Monday, May 18, 2009

this past Saturday and the upcoming week

On Saturday, a day devoted to housecleaning, Mom suddenly had the urge to go out and about. We were delighted about this, so Dad and I got Mom into the minivan along with Sean's dog Maqz, and we drove to Front Royal, Virginia, to hit Skyline Drive. Dad's got a lifetime pass to the national parks, so entry was free. The drive was alternately sunny and rainy, with a nasty traffic snarl right where 495 and 66 West meet.

Mom had fun watching the dog's behavior inside the van. Maqz had been in the van before, but he spent a lot of his travel time sniffing around, crawling between seats, repeatedly moving from the front to the back. While I was driving, Maqz would sometimes move under my legs, which prompted me to warn him not to impede my ability to brake. Maqz also spent a great deal of time in Dad's or Mom's laps, for such are the advantages of being a tiny animal (Maqz is large for a chihuahua, but still snack-sized in the greater scheme of things).

Before entering Skyline Drive proper, we stopped, as we usually do, at the Apple House, an old-fashioned shop/restaurant that used to be the home of some of the best apple doughnuts I've ever eaten (the doughnuts seem heavier and greasier these days, alas). Dad took Maqz for a bathroom break while Mom and I went inside. Mom spent a few minutes just looking around at the items on display; eventually, we bought some drinks to take on the drive with us, and then we hit the scenic route.

If you know Skyline Drive, you know that the road has a speed limit of 35mph, obliging all sightseers to maintain a stately pace. Our gas was running low, which made us a bit nervous as we crept along, but we managed to reach the Elkwallow gas station with 9 minutes to spare before it closed. We were lucky. Maqz barked at people he saw outside from the safety of the car, but when Mom took him out for another walk, Maqz was meeker than meek. It might have been his first time out in the middle of the woods; I'm sure he caught the scents of animals that we humans, with our limited sensorium, would never have known were there. For a tiny, yappy dog, experiencing such a world might have been humbling. Besides, Maqz is a proven coward: he's always had a tendency to bark at people and animals while safe behind a pane of glass, but he loses all bravado once he's outside and among his fellow creatures.

We drove about 24 miles into the park, then turned around and drove back to Front Royal with the intention of eating dinner in town. Because we didn't want to leave Maqz alone in the car, we grabbed some drive-thru KFC and ate while parked. The rain began again while we were munching, but Maqz was taken out for one last constitutional before the long drive back home to Alexandria. It was a good ride back; Dad very wisely chose to take the Fairfax County Parkway straight off 66 instead of daring the tangle that is 495; even on a Saturday, that 66/495 junction can be a mess.

At the end of this long trip, one that saw Mom driving all the way out to Front Royal and even walking outside among other people, we very deliberately gave Mom a congratulatory hug. I expected her to rebuff this, because she sometimes brushes off solicitous behavior, but after we had thanked Mom for taking the long trip with us, she said something like, "I sure did go on a long trip, didn't I?" She accepted our hugs, and our thanks: we're grateful, always grateful, that she's looking out for her own improvement.

So-- that was Saturday. This week, Mom's got visitors in the form of relatives, and on Thursday, she begins her in-tandem radiotherapy and chemotherapy regimen. Keep your fingers crossed for her. What's coming up won't be easy.


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