomed eyeball and demanded a Kleenex. Then there was that old
GP she was hot for, who reminded her of Abraham Lincoln and kept her flush with Alzheimer’s meds and pain pills. (This was back in the early aughts, before the dangers of prescription opioids made front page news.) “Doctor, are you married?” she once asked him, and he chortled knowingly before answering yes.
Then you could tell them how you mowed down a dozen pedestrians before crashing into a nail salon.
Dumbo, Toaster, and Yo’ Mama’s Volvo
Maa’s meticulous beauty routine was one of the few skills she hadn’t lost. That afternoon, as she sat next to me in Dumbo’s passenger seat, her poofy blonde hair dipped in a wave over deftly arched brows and her green eyes focused lustfully on the dashboard.
I said nothing. I had so many answers, I didn’t know which to choose.
Then she said, “Do you think, maybe, I could try driv- ing again? Just in an empty parking lot somewhere? I want to see if I remember how.”
A silent minute passed before she changed tack. “So Laurie, tell me again why you won’t let me drive.” This time sweetly, innocently, like Steinbeck’s Lenny begging George to tell him again about the rabbits.
Her coral lips pressed together in determination. “Just for a little bit, please? I wanna call my friends back home and tell them that I drove in California!”
I felt bad as soon as I said it. But then she laughed, her mouth wide open, snorting and cackling. I joined the merriment and laughed along. After all, we’d col- lected decades of memories that set us off on laugh- ing jags: some innocent, like Peanuts comic strips and Daffy Duck cartoons; others obscene, like a Polish folksong parody she taught me, “Stara Baba Jak Chol- era,” about an old woman seeking two men to simul- taneously satisfy her boundless sexual needs.
And what if she forgets?
Which was quite likely. Maa had stopped driving three years earlier, back in Chicago when her doctors had told her not to drive, and I’d realized it was time to put my aging-mother plan into action. I helped Maa clear out her hoarder’s paradise, sell her home, and move in with me and my husband. Dumbo fol- lowed, making the 2,000 mile trip in a double-decker car carrier. Maa needed to cling to the delusion that one day she’d be driving again—despite her difficul- ties seeing clearly, paying attention, feeling her foot on the gas pedal, and thinking logically, even when she wasn’t high on oxy.
“No Maa, sorry. I can’t let you drive.” “Why not?!” she twanged loudly.
“Would you like me to make you a list?”
For Maa, laughing was like a good cup of coffee, a rich dessert, perhaps even an orgasm. After she calmed down from convulsive chuckles, she’d say, “Oh, I needed that!” Yet she rarely created her own humor unless unintentional. Like the time I took her to a “special needs” clinic at a university dental school after I’d witnessed her former dentist’s rude and im- patient behavior. Relaxing in a dental chair, Maa took a gulp of icy cold water and proclaimed, “My God! I felt that all the way down to my vagina!” And when the dental students surrounding us snickered, my
LaureL DiGanGi

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