Weekend Wanderer: Fostering Independence — and Taking It Away

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personal growth for all

I think I did the worst thing I’ve ever done.

It was a chilly but sunny Friday, the trees just beginning to embrace their fall colors.

And I, what did I do on that dazzling autumn day?

I took Indy and Willie on a tour of an assisted living facility.

If there is anything more awful than taking your parents through a home they don’t want to live in, I don’t want to know it.

Wait. I just thought of a few things that are worse.

Um, this is a runaway train of terrible thoughts right here. We need to pull an emergency brake of some kind.

We need to lighten things up, laugh a little.

Let’s see. Thinking. Thinking …

Hmm. I think I’ve got it.

Nature abhors a vacuum, right?

I thought it was Mr. Spock who observed that in Star Trek VI.

It wasn’t. It was Aristotle. Whom I did not realize sired Spock’s human lineage but as the father of logic rather makes sense.

Anyway. I have been the exemplar of Aristotle’s observation.

It began in April when my 16-year-old obtained a learner’s permit.

As in, to drive. Why did nobody tell me the gamut of emotions one feels teaching their kid to drive?

But that’s not the point. The point is that nature took one look at my budding driver and realized it needed a vacuum for my new driver to fill.

So nature or Aristotle or Mr. Spock made it clear I needed to take Willie’s car keys. I mean, crystal clear. There was just no denying it.

I like to think it was Mr. Spock who made that decision. It just makes me feel better to think of Leonard Nimoy, somewhere in the ether, directing my life like he directed Three Men and a Baby.

Except, you know, without Ted Danson.

The thing is, just as a learner’s permit doesn’t instantly grant a complete set of driving skills, neither does taking car keys yield a person who doesn’t drive. It’s a de-escalation, like a night spent drinking. You’re not sober the moment you switch to water. You still have a whole hangover to work through.

I mean, just disposing of the cars was a whole rigmarole that left me with Willie’s bumper sitting in my garage.

That is a true gosh-darn story right there.

And I still have a coffee can filled with vials of mercury. What do I even do with them? Make homemade thermometers for Christmas stocking stuffers?

The bumper and mercury are sitting next to my uncle’s ashes. I’ll need you to remember that for next week’s column.

But one problem at a time. Indy and Willie. What happens to their driver’s licenses? Car insurance? Membership in AAA? Who drives them to church? Who takes them to the doctor? Who takes Willie to CVS for the moisturizer she swears is only sold in their drugstores?

I think we all know a certain columnist who is handling all of that. Don’t we?

Well, rideshares handle church. I do the rest.

And I managed to find Willie’s moisturizer at Target.

She told me I bought the wrong moisturizer.

Even when I pulled out her bottle of moisturizer and held it up next to the Target bottle with the label identical to Willie’s moisturizer.

“It’s different,” she said.

Yeah. That is how Willie rolls.

I’ll take the intransigence on the moisturizer because Willie is an ace at rideshares. She’s like Sophia on The Golden Girls or the grandpa in The Lost Boys or Santa Claus — a super cool senior citizen worrying about her Uber rating.

And she and Indy can drink as much as they want at parties. Which I think means Jell-O shots at Thanksgiving.

Yeah. We’re definitely in need of some Thanksgiving Jell-O shots.

And I’m sure the assisted living has plenty of Jell-O.

Ugh. The assisted living. Listen, if I could avoid it, I would. But Indy and Willie are having more and more trouble living on their own. Now, Willie isn’t having any of this assisted living business.

That’s why I scheduled the tour without telling her.

And why I can tell you it is no easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. I am, at the moment, in more trouble than the time I came home at four in the morning, forgot about that creaky third step, and got caught slipping into bed like I’d been there the whole time.

I want Indy and Willie safely in assisted living, relying upon paid staff for the things they used to do themselves. At the same time, I am kicking my oldest from the nest.

Again with that vacuum so abhorred by nature. I can’t make someone independent without making someone else totally dependent.

So while I’m telling my oldest to find an out-of-state camp to spend the summer, I’m also telling Indy and Willie they’ll never vacation alone again. It’s like hanging with Superman and Bizarro Superman. Jekyll and Hyde. Spy and Spy.

Except, you know, less fun.

Well, wait a minute. If we can make assisted living amusing, maybe we can make Aristotle and his vacuum amusing, too.

Although it probably goes without saying ancient Greek philosophers are a total party. I mean, hello, togas? Have you never seen Animal House?

So Willie and Indy no longer drive. Pass them the Jell-O shots.

My oldest goes to college in two years. Pretty sure they have Jell-O shots in college.

And me. Well, I’ll skip the Jell-O shots.

You know, so nature has that vacuum.

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