The Cadillac and Tesla Men

When I moved to Alabama some 15 years ago, I had no idea what I would be faced with. When hubby and I left Colorado, we thought our stay would only be about two or three years at most.

Daddy’s wife had passed away and he was showing signs of melancholy. We thought we’d go for a time to cheer him up. Mother was not that far away, only about two hours north in Nashville. Even though I was born in Alabama, I’d really never live there for any length of time. Hubby worked from home and we’d visited Dad several years before and he liked it there, so we thought, why not?

Our Alabama Home – Mom is in the window somewhere.

Well, we were there nine years.

Daddy seemed to be doing fine, but the following summer, mother’s husband had died at her feet while watching TV. She had Alzheimer’s and could not be alone. So, we brought her down with us and for a short time, she came to live with us and Daddy again after some nearly 50 years. That did not work. So we put her in a very nice assisted living facility in Birmingham for awhile, until other arrangements could be made. I was busy, working, prepping her house to sell, getting formal custody of her, trying to get VA benefits and a whole mess of other things. Half the time, mother didn’t know who I was and when she did, it was either curses and sit down strikes.

Eventually, my sweet sister who recently passed away, came up from Florida to help me and we were able to bring mother home. We bought a two story house, really neat, that was perfect. Downstairs was outfitted with safety features for mother, locks for escape prevention and danger. No stove knobs, locks on fridge and all kinds of gizmo’s that we had social services approve of before she could be allowed to leave the facility. My sister lived in the upstairs apartment and had daytime duty. I worked and took night time duty. Hubby stayed at our regular home, one we had bought before all hell broke loose, at least until we sold that.

Daddy, in the meantime, didn’t live from that home and we learn his cancer came back. He didn’t let us know right away though. It was rough.

Dealing with VA, courts, and well, everything imaginable such as mother hiding things in the toilet and stopping up drains, calling out the plumbers, pacing nonstop, screaming abuses, telling hubby, to “watch out for her, she’s a slut!” was painful. I was on an emotional roller coaster and no matter how many people told me it was the dementia, it didn’t help. For one, she was like that before. Once when my brother was visiting, we left Daddy in charge while we went to Trade Day. She decided to get stark naked and lure him to bed. We found him standing at the back door facing away from the house. It was kinda funny actually – seeing daddy like that, I mean. In the meantime, she had no clue and had forgotten what she’d been about and was now trying to figure out the shower when I found her. Like I said, no knobs, so she couldn’t accidentally hurt herself. So that was my life. Each day was an adventure and one never knew what another day would bring.

As I mentioned, I worked. I had a long, but pleasant drive, 38 miles each way. Each day, depending on how things were going at home, I would scream, cry, sing Amazing Grace along with Il Divo or pray all the way to work. God and I had some mighty fine chats and rants. He didn’t care if I cursed at Him for the burden I was shouldering, He took it rather well. By the time I arrived to work, I’d be at peace.

On my way to work each day, I was fortunate enough to be traveling through small towns and farmland. At least my travels were beautiful and peaceful. I’d often pass a few cars going in the opposite direction. One blessing sent my way was the Cadillac. That’s when I noticed the Cadillac man. Each day, he’d wave as I passed. At first, it was nothing more than the common farmer one finger wave, later it would become the half hand over the steering wheel wave and once when one of us had either been away a few days or something, it would be a full on wave, like “happy to see you again”. Sometimes, he had an older woman with him and at other times a small child. Mostly, he was alone and each day we got to looking forward to seeing each other.

I remember telling my sister about him and we would make up stories about who he was, what he did and where he was going each day. I even wrote a short story about how he showed up suddenly at the open house of our little coffee shop/bookstore/tea house, that she and I had always dreamed of having. He was either a doctor, lawyer, an architect or some such. It was always comforting knowing he would pass me by each day just before it was time to come into the clinic I worked at. I think God put him there just for that. After I got transferred closer to home, I saw him only now and again, as his route went through the town I lived in, but he didn’t know me outside of my little red car, so he never waved. I did get a closer look and he was an older gentleman and I wondered if he missed that little red car that used to pass him by each day.

The Tesla.

Now I have a Tesla man, only I’m not sad or depressed, but… he is still inspiring. My Tesla man is a young man, who waves each day as I pass by on my walks.

I need him right now. A couple of months ago I determined to be in the best shape ever for my 75th birthday, so I committed myself to walking, since gyms were closed. Each year, I give myself a new challenge. Last year I jumped out of an airplane. This year, I will do hang gliding and by my next birthday the video. Unfortunately, I tend to lose interest in any regular exercise routine and as luck would have it, my knee gave out and the pain has been at times debilitating. Good excuse to quit, right?

No! Not good. Not good on two counts. One, I could be crippled and two, my project would be impossible to achieve. As it is, the elaborate moves I had in mind have to be modified. My goal when I started out was to trim down, so I could do an energetic dance video, beginning with showing the process from out of shape to in shape and then the routine. If my legs don’t work, there’s no video. Getting out each day at Odark hundred was going to be challenging enough. This could have been the end of that dream, except for the fact, that my Tesla man, whether he knows it or not, keeps cheering me on. His waves, not unlike the Cadillac man’s are my hope and inspiration to keep at it. I know that at 7:30 am each morning, just like the Cadillac man, he will pass, smile and wave. I just can’t let him down. Like the Cadillac man, we will probably never meet, but it doesn’t matter. It’s my catalyst, my impetus and hope, giving me the determination to keep at it.

Maybe I’m his too. You know, I was thinking, and perhaps it’s worth pondering over, but none of us knows how a small gesture like that can inspire or comfort someone we don’t know or may never meet. Think about that.

I’m sure these two guys have no clue.

For all I know, the Cadillac man had a failing wife or aging parent he had to take into the city for treatments too.

Maybe the young Tesla man, has a frustrating, high pressure job and wishes he could be out walking too. My smile, my wave, who knows? They may help him start his day as well.

One never knows do they?

The Red Bra

woolworthsSeveral years ago, my sweet sister came up to Alabama to help me care for my mother who had Alzheimer’s.  It was a difficult time for me and there were times, I thought I would surely die before she did.

You see, mother not only had Alzheimer’s but she was a bi-polar schizophrenic with Alzheimer’s!

When my step father died, I had asked her doctor for some meds to keep her manageable, which he was kind enough to provide me.  The problem however was getting her to take them.  Getting her to take them resulted in me getting a black eye, which had my brother not seen it coming and blocked it would have resulted in a far worse shiner than it was.  It was still bad.  Mother had not handled the death of her husband well and I had noticed a marked difference in her behavior afterward. Understandably of course.

There were many times early on in their relationship that I had wondered if those two even loved each other. I had always thought he married her to give his four children a mother.  He was in the Navy and gone all the time and his kids had been taken away from their mother due to abuse and neglect and were now in foster homes in Boston.

Little did he know mother’s mental state, as she was absolutely charming when she wanted to be. So, here these poor kids go from one abusive parent to another and he’s away at sea.

Mother on the other hand, was needing to get away from her abusive, inattentive, unambitious husband (my father).  Mother had grown up poor and she aspired to be rich in America and that was the last thing my father would ever strive for. Even so, she’d learned some bad habits from him when it came to discipline which we paid for dearly.

Many years later, we’d all managed to survive and they, my step father and her, had managed to stay together.  Granted early on he’d been away most of the time.  When he retired from the Navy, he went to college for a short time, but with her ragging on him all the time, he finally took on as a trucker, where he’d be gone for long periods.  She had many solitary days in the middle of nowhere on a couple of acres in California.  Eventually, they’d move to Tennessee.  While he was away she’d go on about how much she missed him and how hard he worked.  Five minutes after his return, she’d be yelling at him!  I would get so aggravated that his only response was always, “yes Vicky”.  He never fought her, argued with her or anything. Now, I look back and realize that he knew and accepted her state of mind. She did make sure the kids were well fed, well cared for and though her discipline was harsh and often unreasonable, she did make sure their physical needs were met.  I guess he figured it was the best he could give them and that she did the best she could. He was never mean or ugly to her no matter what she dished out.  Never.  For that I loved him.  As I’ve mentioned before, she was harder on us girls than the boys, so my step brother and brothers grew to love her in ways we girls could never.   And, so it went.

I was walking with my step dad one day and noticed an almost imperceptible wince.  I asked him if he was alright and he said, “yeah”.  I told him I didn’t believe him and had he gone to the doctors yet?  He said he had an appointment the following week and I insisted I wanted to know as soon as he knew anything.  Two weeks and four days later, he’d laid down on the floor to watch TV with mother on the couch beside him.  The two of them had fallen asleep as was their routine.  When she went to arouse him, he was gone.   He’d been diagnosed with liver cancer the Friday before. He died on a Tuesday. She’d fortunately had the wherewithal to call the police, but they took their time to get there.  Given her state of mind, she was notorious for calling them all the time. I would later find regular bills (amounting to thousands of dollars) from the police department for excessive false alarm calls.  Did you know they did that?  I didn’t.

So now he’s dead and there’s no will to be found.  Single handedly, I spent days going through tons of paper trying to find a will.  There was one record book with my name in it, but it was nearly forty years old and it wasn’t formal. I would later find 4-5 half started wills and that was it. Mother in her state of mind would hide things. I found so many multiples of documents and items around the house.  She would hide them so well that if they couldn’t find them, they’d buy another. Oh, and QVC was her best friend.  As she wouldn’t leave the house, she shopped online!  But I digress.

So here I am, mulling through everything, going to court to get custody of her and her estate and afterward tracking down insurance policies and VA benefits and doing this all alone. I would talk to my sister on the phone and after two years of this, she made up her mind to leave her job and come up to help me.   She had asked me a number of times if I needed her to do so but I vacillated saying yes.  My other siblings, including my steps couldn’t.  She was single and in a better position to come up but she’d be giving up her hard earned clientele and I couldn’t promise her anything that would match what she was making there. After some time, exhausted, I relented and said, yes.  A few months after, I would have a mini stroke and end up in the hospital.  By then, we were pretty settled in tag teaming mother’s care, but for the next ten days, she was on her own.  I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Later she would tell me why she’d been so willing to be there for me.  It wasn’t just because I was her sister or because mother needed our help.  The tyranny of mother’s mental illness and the hardships we’d endured with her resulted in there being no love lost there,  not for either of us but for some reason more so for her.  She told me she could stand to lose mother, but she didn’t want to lose me because of her.  It would be later that she and I would heal from that.  Now, years later we are able to mourn the mother we never had and the mother she may have wanted to be or could have been.

What took me down this road and reminded me of all this is a story Linda Bethea has been sharing on her blog: Nutsrock .  (There’s still time to catch up on it, so you may want to check out my link to her story. BTW if you want to go to the very beginning, it starts in April and is a worthwhile read of “Charley’s Tale“)

It was her latest installment that triggered the memory of my sister and the Red Bra. I’d not remembered the incident until my sister shared it with me.  She calls it her “story of the Red Bra.” She said, it was in part, the reason she came to help me. It was because she would never forget how I stole a red bra for her.   Incredulously I say, “I stole a red bra for you?! I don’t remember that.” As she tells her tale, I begin to remember what and how it all happened.

THE STORY OF THE RED BRA

My sister was the youngest of my siblings at the time.  (This was prior to the reincorporation of the families)

It happens that she was just starting to mature and her little breasts were just budding.  The boys in school were absolutely merciless and would pass by and pinch the girls, thinking it was funny.  I don’t know why no one tells them that this can be extremely painful to us during this growth state. Dad was still around and he was just as bad, if not worse, thinking it was funny.  We girls would walk around the house with our arms crossed when we passed him. It was not a good time.

Mother in general was unapproachable so you can imagine how difficult it was for my sweet, shy little sister to even broach the subject, but she did.  Mother did not disappoint and proceeded to laugh and rail on her about how ridiculous her request was, saying.   “you’re too young”, “too small” and too everything.  The answer was an adamant “No!”

It was humiliating, but she sucked it up, retreated to our room and didn’t ask again.

In those days it wasn’t unusual for us kids to walk into town and on some occasions we’d take the bus.  We’d hang out at the rec center and park or the plunge which was all within a few blocks of each other.  It was a different time then.

woolworths

As a kid, I was quite the thief.  If I wanted something, I’d take it.  (Not one of my proudest moments, but I was a natural) Although we weren’t poor, we kids weren’t allowed to get and or have the many things my peers were allowed to.  As it was, I was an outcast and I was so desirous of being accepted and being “one of them”, that I guess I reasoned this was how I could do that. If I could just have what they had perhaps they’d like me.  I really don’t know how my mind worked then.  I was just a kid.

As I recall, it was shortly after her denied request, that I took my little sis into our local Five & Dime, i.e. Woolworth’s or Kresge’s, I don’t recall which. We had both.

In those days merchandise was all laid out neatly in bins. If you picked up an item, you folded it back up and replaced it to the best of your ability as neatly as you found it.  It was common courtesy in those days.  The only counters that didn’t seem to make it were those with cosmetics.  For some reason, I’m guessing girls especially,  would open up a tube of lipstick and forget to roll it back down before putting the cap back on it, resulting in quite a mess. For some reason, I don’t recall ever kyping makeup.

bra section of 5 X dime

None the less, we went to the bins where all the bra’s were and started digging in, selecting a few before proceeding to the dressing rooms for her to try them on. These bins were the least neat given the nature of a bra’s composition.

I remember her trying on several ones and yes, at the time, many were too big for her, but that wasn’t the point.  She needed body armor and that was all there was to it.

Why, we settled on the red one I don’t know, but there was obviously no accounting for taste in our selection, so we did.  When things would get tough for her; when she thought there was no one else who would rally for her, she’d remember the Red Bra.  She said the memory of the Red Bra would always be a reminder that she could always count on her big sister.  Over the years, jealousy on both our parts would cause our relationship to wane and at times waver, but our love never did.

My stealing of one Red Bra so many years ago, now serves as a reminder for us both and how we could count on each other.  She was there for me when I needed her, as I was for her so many years ago.  It is the memory of the Red Bra that moved her to come to my aid and the story of her memory that makes me grateful for the bond that grew from the experience.

We now live on opposite ends of the States but we talk all the time and I miss her horribly as she does me. For a little while we got to be girls again and I miss that.