Sunday, November 3, 2013

Driving Ms Juanita

Granny got her license when she was 55; I remember when she did. When she was here with us, I asked her why she decided to get her license then. She told me she got tired of having to ask others for rides. I’m so glad she did. She and Aunt Juanita would go for country rides as they got older. Aunt Juanita told me that Granny said it relaxed her. Familiar roads…they do have a way of easing your anxiety. They would go to McDonalds and Aunt Juanita tells me, as they left, Granny would say, “Let’s go for a ride.” And Aunt Juanita would tell her, “Well, Georgia, that’s what I was thinking.” Aunt Juanita told me when I asked her how often they would take these rides, that they did so “whenever we could catch a good day.” “Sometimes, we’d stop and get a coke and chips”, she reminisced, “I’d feed them to her as she drove.”
Their usual scenic route was Old Richmond Road, to Walnut Hill, to Delong, to Tates Creek Road, to Spears and into Nicholasville before heading back home. On Spears when they would past Liberty Road, Granny would say, “Well, we’re right back where we started, Sis.” You see Aunt Juanita lives close to Liberty Road in Lexington. These are the kinds of things we talked about today as we took the ride the two sisters had been riding for years. The first time this year. The first time since Granny last drove her. My heart was so full. I tried to fight back tears so I would be the safe Sunday driver I needed to be. But she melts my heart. When she talks about loneliness, when she speaks of missing my granny, her sis and my mother, her niece. Sometimes, she talks of her late husband, too. Her memories create a closeness to those she loved and as she reminisces, the heaviness in her heart is lightened. Her eyes sparkle and her words are clear in every mention of Granny, Moma and Leon.
I called her and asked what she thought about going for a ride and she said, “Let’s go!” I was expecting the usual, “No, it’s just not a good day for it.” “No, the weather might turn bad.” “No, I probably should just stay home.” But she had been doing laps in the yard, as she does every day the weather permits, and the autumn winds had called to her. I’m always so proud to see my 92 year old Aunt hoist herself up into my truck. “This is my obstacle for the day,” she said as she climbed in without the help of a step stool.
She came out of the house in Moma’s coat, a tweed short coat with red, purple, pink and blue. Immediately telling me how it makes her feel close to Wanda when she wears it. How she can wear any color pants with it and how she hopes to get a purple pair of pants to match the purple in it. Moma came up during the ride several times. As we passed a big red barn on Walnut Hill, Aunt Juanita told me how Moma got up in the yard across the street so she could take a good photo of the barn and all its glory. She talked about stopping at country stores with Moma on rides. And she talked about how Moma liked small towns. She was so precious as she explained, “Wanda liked what we liked. I guess you could say we were compatible.”
It was perfect lighting, perfect weather, just plain perfect timing. The colors on the trees, the sights along the way, I felt were there for her viewing. As if Granny  made the request and things were divinely taken to the point of perfection for “Sis” on her long awaited Sunday drive.
As we passed through Nicholasville, I stopped at McDonalds. You must know the two sisters were McDonald’s consumers that defies all “make you over weight” odds. Her request for a burger is always the same. A quarter pounder without cheese on a regular bun, cause you just don’t need to digest all those seeds. She torn the bag in such a way to make a drop cloth of sorts on her lap. She placed a napkin in the opposite side of the burger because, “Sis always said she didn’t like looking at a cardboard box while she ate.” She recognizes their peculiarity and went on to expound on several quirks. If they were given fries that had salt on them, they would get extra napkins and wipe the salt off of the fries before they ate them. Then as time passed they began to pull the ends of the fries so they wouldn’t choke on them. The inside of the biscuits, in their favorite biscuit and gravy meal, were always discarded before the rest of the biscuit was broke into pieces and the gravy, which is always ordered on side, was applied.  She knows she’s’ persnickety. She chuckled at the workers at McDonalds having to get used to all the quirks. Just part of her…I offered to take her to Frisch’s…but that was out of the norm for thier country ride. 
I asked if she was up to seeing the creek on the Hundred Acre Wood…and she was. I drove her down passed the plowed fields and parked closed to my thinking spot. She marveled at the little waterfall, the clearness of the water, the little island spot. I held onto her as we walked. Plenty of walnuts have replaced those I picked up last month. It’s like walking on marbles. I would so hate to be the cause of a fall that would render her dependent. I picked a walnut up, smelled it, saying, “I just love the smell of walnuts.” I handed it to Aunt Juanita and she smelled it saying, “I do, too!” Then looked up at me and said, “What in the world is wrong with us!?” “Not a thing, Aunt Juanita, not a thing.”