A Concrete Mess
Updated: Sep 14, 2018
I am driving down Route 34 in New Haven, through extensive construction. Mom is leaning forward, looking out the front window, then out the passenger window, and back out the front window.
MIL: Where we going?
Me: To see Dr. VanDyke
Mom continues to look back and forth through the windows.
MIL: Ppssshhh Yep!
MIL: (Nodding her head) Yep!
Me: Yep what Ma?
Leaning forward again pointing up to the large buildings, eyebrows knit.
MIL: I’m sure glad I don’t live here.
Me: Why Ma?
MIL: I don’t know . . . it’s . . .
A firetruck approaches the intersection, and blows the air horn. Mom, startled, grabs the the dashboard and passenger door.
MIL: (With eyes as big as saucers) NOISY!
Me: (Waiting for the fire truck to pass) Yes it is . . . but the city has a lot of great stuff too!
MIL: (Folding her arms like a defiant teenager) Like what, Smarty pants?!
Me: (Giggling) Did you just call me Smarty pants?
MIL: (Smiling and nodding) Yes I did!
Me: (Smiling and shaking my head) Well, it may be noisy but everything is at your finger tips here. You could live in a city without a car, everything is close—theaters, libraries, stores, restaurants, museum . . .
MIL: (Interrupting me) It’s . . . it’s . . . look at the . . . (leaning forward again, pointing to the skyscrapers, shaking her finger)
Me: Big buildings?
MIL: Yes . . . too many people, too noisy . . . I don’t like it here. (Sitting back in her seat, arms folded, jaw set) Humph.
Me: (Looking to defuse this) Well, Ma, what do you like about where you live?
Mom turns and looks at me, purses her lips and rolls her head to look back out the passenger window.
MIL: There’s not this mess . . .
Me: Mess . . . that’s one way to put it.
Mom looks back at me
Me: Want to know what I like about where we live?
MIL: Yeah . . . what?
I pull into the valet line, slide the gear shift into park, and turn to her.
Me: I like the smell of cow manure in the spring. I love the birds waking me with their songs, I love that I can drive a tractor to pick up Joey, and I think it's really cool that when I go to buy a cup of coffee, everyone knows my name.
MIL: It’s quiet.
Me: (Smiling) Yes, its quiet . . . and . . .
MIL: . . . and Frank's there.
Me: Yep, Frank's there. We’ll get you back to him later today, okay?
The valet approaches the car.
MIL: Where are we going?
Me: To see Dr VanDyke.
I help Mom out of the car, and, because God has a sense of humor, an ambulance goes squealing by and Mom is startled again.
MIL: What the hell is that?!
Me: Ambulance, Ma . . .
MIL: Ppppssshh . . . Yep!
Me: Yep, what Ma?
MIL & Me: (In unison) I’m sure glad I don’t live here.
Mom looks at me stunned.
MIL: How did you know I was going to say that?!
Me: I had a hunch.
MIL: Where we going?
Me: (Answering as if I hadn't heard the question twice before) To see Dr. VanDyke.
MIL: Does Frank know I’m here?
Me: Yes, we’ll get you back to him later today, okay?
MIL: (Smiling) I know you will, you always do.
I take Mom's hand and guide her up the sidewalk. Her head continues to swivel around looking at the tall concrete buildings, very much like a child in the city for the first time. A lump forms in my throat. As my own children are growing and maturing into adults, Mom is spinning backward.