Here in Washington State, if your eyes roll back into your head and you twitch all over as if you have somehow plugged yourself into the high voltage switch where your electric dryer should go, you’re not supposed to drive for six months. They don’t send anybody out to check up on you to make sure, but they expect you to check in with your doctor before you get behind the wheel again.
They call it “being seizure free for six months,” and I am now officially well past that point. I have yet to drive the car down the driveway.
When I was trapped in the hospital wrapped in a burqa listening to Fox News All. The. Time., the thought of not driving for six months drove me out of my mind. Wait. Can I say that? My mind was not injured. It was my brain. So yes, I guess I can say it figuratively drove me out of my mind. I don’t want to conjure up any images of little slices of my brain flopping about the hospital without me.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Hospital. Not driving.
When I was a teenager, starting to drive was a big deal, a really big deal. Plus I grew up in New Jersey, which is of course the Garden State, so it was hard to drive around all of the gardens. (They mark you down on the test if you nick any little gnome statues.)
Now I had that same sense of indignant anticipation. Everyone else can drive and I can’t! My partner, CF, tried to get me to not think about driving and concentrate on getting better instead. This, remember, is when I was still dragging myself around on a walker with tennis balls on the ends, cursing the doorjambs.
I changed my mind on the ride home from the hospital.
What had I been thinking? Me, drive? Me, control a moving vehicle? Me, take my own life and/or the lives of others in my hands?
The streets looked vaguely familiar, a little too greenish, a little too wavy. I didn’t remember our house having that peculiar bend in the roof….ahh, my own bed.
No, I will happily wait out the six months. A year maybe. I will just lie here and not move until then. I will wait for whatever it is that is spinning to stop spinning.
Unfortunately, we neglected to bring any burqas home from the hospital, so that plan was quickly abandoned, since my wonderful partner evidently has her limits. If you are unclear on what I mean, check the archives. Plus I had promised I would attend physical therapy sessions at the hospital, which required getting back into that gasoline-powered torture chamber on wheels.
The first anti-seizure medication I was on tended to make me quite drowsy, which had the pleasant side effect of also damping down my tendency to vomit at inopportune times. Although I did not ask, I am quite certain that my fellow travelers appreciated this. Granted, I do have some memory issues, but I do not recall lurfing in anyone’s car while en route to or from P.T. If I am incorrect, I sincerely apologize and ask that you please send me the cleaning bill.
Once I changed to a different anti-seizure med, the drowsiness lessened, the streets became less green, less wavy, and I began to think that perhaps this driving stuff might actually be possible again someday.
And then the day came.
“Mom, I need a ride.”
Is there a 13-year-old boy anywhere in suburbia who has not uttered those words? Is there not one who has uttered them to his stroke-addled mother, who is barely wrapped in her towel after a shower at 9:30 in the morning? Is there not one who has scheduled an appointment for 10:00 A.M. six miles away and didn’t tell anyone else until just now? Is there not one who is about to get his head chopped off?
My son, who I adore, really, is attending eighth grade online this year. It is working out pretty well. But every so often, he has to show up in person at the teachers’ offices. Usually we have more notice. But today CF is at a meeting in another part of the state, and it is too late to try to round up another ride for our son. I consider calling a cab, but decide to take the bull by the horns and drive him myself.
For the first time ever, I wish I drove a Taurus, because then the metaphor in the previous paragraph would really work. But I drive a 1998 RAV. And yes, the RAV has a horn, but never mind.
I have been practicing driving a little in some parking lots and on some side streets, so I’m not completely rusty. A little moldy perhaps—the car has been shut up so long and it’s so damp here in Olywa that the car has gotten a little spongy inside. My son, on the other hand, is gamey.
Oh, you think, poor Chris. That must be the brain trauma. She must mean her son is a brave little boy, willing to ride in the car with her, game to ride with her, not gamey. No, I mean gamey. He smells because he hasn’t taken a shower. Between the mold and his parfum du sweat, my car stinks like an abandoned sardine prison. I don’t know. Think pigeons trapped on Alcatraz.
But once I hit the open road—well, Cooper Point Road, which is 35 mph, pretty fast in these environs—it all kinda came back to me: turn signals, side mirrors, brakes, etc. Which I figure is pretty good, since I realized all at once that my car is not unlike my mother’s old beat up 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. It too has no speedometer. It too has rather erratic turn signals. It too has a fry-or-dry heater. And O Holy Night, I got us there and back.