A disabled parking space was available next to the entrance, so I took it. Mike got out of the car and, rebuffing my help and insistence that he take his cane, walked inside—shoulders back, head held high. He took a place in line and waited to buy cigarettes. Fearful that some exuberant child might knock him off balance, I kept watch throughout his visit, my head bobbing up and down and from side to side behind the steering wheel, trying to keep sight of him between the large paper signs taped to the store’s front window.
Without incident he made it back to the car, and we drove on to the hobby shop. The only parking spot I could find there was two blocks away. I pushed Mike in his chair over the rain-washed sidewalks through the bitter November wind into the shop, where he commenced to banter with anyone who would respond.
I stood aside, in an out-of-the-way corner, so as not to hamper his conversation. And converse he did, at length, as if it were a social gathering of R/C racecar owners rather than a retail establishment. My concern grew as he continued to hog the employees’ attention, seemingly unaware that other customers were waiting for service while he purchased nothing.
Finally, my patience worn, I eased up to his chair and whispered next to his ear, "Mike, you’re keeping him from waiting on other customers."
His hand flashed over a shoulder at me, as if shooing away a pesky fly.
I persisted. "Mike. You’ve been yakking away for almost forty minutes now. It’s time to say good bye and let these folks get back to business."
His hand began to wave me away again, then stopped in mid-air. "The warden says I have to go now, folks," he proclaimed, loud and clear, so that everyone in the store could hear him.
My face flushed as the people stared. I grinned, then grabbed the handles of Mike’s chair and swung it around to face the entrance. "Say goodbye," I whispered.
While a customer held the door open and I rolled him out, Mike looked over his shoulder and waved. "See ya soon, everyone!"
Had the wind not sung in my ears on the way to the car, I’m sure I would have heard a collective sigh of relief from those we left behind. I knew that if I confronted Mike about his behavior he would just deny it, or laugh it off, or turn it around somehow into being my fault. I did not need an argument. I must realize that his illness was frequenting bouts of idiocy upon his brain. I must accept that it may get worse. God, give me the strength to handle this—in sickness and in health.
I got Mike into the car and headed for home, stopping on the way to check the post office box. I walked out with three good-sized orders for my newsletter book in hand—all from library book distributors and all prepaid.
The next day I packaged the books for shipping. When I realized how my book-money was growing, I agreed with Mike to consider having the accelerator moved in the Jeep as long as it didn‘t cost more than $500 or $600. As always, he refused to make arrangements over the phone—something I would never understand. He preferred talking to people in person, so I drove him there.
I waited in the car while Mike went into the shop. Thirty minutes later he returned.
"How much?" I asked.
"About $700," he said. "So I told him to go ahead."
I grimaced, but understood that if I were in Mike’s shoes, I’d want it done.
So, three weeks and numerous trips to Arlington later, the day came to retrieve his Jeep. He chattered non-stop the entire drive there, excited and anxious to get in the driver’s seat of that rig. He paused only when Steve handed the invoice to him, which he handed directly on to me, without glancing at it.
"Mike?" I motioned for him to look.
"What?" He took it, looked at it, and handed it back.
"You told me it would be around $700. This is for $1500!" I frowned.
"Well, the $700 was before labor …"
"And you conveniently forgot to mention that to me?"
"I thought I told you …"
"Well, you didn’t." I pulled out the checkbook, wrote one for the full amount, and asked Steve to hold it a day so I could transfer funds. He agreed, and Mike and I headed for home—he in the Jeep and me following behind. For him it meant a return to independence, and he was one happy camper again!
For me it meant thoughts of Mike driving us right into the poor house, or worse, with his inherent need for speed, his lack of peripheral vision, his questionable eye-hand coordination, as witnessed when R/C car racing, and that ever-present threat of an insulin reaction. How would he feel … how would I feel, if he woke up from another tragic accident to learn he’d killed some innocent person? More seed for my brain buzzards. Would I ever be able to stop their intrusions?