THE SONIC BOOMER
Last weekend, Mark and I drove 20 hours round trip from Missouri to Wisconsin for a chance to see my parents for two hours. Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t seen them in more than a year. But, at age 92, they’d survived. And so had we.
Their state-run assisted living center had taken really good care of them, I must say. Visitors were not allowed in, and when the virus came too close — affecting a staff member — everybody had to stay in their rooms for 14 days.
But the wine and beer cart still came around at 4 p.m. like clockwork (yay, Wisconsin!) and, when the activity room was open, there was bingo for prizes and mechanical horse racing for quarters. My father accumulated enough stuffed animals in his room to furnish a small carnival, and my mother’s change jar was filling up fast. Still, as the months stretched on, the staff had to get creative. They decided to arm the residents — bringing a small arsenal of Nerf guns — then they ran for cover. The minute the vaccine became available, everybody up there got their two doses, and the minute I got my “all clear,” Wisconsin was at the top of my to-do list.
It was well worth the trip.
The staff was almost giddy to see us. They arranged a special meeting room for us, brought us cool drinks and offered to play the piano. But I just wanted to hold my mommy and hear my daddy laugh. I think anyone who has already lost their parents would have easily driven 200 hours for the same opportunity.
We were good, exiting promptly at the two-hour mark, as promised, but I warned the staff that, the next day, I was going to spring ‘em. And I did.
“What do you want to do, dad?” I asked.
“I want a beer.”
“And what would you like for lunch?”
As for mom, she just wanted to see the house she had lived in for 44 years before deciding the upkeep was too much for them to handle.
So, we drove around the city, looking at the house, their church — the old stomping ground, in general. At noon, we ordered a pizza, bought four tiny little cans of beer, sat in the car and ate. No restaurant, no house, no chairs around the kitchen table, yet it was one of the nicest lunches I’ve ever had.
After lunch, we drove over to see my brother Dave’s body shop. He opened the big garage door, and we drove right in. Mobility was not an issue because nobody even had to leave the car. We just talked and talked — because Dave hadn’t been allowed to visit either, even though he lives less than a mile away.
After three hours of the weirdest family reunion ever, it was time to get everyone back to their respective homes. We were all exhausted, and I know why — we were all completely out of the habit of visiting with people. It’s going to take some getting used to. I guess when the mask mandate is lifted, we’ll all remember what chins look like. I can hardly wait — I had been taking chins for granted.