Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Last Drive

It must be hard to give up driving. In my experience, men often find it more difficult than women do. More than one male nursing home resident with whom I worked has thought he was in his car or truck when, in fact, he was lying in his bed. I'm talking about dementia, of course, but I've never seen a woman's confusion take that same route.

Prior to Christmas my dad, age ninety, still drove every day. He met friends for coffee on most mornings and then drove to my house for coffee with me, all of this happening before 9:00 A.M.. And he still came over for dinner at least once or twice a week.

Shortly after the holidays he experienced a series of seemingly minor medical problems. Test after test revealed nothing major, but-- long story short-- he now uses a walker and is frailer than he was last year. His car has sat for weeks in the parking lot. He admitted driving to the dry cleaner's several weeks ago but otherwise hasn't seemed motivated to drive. This is not a problem for me. It's a relief. I've been able to take him for appointment and errands.

Recently he mentioned selling his car "because I probably won't use it anymore." Without sounding too eager, I tried to be encouraging as I casually mentioned the good reasons to give up driving. When a family member mentioned buying his car, my dad seemed interested.

When I called him early Sunday afternoon and he didn't answer, I wasn't too concerned. I left a message. When he didn't return my call within 30 minutes, I called again. No answer. I began to consider making a trip to his apartment to check on him.

Finally the phone rang. He was trying to sound jovial.

"Well, you probably won't believe where I've been."

I thought I knew but played dumb. "No, I really don't know."

"I drove to the cemetery." This would be the cemetery where my mother is buried.

"Oh? And you felt up to doing that?" I tried not to sound irritable. But this is a man who usually notifies me when he's going to be in the bathroom for longer than five minutes.

"Well, I did all right. I can drive fine. It's just getting in and out of the car that's hard."

We continued our conversation for a few more seconds. Sensing my concern, he finally said, "The bluebonnets are blooming there."

"They are? Are they pretty?"

"They're beautiful." He said it softly. A long pause, then, "I guess I needed to take a last drive."

I don't know for sure whether that was his last drive. I'm praying that it was and that he received some comfort, as I did, that his last drive was to visit my mom.

No comments:

Post a Comment