I was living in the Las Vegas, Nevada area, five hours’ driving from my mom and step dad, who lived in Palm Springs, California.We often visited back and forth, with them driving their big motor home when they came to visit me. Back twenty years ago, it cost them 100 USD to drive the thing over to my place and back, and they griped about the cost of fuel but visited often. Now it would probably cost five times as much to drive the same distance.When I drove down to visit my folks, I usually drove over at night. In the desert we drove at night as often as possible because the coolness of the road itself was better for our cars and tires, and because we could roll down the windows for most of the night and drink in the coolness and the hauntingly lovely desert night perfumes, and because the freeways and highways were usually deserted at night. And we could see the stars, but star-gazing wasn’t a factor in this trip: Mom was sick, and the note of panic in her voice when she called me to her side, saying she was ill, scared me.Mom was never sick. Her family never got sick. Her sister, mother, aunts, great-aunts, all lived to great age without so much as a common cold. Not even sniffles!But now, she was sick. She actually went to the doctor, which was very unusual for her. She put her faith in the Good Lord, her strong constitution, and in veterinarians— animal doctors. One saved her life as a baby after all the physicians could do, and for her to break down and visit a human doctor, she must have been gravely ill!She told me the doctor had said her symptoms would go away on their own after a week or a week and a half, and she wondered why he hadn’t prescribed any kind of medicine. He had only told her to rest, drink lots of liquids, eat well, and be patient.Congenitally impatient, after waiting two whole days and finding that she was still coughing and feeling ill, she wanted it to be over right then.Usually, if she willed something, and told the Lord what she wanted to have Him take care of, her desires were granted and needs fulfilled immediately, with no discussion, just as her Daddy had granted all her requests and filled all her needs as a child.But nothing worked with this stubborn cough, so she called me, her only daughter and the eldest of her two children. She needed me to drive down right away and tell her if she was going to live or not, and if so, how she could do so in any sort of comfort. She declared that she couldn’t even do her beloved crossword puzzles and without them, it was hardly worth living!Now, I’m not a medical person, but at that time, I did work in a hospital pharmacy, so I guess that she figured I would just know what to do by osmosis: As I handled the medicine bottles, I’d come to understand which was for what and how to use them.It happened that she called on my “Friday”, the last day of the five-day work week for me, so that very night, I jumped in the car and headed south on I-15. There were a couple of mountain passes on the road to Mom’s: Cajon (cah_hone_) Pass, and then closer to Mom’s, Jackrabbit Pass. Cajon was usually foggy (in a low cloud) in the wee hours, but for once, it was clear and I sped on up and over without a hitch. Same with the transfer to I-5 through San Bernardino, although it was closer to dawn, and there were some early morning cars motoring sleepily through town.Arriving at Mom’s place around eight in the morning, I found her sitting up waiting for me in her chair in the family room, looking a bit flushed and bright-eyed, but otherwise pretty good. She coughed a congested cough, and gave me the doctor’s report: Common influenza with bronchial congestion. No treatment offered other than rest, fluids, and patience in getting over it. There actually is no other treatment for it in Western medicine. You can hope to prevent it with a vaccination, or you can get it, take care of yourself, and probably get over it just fine.Mother was a little miffed with both God and Dad because they had each fallen down on their job of taking care of her. She was gentle about it, but there was clearly no doubt in her mind that the real culprit was not the influenza virus itself, nor was her body at fault for getting the flu bug— her protectors had let it slip through, and she wasn’t happy with their performance.As soon as the store opened, I went down and got her an expectorant cough syrup, which makes people cough up the phlegm they currently have, and then stops more from forming by moving the desert inside their heads— it dries out the upper respiratory areas till there is nothing to cough up or rattle in the chest, and a person can then peacefully lie down and sleep.While I was gone to the supermarket, I had Dad mix Mom up a mulled wine, (a recipe handed down through her family as a potent medicine of last resort,) right then and there and have her drink it. She ate breakfast, took her expectorant, and before Noon, she was out like a light in her chair, snoring a good, healthy blast.Dad fell into a chair. “You know your mother,” he said between her snores. He has only to say, “You know your mother,” and I start laughing. She was a “surpise” baby, born late in her parents’ marriage, the second daughter of three children, and the brightest star in her Daddy’s heaven. He would run home from work on his lunch hour just to rock her to sleep, because “only her dad” could get her to stop wailing and be comforted. Her reign as princess and then queen had been gentle and filled with love, but Dad repeadted: “You know your mother.” He closed his eyes for a second.“She couldn’t sleep the last several nights, so I couldn’t sleep.” He sighed. “She’s a womderful woman, Dayonda”, he told me. That’s part of this ritual conversation. I do know my mother, and she is a wonderful woman. But she had to have it her way, and she had to have it all. Only then would she graciously share.Dad’s sighed again and asked, “Will she sleep awhile?” I assured him she’d probably sleep all day. Nights that she hadn’t slept, neither had Dad, though he’d have cheerfully slept by her side and gotten up for anything she wanted. But she wanted company, and it turned out she, having never been ill, was aftaid she was on her deathbed. She didn’t want Dad to be alseep if she “went”.With the heirloom mulled wine in her, Mom slept all day, ate dinner, then slept all night. She woke up enough to cough and take a couple more doses of expectorant, but she basically slept. for about 20 hoursDad sacked-out in the bedroom, Mom stayed sleeping in her chair, and I fell onto the bed in the guest room, and we snored right along with her.After waking symptom-free and felling great, and like she could eat a horse, Mom looked at me and said, “Well, Dayonda, I thought it was going to be my death, and I wanted you and your brother here. But I guess you’ve come out for nothing, since I’m going to live, so you can go on back home now.”Just last June (2007) my dear, crazy, spoiled, beloved mom died from one of the few things the family’s mulled wine can’t cure: Alzheimer’s syndrome.
Five hours down and five hours back. It was a modern miracle, a triumph of love and medicine, and she didn’t even recognize it. But the lady was like that, and was a rare, though somewhat imperfect gem.