Today was Mammogram Day. Mom and I have already observed Bone Density Day, Cardiologist Day (followed by Heart Ultra Scan Day), Colonoscopy Day (preceded by Prep Day), Sleep Test Day (wait–that was an evening event, preceded by Sleep Doctor Day and followed by Sleep Test Night II and Go-Get-the-Machine- Day), and Thyroid Doctor Day. All of these marked occasions occurred during the last six months.
Sometimes she and I wonder aloud if she’s healthy because she keeps all these appointments with health care professionals, or in spite of her diligence with her physician brigade and her complete compliance with medication for organs, limbs, and a half dozen other eighty-year-old body parts.
“Daddy says I’m doing the right thing by going to the doctor,” she has announced to me on more than one occasion. I always muse a bit about this discussion of Dad’s approval.
“So, what time will we leave for the mammogram?” she asked on the way home from our water class at the Y.
“1:00,” I said. “We’ll leave right at 1:00.”
“You think that’s enough time?” she asked.
“Yeah, your appointment is 1:30,” I said. “So thirty minutes will get us there fine.”
I called her at 12:50.
“I’m headed out the door as quick as I can grab a book and my shoes,” I said. “Right at 1:00.”
“I’m ready,” she answered. “I’m sitting in the sun at the picnic table.”
“So, are we definite about where we’re going at St. Thomas?” I asked.
“You don’t know?” she asked.
“I thought it was on the same floor as where you saw the doctor and had your bone density test.”
“Probably so,” she said.
“We ought to be sure. Do you have any papers?” I asked.
“Oh yeah. I have this paper where I wrote down where it is. But I’m not sure I can read it,” she answered.
“Well, let me look at it,” I said, as she pulled the sheet of paper from her purse.
“Hmmmm.” I looked at her notes and read. “Turn left from skybridge Park D Seaton Purple–opposite direction from doctor. –I’m not sure what this means, Ma.”
“Me either. Half the time I write stuff down and then can’t read it.”
“I do the same thing,” I said. “Or I lose the note before I get a chance to read it again. I sure don’t understand this. Do you remember the nurse telling us ‘everything you’re going to do is right here on this floor’?”
“Yeah…” Mom said.
“I’m remembering her pointing down the hall where you got your bone density… Remember she said, ‘It’s just beyond that sign that says ‘bone density?’” I asked.
“Seems like I remember something like that, but I wasn’t thinking it was the mammogram she was talking about,” Mom said.
“Well, we better just get on over there. I’ll just park where we usually park for your appointments and we’ll go from there. We’re eating up time,” I said.
A big Oldsmobile pulled out and left a parking place for us three spaces from the door.
“Well, we’re in luck this time, Sister!” Mom said. “I can walk from here.”
“We sure are,” I answered. Normally, I drop Mom off at the door to the elevators while I park the van. She walks okay with her cane–but slow. She’s speedy with her new Rollator that a friend named Dolly; of course, we left Dolly stabled in the garage.
“What floor was the doctor on?” I asked.
“Four,” she said.
When we got off the elevator, me with the sheet of paper in my hand, I turned right.
“I thought we were supposed to turn left,” Mom called after me.
“I thought you said to turn the opposite from the doctor’s office,” I said. “We would turn left to go to the doctor’s office.”
“No, I think the place is opposite from the doctor’s office,” she said. “It’s the Breast Center.”
“Hmmm.” I stopped to read Mom’s notes again, just as a lovely young employee arrived. I was enamored with her asymmetrical haircut and aware that she seemed to be in a hurry but took time to offer herself.
“May I help you?” she asked. “Did you say you’re going to the Center for Breast Health?”
“I’m not sure,” I answered, “But she is going to have a mammogram.”
“That would be the Center for Breast Health,” the woman said.
I loved the way she tilted her head toward both of us.
“Now,” she said, “You’re a good little walk from the breast center.” I could tell she was noting the cane. “You can do it, but it’s a good piece. It’s at the back of the hospital and you’re more on the front side right now.”
“Ah, that’s what this means,” I said. “It says ‘Seaton’ and I didn’t realize that anyone parked in Seaton Garage except for people visiting patients or staying at the hotel place.”
“Did you park in Seaton?” she asked.
“No. We parked downstairs right here where we always park to go to doctors in this building,” I answered.
“May I look at your instructions?” she asked.
After a glance at Mom’s scribble, she explained. “See, you park at Seaton, and then you go up to Level D, which is the purple. And then you cross the skybridge, and the Center for Breast Health is right there on the left.”
“But we can get there from here?” I asked.
“You can, but now, you’re going to walk a ways. Go straight down this hall, turn to the right, go past the Starbucks, and then turn left and you’ll see the skybridge. It will be just on your right before the skybridge.”
“Mom,” I said, “I think we better walk. I’m afraid we’re going to be late.”
“Okay,” she said. “How far is it?”
“It’s a good ways, but we can do it,” I answered.
Our friendly St. Thomas guide walked the same way that we did, only a little faster. When we hit a T somewhere along the way, she looked back and said, “Keep coming this way.”
“How much further?” Mom asked.
“Mom, I don’t know but it can’t be that far,” I answered. “I’ll get out ahead and sort of scout it out. Remember, we’re looking for Starbucks.”
“Well, just don’t get out of my sight, okay?” she said.
“Okay.” I dodged sad slow visitors and happy fast employees.
“Do you see Starbucks?” she called after me.
“Not yet. But we can do this, Ma. It won’t hurt us to walk,” I answered.
And then my elegant and reticent mother (at least, publicly reticent) announced to the hall full of hospital travelers, “Oh yes it does. It hurts. And if it doesn’t hurt you, well, it hurts me–bad.”
I didn’t dare ignore her but I wasn’t about to turn around. I wasn’t brave enough to even look back at her, ten paces behind me.
“We’re almost there,” I said–although I had no idea how much further we would walk. “See, Mom, here’s Starbucks!” I always like to find a Starbucks but this time, a sort of true love welled up in my heart at seeing the green logo.
“Is that where we turn?” she asked.
“We just go straight to the end of the hall and it will be there,” I answered.
“Oh yeah,” she said. I heard a bit of a groan and a sigh and noted the sarcasm in her brief reply.
“So where is it?” she asked at the end of the hall.
“See the sign?” I asked. “It’s right there before the skybridge.”
She did the “whew” sound. I limped and she clomped to the next door on the right. I signed her in with the volunteer lady in the pink jacket while she sat down in the first chair she came to.
“Mom,” I told her quietly, “I’m going to go get the van and move it to this garage over here. Then we can just go right there across the skybridge to the garage when we leave.”
“Me wait for you here?” she asked.
“Yes. Right here,” I said.
“I won’t go anywhere,” she answered.
When I returned from the long hike, short drive, and brief elevator ride, the pink lady was escorting her to the test. I called softly after her, “Mom,” to let her know that I was there but she didn’t hear me. I settled in my chair to read my friend’s new cookbook–It’s called Bless Your Heart; Saving the World One Covered Dish At a Time.
Two chapters later (and one altercation and two offensive cell-phone hollerers, too), she was finished.
“All done?” I asked. “We just have to go right out this door and right down the elevator. See–there’s the purple you wrote about.” I pointed to the purple stripes on the wall of Level D just outside the elevator.
“I think I’ll just go home on Franklin Road,” I said as we pulled onto the street.
“Well,” Mom said, “That place was certainly a lot nicer than the colonoscopy center.”
“Yeah, it sure was.” It was.
Then I told her about the two women passing the cell phone between them and talking so loud. “Well, when the second one asked, ‘How are you?’ I wanted to holler back, ‘Oh, I’m fine, thank you!’”
We both laughed out loud.
“Well, shoot, I was thinking about driving through the Ag Center but I guess I’ve got to turn on Harding. Don’t know what I was thinking about,” I said.
“I just love that place,” Mom said.
“The Ag Center?”
“Yes. It’s so pretty over there,” she said.
“Well, we’ll just drive through there then,” I said.
“Isn’t it out of your way?” she asked.
“A little, but so what? We’ve got time,” I said.
“Oh, boy,” she said.
“Now isn’t this just beautiful?” she asked as we started up the hill on the south side of the Tennessee Agricultural Center.
“It is,” I answered. “Wish we had been able to come over for the Molasses Festival.”
“Well, next year,” Mom said. “Your knees are bothering you, aren’t they?”
“You’ve been limping,” she said.
“Well, I walked three miles this morning and then we did water class and then we hiked at St. Thomas. That hot tub sure felt good, didn’t it?”
“I love it,” she said. “You know, we’re going to have to go get our eggnog ice cream at some point.”
Mom loves my tradition of going to Baskin Robbins that one time a year, just before Christmas, for a single scoop of the seasonal treat.
“Yes, we are. But I can’t afford the calories today, Ma.”
“Me either,” she said.
“I know! –Would you like to have a decaf latte?” I asked.
“Sure. Where are we going to get it?”
“At Starbucks. It’s just down Edmondson Pike, you know, from the ag center entrance. They have this pumpkin spice one, and this cinnamon one, too, and I think you can get both of those sugar-free.”
“Okay. Sounds good to me,” she said.
“Look. They left us a parking space. You want to come in with me?”
“If you want me to. I’ve never been inside a Starbucks. I’ll get us a seat and you just order, okay?” She sat down at the nearest table.
“Would you like a cookie or something?” I asked.
“I don’t know what they have…”
“Well, come on up and look.” I pointed out her favorite flavors.
“Let’s split that pumpkin scone.” She was grinning big.
“And let’s sit outside,” I said. “You go get the table, okay? And I’ll bring out our treats.”
“This is nice,” she said. “Don’t we have a good time together?”
“This is good,” she said.
“The scone or the latte?”
“Both. I’m glad we don’t have problems.”
“Me, too. –I love Starbucks,” I said.
“We just do all sorts of things together.”
“It’s a gorgeous day, isn’t it, Ma?”
“Sure is. We won’t get too many more of these days.”
“No, we sure won’t.”