I have been spending the last few weeks mentally preparing myself for the trip home we are taking today. The trip to Indiana itself is no picnic, but we are splitting it up and staying in a hotel tonight. Genna is just not much of a traveller and tends to make long trips sheer hell with her screaming and kicking of seats. We are renting a minivan in order to give all of us room to stretch out. We won't hear a peep out of Ella, unless she wants snacks, because she'll be in the third row with the DVD player and a lifetime supply of princess and fairy-themed movies. I'll be in the middle row with Genna trying to read my book and ignoring the fact that she is drawing on the windows, the upholstery and herself with washable markers. When she gets bored with that, I'll let her start eating Play-Doh. When that looses its appeal, I'll have to actually entertain her.
We had initially planned to fly, but the thought of the guaranteed delays and probable cancellations with two children and a cranky husband made me think that it would probably take just as long to do the driving ourselves. I started to imagine my last trip home to see Mom in February and couldn't imagine how I would cope with an experience like that again, much less with the girls and Herr. While I have very little patience on a good day, my husband's patience has disappeared over the years at the same pace as his hair. He's bald.
We are spending the first part of the trip visiting my mother. I have been talking to Mom twice a week for months, and every single time, she has asked me what the travel plans are. Yesterday, she called me twice while I was at work and left voice mails on my cell phone:
"I'm just calling to see if you guys are on the road. I can't wait to see you, but I really want to see the babies. I'm so excited."
I called her back the first time to remind her AGAIN that we were not leaving until Thursday. It was clearly news to her. I didn't bother to call her back when she called the second time a few hours later and left a nearly identical message. I told my friend Lorrie that I am probably going to end up taking whatever alcohol my mother is drinking these days and bring it back to her place to drink myself. If it turns out that this isn't an alcohol issue, then my sister and I obviously have a larger issue on our hands.
Based on her phone calls from yesterday, it is pretty clear that she has also forgotten my little chat with her about NOT overdoing it when we get there (ie: letting the girls crawl all over her, deciding to cook a seven-course meal, or starting to clean the apartment that hasn't been touched since I visited in February.) This always happens. Even though our visits will be in small two-hour increments, I guarantee that she will be so exhausted on Saturday, that she will sleep all day. There won't be anyplace for the girls to play because my mom's closet of an apartment is full of landmines like scissors, lighters, medications and other sharp and poisonous things. Last year she "childproofed" her apartment with hilarious results.
The trip won't be stressful the entire time--when we aren't cleaning Mom's apartment or attempting to have a serious discussion about her finances or the need to move into an assisted living situation,we will visit friends and stay with friends of mine who have older kids whom the girls adore. We'll go to Lake Michigan. We'll go to Redamaks (every night if Herr has his way.)
We'll head to Bloomington on Tuesday and stay the remainder of the week with Herr's mom. It will be waaaaaay different. I won't have to worry about the girls' safety, there will be no need to find things to do to entertain the girls for hours on end, and we'll probably get to have a date night because Grandma will babysit. And even though I will ultimately have a good time, I know that, deep down, I am going to be angry that I can't control my mother's fate, and sad that she has gotten as bad as she has. And she won't let us help her.