OKIE IN EXILE — The Last Trip

Bobby Neal Winters
Bobby Winters

In 2019, August of that year, the month in this town that if you haven’t taken a vacation yet, then it’s not going to happen, my family took a trip to Colorado, and we took my wife’s mother along. Of all the trips I’ve ever taken, all over the world, four continents, eight countries, etc., this is the one I am most happy about. I’m not happy because it was so much fun — and it was — or because I saw some cousins I hadn’t seen in a while — Hello Jan, Ed, and Judy — but because my mother-in-law Janet was on it.

Having a mother-in-law was not what TV had led me to believe. Bewitched, which was my main source for information about mothers-in-law, misled us all with Endora. (Although looking back as an adult, I find I have more sympathy with Endora and Maurice than I would’ve thought.) Janet, my mother-in-law, was a warm, wonderful person. She never turned me into anything.

We invited her to go with us any time it was remotely likely she would — to the movies, to dinner, on vacations — and sometimes she went with us, and she was never any trouble.

So I am happy she decided to go on that vacation to Colorado with us, but that’s not the last trip I am talking about.

The last trip was at about 11 o’clock at night on the last Sunday of April 2021. She’d been in good, solid health through Christmas Day and we’d celebrated together as much as the CDC would allow. We got a call from her on the day after Christmas that she was having trouble breathing. She didn’t want us to come over because she was afraid she had COVID and didn’t want to expose us any more than she already might’ve. She just wanted us to call the ambulance because she didn’t want to be any trouble.

We called the ambulance and then went over to guide them in. What follows is a blur. She was in the hospital for a month; she was released into hospice; Jean took care of her with the help of family; she began to get better and was released from hospice.

Things were definitely looking better, but then came the last weekend. Friday things were kind of iffy. Saturday things weren’t good. Sunday things were definitely taking a turn for the worse.

She was in tremendous pain. Jean was dosing her with morphine, but she held out against any thought of going to the hospital.

She didn’t want to be any trouble.

I’d gone to bed early as is my habit. About 11 p.m. I got a text from Jean: “...I think it’s time to go to the emergency room.”

I texted her back and went to her mother’s house. I don’t remember putting my clothes on, but I suppose I did. We got her in the car and headed out.

The most direct route from her house to the hospital is not the smoothest. It goes over those brick streets the local residents are so fond of. I went up to 4th Street and then over to Rouse, but I had forgotten about all of the construction of the overpass over the railroad. It was dark; we hit every bump; and she gasped every time we did.

At some point, and I don’t remember exactly where, she said, “Thank you for being so good during all this.”

I knew at that point she thought it was her last trip with me.

And it was.

Since that night, I’ve avoided that route as much as I could. I’ve found other routes from here to the hospital with smoother roads, less construction, routes that wouldn’t’ve taken much longer but where she wouldn’t’ve experienced as much pain.

I’ve seen images in the distance that lit up recognition for her in my head, but of course when they resolved into detail they were not her.

Last Thursday, I drove Jean to the mortuary, she paid the bill, and we picked up Janet’s cremains. I put her in the back of my car this time and we retraced some of the same path. This time in the opposite direction with much less hurry.

We brought her home. It wasn’t any bother.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube.