“Easter in October”
This seemed to be the week from hell, another flight home after a grueling week in Alabama. There has to be more to my life than planes, trains and automobiles. Although the pilot is happy that he got us here on time, all I can think about is the hour drive that I have to make from Jacksonville, Florida airport to Brunswick, Georgia. The drive time is needed to wrap my head around the change occurring in my life and my grandmother’s. Each visit home is a crapshoot. What will I get, a pair of sixes or just my luck I’ll roll a three and one?
Sometimes it feels like someone from the Department of Transportation has extended the highway between Brunswick, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. This hour long drive is dark. The moon hides in the tall pine trees. The lights from passing cars provide a little light—look fast enough and you can see Bambi eating off the side of the highway. Governor Zell Miller welcomes me to the Peach State, as my car drives into Georgia territory. I smile for a moment, then I am reminded of my reason for coming home and my heart sinks.
In these moments, I daydream about what coming home used to mean. College days were the best! Coming from Massachusetts, I could always depend on Mom to have wonderfully prepared hot meals waiting on me. Every Friday, we would have fried whiting and shrimp from the local boats. This was tradition and I welcomed my trips home for a little R&R and spoiling. My Grandmother would call all her friends to announce that I was coming home. I was a first generation college graduate in my family and her pride and joy.
I may have been a college graduate but mom had all the brains in the family. She was an entrepreneur, launching a daycare for kids when it was unheard of for black kids in South Georgia. Mom was a pit bull, full of determination to be successful. She returned to school late in life to get her high school diploma. I have never been more proud to call Evelyn Wrice (1928-2010) my grandmother.
As I reminisce about my ‘use to be’ life, I realize that I am only a few minutes from home. The back roads of South Georgia are dark. We were country people, something that I have always been proud of and had no problem bragging about my humble beginnings. The oak trees are big and the moss is draping low as I pull into the yard. I stop to call Mom to tell her that I am in the yard and notice that all the lights are out. I can hear my heart beating and my thoughts run wild as I wait to hear her voice on the other end. Mom, where are you? More importantly, where could you be this time of night? Oh God, please don’t let her have wandered outside. Finally, she answers with her sweet southern tone. “Mom, open the door and turn on the back porch light I am outside,” I say as I drive to the back of the house. It is pitch black and I have to make myself get out of my truck, afraid that all sorts of bugs, mosquitoes, snakes and other living creatures are going to attack me.
Stumbling, I make it to the back porch, all the while calling out for her to open the door. As I step on the porch, I am being hit in the head by small pricks of something swinging in the dark. My arms are fighting off these damn bugs. The fear lodges itself in my throat and I am screaming as if this will cause them to stop. The more I swing, the more they are coming at me. Just as I am crouching down to save myself from this horror, the back porch light comes on and there she stands in her nightgown and she says, “ Hey honey, do you like my Easter decorations?” I look up and realize that plastic Easter eggs have accosted me, hanging from the ceiling of the back porch. It is October. I look into her eyes and see the pride in her decorations and I will not take that away from her. I say, “Yes Mom these are beautiful, with my heart beating a thousand beats. I take her into my arms and I know that this is the beginning of the long road of dementia with Mom.