Stumbling Along

I lost the car keys.

I should have remembered all this from my days mothering four children. The more things/people you have to keep track of the more organized you need to be.

There’s a drawer where we keep Mama’s car keys. She does not want to ride with anyone in their car to her appointments. She wants to go in her car, even if she can’t drive it.

I didn’t put the keys back in the drawer. I’d set them down somewhere. Given that missing wallet of mine, we all feared the keys may have gone down the same dark abyss.

Misplacing car keys isn’t that unusual for me, just ask my family. But when I misplace them in my home nobody panics.

I am not in my home.

Mama panicked.

Right about the same time, my sister-in-law found them, right where I had left them . On the dresser by the door in Mama’s room.

Oh, yeah. I remember putting them there the day before. I’d come in carrying Mama’s purse, her Starbucks (Venti Latte extra hot, she spills one a day), and the car keys. I was in a hurry to get back to help her out of the car so had set down everything right fast like, and proceeded to forget about it later.

Mama had another appointment downtown. Another scan. I was putting the walker in the trunk after getting Mama situated, shotgun style, when all of a sudden the car started. Liked to scared me half-to-death. Mama had snatched the keys from me, saying she would keep track of them.

Given she still had her purse and I don’t, the woman with six brain tumors seemed a safe bet for keeping track of things, all things being relative. I was glad her feet couldn’t reach the pedal though. I hurried up and buckled myself into the driver’s seat.

As we headed out on the highway, Mama started rifling through her purse. Usually when she does that she is looking for gum. Former smokers don’t lose their need for nicotine. She keeps a baggie filled with Wrigley’s contraband and the good stuff, little white squares of Nicorette. I figured her to be looking for her baggie but after a few minutes of that rifling, I asked.

“Whatcha looking for Mama?”

She looked at me confused. She can’t hear as well since radiation.

I repeated my question as she continued to rifle through her purse like a hungry dumpster diver.

“Whatcha trying to find?”

“Those car keys you gave me,” she answered.

I winced.

“Mama,” I said, hesitantly, “they are in the ignition, remember? We are driving to the doctors?”

“Oh, yeah,” Mama said. Her hands stilled inside her purse. “Well, you can’t keep track of them either.”

“That’s true,” I said, smiling. “That’s true.”

Later, after a wonderful lunch on Lake Union, where we counted the sea planes coming and going, Mama fell.

It is the first time she’s fallen.

We were just outside the restaurant doors, on our way to the car. I was carrying her purse and holding on to the side of the walker which Mama also likes to drive fast, when all of a sudden I saw her feet just give way, like a ballet dancer, stumbling. I reached for her, believing i could halt the fall. But her legs folded under her, origami-like, and she was down. Graceful and ladylike, all her girly parts covered, but down, nonetheless, as if she was purposely there, posing for a photo the way she did on the lawn in those old photos of her and Daddy.

Only she is older now and ill.

Within seconds three men rushed from the sidewalk where they had been walking and asked if they could help.

So I stepped back and let them lift my mama up, and right her before her walker once more, because standing on her own two feet has always been important to Mama, no matter what.

She falls down.

She gets back up.

It has been a pattern in my mother’s life for a very long time.

“That was sure nice of all those men to stop and help like that,” Mama said, once we were back in the car.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, it was.”

The world is full of caring people willing to help us, but we must first welcome their help. That takes a readiness to admit, “I cannot do this myself.”

I can’t even remember where I put the car keys.

Who has helped you to your feet?



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  • Rachel

    Jeanne, Caregiver Coffee Break Leader, Hospice nurse who has become a dear, dear friend. I was low, low, low in the Pit of Despair. She helped get my feet back under me so that I could stand. I still stumble from time-to-time, but I don’t feel the fall anymore. She helps to catch me. Beautiful thoughts!

  • Karen – Your stories about your Momma have touched me
    deeply and remind me so much of what I am beginning to deal with my own
    parents. I just want to right by them and consider it a privilege to help
    even though I become impatient sometimes. There is no drama or humor like that
    which unfolds in real life. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  • Sharon O

    wow, this journey is sure hard but you are still making good memories and you can find a little bit of humor in it too. take care of yourself in this process.