For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.


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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ONCE-UPON-A-TALE TUESDAY: Washing Gramma's Car

The boys were washing Gramma's car. Even though the old blue Dodge, its battery long since dead, seemed less a car than a dinged-up ornament in her driveway.

Ryan, with the relatively useless whisk broom Gramma had give him to sweep the floor matts asked, "Why are we cleaning your car, anyway, if you can't drive it?"

My mother's license had been temporarily suspended. Spectators to the car-washing, my mother and I sat outside in fold-up chairs on the lawn.My boys like washing cars. They probably wouldn't have been asking the "why" if Gramma hadn't vented a bit too loudly for big little ears, what she had vented at the optometrist who had dared to suggest she may not be able to sign the DMV mandatory eye-test form: "If they take away my license, I'll have a stroke."

"What's a stroke?" Kenny had asked, not really caring about an answer, dreamily hosing down the car, pausing to watch his watery reflection slide down the windows.Before anyone could answer that question, Ryan had interjected his own perfectly, unfortunately, practical one about why bother washing a car that can't be driven."It needs to be clean for my driving test," Gramma said. "You have to take a driving test? Don't you already know how to drive?" Ryan asked, in that tone that can make even the most mature of adults feel foolish.Except for Gramma. "Well, clearly, someone thinks I don't know how to drive. Just because I made a little mistake. Why those pedals have to be so close together, I don't know. Anyone could make that same little slip."Little slip."You mean about your 'saga',"Kenny said. He really liked this word. He would use it at home now when he'd relate some story at school, the "saga" of some kid throwing up or getting a bloody nose on the playground.Gramma had been the one to coin "saga," for the driving of her car into the wall of a carpet store. A saga that continued, as at 93, she had been issued not only a mandatory eye examination, but a mandatory date at which she must appear at the DMV. The state one. An hour away. The "Department for Investigations.""But what are they going to think when they see my car now?" she said, waving a hand at the brand new crack running along the front bumper. In the time between having her radiator – crushed by the impact with the carpet store wall – replaced, she'd rear-ended a car; she'd simply been checking her hair in the rearview mirror while stopped at a red light. (This was before her license was officially suspended, and I had suggested she perhaps not check her hair in the mirror anymore.)Ryan waved the whisk broom at Gramma. "We need a vacuum." Ryan in general, resents most things, except Legos and origami, that don't need batteries, if not a computer hard-drive."Well, if I was still allowed to drive, I could be taking it up to the carwash. Where they do have vacuums. Ones meant for just that, cars."The dirty fact is, Gramma's car is a relic. It smells like a moldy basement; the window mechanism had broken so the window was left half-open all winter, to all the elements. The car farted, rattled and clanked. Ironically, she'd bought it back when she was sure it would be her last car; a good thirteen years ago when she was a spright eighty."You have time to get it fixed," I said, just to ease her angst. The mandatory test date wasn't scheduled for another month, but she was fretting daily, reading and rereading the little driving manual she'd been issued."Well...I'm not going to waste money on this car if I'm never going to drive again."Having my mother admit, in the very least, that she may actually not drive again, surprised me. And oddly, did not relieve me. As much as I hoped it would be DMV to confiscate her license. Not me, having to take away her keys."You don't know that," I said.She didn't answer. It unnerves me when my mother can be at a loss for words; it doesn't happen very often, hardly ever in fact, as she is too resolved to have issues addressed as she sees fit, from how dishes should be loaded into the dishwasher to signing petition after petition to bring home our soldiers. Resolves I can see as too perfectionist, but others as huge-hearted, if not heroic.Ryan actually seemed unnerved too. "Well, it wasn't that dirty. I got most of the mud stuff off."Kenny who is never unnerved by anything, suddenly shot the spray nozzle up at the sun. "Look, rainbows!"If you like me can you click that cute picket fence button over on the right there?



Corinne Rodrigues said...

Sandra - I absolutely enjoyed this post. I'm curious to know if your Mom did drive again. :)

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Lynn Proctor said...

what a bittersweet slice of your life

Kathy said...

Before my dad died he had a stroke that pretty much ruled out ever driving again. I think that fact took his will to live. He somehow thought that since he had driven OTR all his life that if he couldn't drive he would be worthless. It is sad. A person doesn't realize how important a driver's license is until you don't have one.


Amy Morgan said...

My dad, a few months before he was diagnosed with a "giant brain aneurysm" (yeah, it's official name actually included giant because of the size - very rare that they are so big) also did the pedal switch. He wouldn't even admit he'd done it - blamed it on his boot being too big! When he was officially diagnosed with it, his decision to go through with the risky surgery was based a lot on his being allowed to drive. No surgery, no driving. It's amazing how we attach our independence to this act.

Jenn said...

I haven't been faced with this yet. My Grandma is 90 now and she tries not to drive too often. The only accident she was in--was several years back, but she was not at fault as someone ran a red light and broadsided her. I think that scared her at that point--so she only goes out when she has to.

Cheers, Jenn

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

It is so hard to watch our parents accept that they no longer have the abilities they used to have. I'm sure you were relieved about her license being revoked, but a little sad too. But at least your kids will keep her car clean for you!!

Rae said...

My grandfather is going through the right now at 86 years old. He is fiercely independent, but someone around his age hit him and his car was totaled. He hasn't gotten a replacement and I don't think he's allowed to drive (I didn't ask details).

I feel awful for him, but very relieved. Whatever the test outcome, I hope she and your family grow even closer to make peace with it. Best wishes!

brenda said...

I do enjoy you tales. Did mom ever hit the road again? I t was so hard when my dad went through this not because of age, but illness. Hard.

Wisper said...

Great job showing how frustrated and angry Gramma was. I absolutely loved the bit "the car farted". That was priceless.

Sunni said...


That was interesting. Your mother reminds me of my grandmother who would never give up her car. Of course she had to once she totaled it at 90, but she lived another 6 years and was an amazing woman and very determined about everything. This has been a number of years ago now.

She has been an inspiration to me and was still having slumber parties with her girlfriends at 80.


Kathleen Basi said...

Lots of good stuff here, great conflict, great characters. My only question is ages. My grandmother is 95 but all her grandkids are grown. Maybe these kids are great grandkids?

Ugochi said...

Boys can be smart. Great tale Sandra!
Following you from Exposure 99% blog hop!

Donna McBroom-Theriot said...

I enjoyed your story. I wanted to also thank you for stopping by and commenting on my blog. Happy Monday!

Kendra said...

Great story - I also want to know what happened to Gramma! And thanks for visiting my wordpress site!

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