Monday, March 23 – Zachary and Gina, called Monday morning to see how we were getting along. Gina is in Medical School, at Wayne State in Detroit, and they began to share some of the horrors of Coruna virus that she had heard about from her friends in various hospitals. They were hoping to help us understand how dangerous the virus really was, in the hopes that we would take it more seriously and not go shopping or return to Michigan. The conversation was going well until one of them said, “This virus is so dangerous I expect that soon they will ban all interstate travel.” “WHAT!!??? Do you really think that is going to happen?” Harriet asked,” I mean, do you think we could get stuck in Florida?’ “I’m not totally sure,” Zach answered, “But once everything is shut down, no one will be going anywhere.” “Maybe we should leave for Michigan as soon as possible, because I would rather be at home, in my own house, than to be forced to stay here.” Harriet said.
I could tell that she was very unhappy, and upset about the idea of getting stuck in Florida, so I said, “If they do decide to stop all interstate travel, they would have to give everyone time to get home. And, don’t forget, we could be in Michigan in under twenty-four hours.” But it was too late. Harriet’s mind was fixed on getting home as soon as possible and she wouldn’t have peace in her heart until we were packed up and ready to go.
I tried to convince her that leaving immediately wasn’t necessary. I said that it was up to the governor of each state to decide what to close, and it wasn’t likely that all the governors would decide to shut down interstate travel. “You know that even though Ohio was locked down, the expressways were open and gas stations were remaining open and restaurants had drive through or take out.” Really Harriet,” I said, “Even if a complete shutdown was ordered, they would give us two or three days to drive home to Michigan.” Logic isn’t a strong suit for people suffering with dementia, which is why they say, Don’t Argue – redirect. It didn’t matter if I argued, redirected, or sang a tune, Harriet was not going to be happy until we were out of Florida.
She looked at me and said, “I don’t know Dave, I just have a really strong feeling that we need to get home. Do you think we could leave tonight??” It takes more than a minute for me to be able to shift gears and see what needs to happen, but when she looked at me, I saw fear in her eyes. So, even though I really wanted to stay until after Easter, I could see that it would be nothing but torment for her. “I think we still have too much to do to leave tonight.” I answered. “I suppose if everything goes well, we could possibly get out of here by tomorrow afternoon.”
She let out a sigh of relief and a smile crossed her face. “Great,” she said, “Then let’s get to work!”
Harriet set to work cooking the ribs and chicken legs, which were supposed to be for meals later in the week, but now would be our dinner on the road the next day. While she was busy with that, I finished sorting and cleaning the laundry room. When that was finished, I loaded up the car with the donations for the Good Will. We had decided to drive straight through and so, after I had dropped off the things at the Good Will, I had gone to Walmart and bought a foam mattress for the back of the van and four large totes to load up and strap to the top of the van.
We worked until sometime between ten and eleven that evening. We were both exhausted, but as I lay in bed taking inventory of what was left to do, I couldn’t see how we were going to make the Tuesday afternoon deadline. I had planned on getting the yard cleaned up, but that was no longer possible. However, there was still quite a bit of cleaning to do, luggage to pack and a car to load.
Tuesday, March 24 – Tuesday was a bright, sunny, beautiful day. Florida has some of the most beautiful blue skies and today it was spectacular. We had breakfast on the patio, which overlooks the lake. After breakfast I got to work sorting, throwing away and relocating the things in the master bedroom closet. There was a stack of cards from Mom and Dad’s Seventieth Anniversary Party. Most of those were moved to a box of cards that were in the Christmas/Easter/Valentine’s Day/Halloween closet in the guest bedroom. There were also things to sort in the dressers, under the bed, and in the clothes hamper. Harriet had washed the sheets and, after the beds were made, I swept the floors, and the bedrooms were finished.
Shortly after lunch Debbie and Chad stopped for a visit, but mainly to say goodbye. Chad has been in poor health for years and Debbie was being very careful to keep him safe from the Corona virus. Because of this, they didn’t come into the house but tried to maintain the six-foot social distance.
After Chad and Debbie left, I started loading the totes and putting them on top of the car. Some of the totes were too heavy to lift that high, so I had to unpack them, put the boxes on the rack and repack. After they were packed and in place, I tied them down with ropes. Once the totes were securely tied to the luggage rack, I put the foam mattress in the back of the van. Here is where I made a mistake packing because instead of folding the mattress lengthwise and putting the boxes beside the mattress, I put the boxes on top of the foam mattress. Something that would come to haunt me later.
My sister Carol and her daughter Melissa, husband Raphael and their daughter Liliana came over to say goodbye. Because Melissa was there Carol was on her best behavior, and so instead of hugs and kisses, we all kept our social distance and sat out on the patio. We offered them drinks and snacks, but the new protocol demands that you always answer ‘no thanks’, because to accept food and drinks would put you in a vulnerable place. Remember when everything was sunny, healthy and free? Back then, People would comment that some food or drink was good enough “to die for.” I always knew that they didn’t mean it. After about an hour they decided it was time to take off and after some kisses thrown and air hugs they were gone.
While I finished packing the car, Harriet cleaned the bathroom and kitchen. Once everything was in the car, we had dinner, which was the ribs and chicken Harriet made the day before. After dinner I packed the patio furniture and grill putting them in the Florida room and swept the living room floors. By this time, it was 11:00 pm and I was feeling tired.
“Why don’t we go to bed, sleep for a while and leave early in the morning?” I asked Harriet. The look on her face was one of fear and confusion. “NO! I mean, we need to get out of Florida as quickly as possible. If we go to bed, I won’t be able to sleep anyway, I haven’t slept well since we got to Florida. Tell you what, I’ll drive the first part and you can sleep and if I get tired, I’ll pull into a rest area.”
“Okay, if you want to get out of here that badly, then you drive, and I’ll rest.” I said. Even though Harriet passed the driving test I was not completely comfortable with her driving. As long as everything went smoothly, she could drive as well as anyone else, but if she got confused, I wasn’t sure what might happen. What is mean is, when she gets confused about where she is or where she should go, she is likely to stop the car in the middle of the road. Not a good thing to do on the express way.
It was 11:30 pm by the time we were on the road heading north. Right away Harriet made me concerned about her driving. The entrance to I -75, off Luckett Road, is the lane that becomes the EXIT ONLY for West Palm Beach Boulevard. Harriet was going about 45 miles an hour and wouldn’t speed up and merge but continued going 45 and staying in the exit lane. When I said something about speeding up and moving over, she was immediately offended. But, despite what I said, she continued driving slowly in the exit lane. Finally, she decided that she should get up to speed and out of the exit lane. Once Harriet got up to speed everything went fine. Traffic was light and we were making great time.
Wednesday, March 25 – Harriet drove until we needed to use the bathroom and get a bite to eat. She took the exit for Ocala and drove to a truck stop that had a Steak and Shake that was open 24 hours a day. The Steak and Shake was open for Take-out only All of the booths had police tape across them. We took our food out to the car and enjoyed it immensely. Why is it that food tastes so wonderful at 3:30 in the morning?
We were back on the road by four, I was driving, Harriet was sleeping in the back with Daisy. I set the radio speakers so that they only played in the front and drove down the road singing along with all the hits of the fifties and sixties. I had Gatorade, pretzels, cracker jack, and other treats beside me, so if I started feeling sleepy these crunchy treats would help me stay alert and awake. It was not long before we passed the Welcome to Georgia sign. I thought that Harriet could relax because we were finally out of Florida.
The sunrise that morning was beautiful with orange, yellow and red bands of light that shone brightly against the purple, and azure sky. After sleeping three and a half or four hours, Harriet woke up and wanted to stop for coffee. I promised to pull off for the next McDonalds because Harriet likes both their oatmeal and their coffee. Plus, Harriet believes that McDonalds has the cleanest bathrooms on the expressway. We went inside to use the restrooms and to order breakfast.
After eating breakfast, taking Daisy for a walk, and cleaning the litter out of the car, we were back on the road. Harriet was driving and I was in the back. I fell asleep quickly but was not asleep long before the boxes, luggage, and bags, that were beside me began falling on my head. Talk about a rude awakening. I was Mad Right Now!! Since the things had ridden along nicely, until Harriet began driving, I knew immediately who to blame. It is never a good plan to yell at, blame or attempt to argue with someone who has dementia.” Now David,” Harriet responded, “I am not driving badly, it must be these stupid Georgia roads. They really slope from the center and it’s making everything lean to the right.” Don’t you hate logic when you first wake up? I quickly shoved, stuffed, and jammed everything back into place and fell asleep once again.
I’m not sure how long I slept before suitcases, boxes, and other loose things came crashing down on my head AGAIN. My response must have been really bad, (I remember throwing some things around a bit) because Daisy was frantically trying to get over the center console and into the front seat. I tried to calm Daisy down and repack the errant luggage. While Harriet drove, I repacked the luggage in the car. I moved everything over to the sleeping side, rolled the mattress in half, lengthwise, and put all the boxes, totes, and luggage directly on the floor. Once back in place the pressure from the mattress held everything against the outside wall. Once that was taken care of Daisy and I slept until lunchtime.
We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch. They had limited menu, but if I can get catfish and Harriet get Chicken Tenders, we are both happy. Harriet went inside to order while I took Daisy for a walk around the building. For some reason, after the walk, Daisy was not too eager to get back into the van. When the food came, we ate with relish, even though there was some confusion and I got a lot more food, sides and such, than I ordered. It was all good.
As I drove through Atlanta, I could not help but notice that, even though it was the middle of the day, traffic was extremely light. This pandemic makes everything feel weird. From buying take out at Cracker Barrell to no traffic in Atlanta, this trip felt odd, and not in a good way.
Harriet was in the back reading or sleeping and we had no other problems with the luggage. As we passed by Rocky Top, Tennessee I quietly sang Rocky Top to myself, something we usually did together. Like I said, because of the Corunna Virus, this trip was sadly strange. My plan was to drive somewhere in Tennessee or Kentucky and stop for dinner. Have Harriet drive for a couple of hours and then I would take over just before we got to Cincinnati, that way, she would be driving in the lighter traffic and I would drive in city traffic. However, that is not the way it worked out.
I drove until we were close to Lexington, Kentucky, and realized that not even crunchy treats would help my driving. I was driving like someone who had way too much to drink. I couldn’t seem to stay in my lane and was weaving all over the road. I pulled off the express way and into a truck stop. “I can’t drive any further.” I told Harriet. “Let’s check into that motel over there,” I said, pointing to the Days Inn. “That’s too dangerous, I cannot stay in any motel with this virus around.” she said. “You sleep in the back and I’ll drive for a couple of hours. When you wake up you can drive the rest of the way home.” “Okay,” I answered’ “Wake me up before we get to Cincinnati, and I’ll drive from there.” I crawled in the back and fell asleep so quickly that I do not remember leaving the truck stop.
When I woke up it was dark out and we just outside of Toledo, Ohio. “Hey, you drove a long way,” I said. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing fine.” Harriet said.
“We’re only about forty-five minutes to an hour from home. Are you okay to drive that much further, or do you want me to take over?”
“I can do this. I’m wide awake, and I feel the best I have for the past couple of days. Do you want me to pull off so you can drive?”
“Hey, if you’re good I’m good, with you taking us all the way home.”
“I couldn’t believe how deeply you were sleeping. I pulled into the gas station, filled the tank, went to the bathroom, and bought snacks, and when I got back in the car you were still snoring away. Usually you would have been awake the minute I got off the expressway. You were dead to the world.”
“You don’t usually buy snacks at a gas station. What did you get?”
“Well, I remembered how when you want to stay awake, while driving, you get something cold to drink and something crunchy to eat. So, I got two bottles of water, Ruffles, and Goldfish. AND, I got you a Gatorade and pretzel rods” She handed the bottle of Gatorade back.
Thursday, March 26 – It was a little after Midnight when we crossed into Michigan. Harriet drove to the Blissfield exit took it and pulled up to the yield sign at the roundabout. “I’m really confused.” Harriet said. Then instead of going right around she took a short-cut to the left. Luckily it was late and there was no traffic in sight. However, at the next roundabout she maneuvered correctly around the island.
The rest of the drive was uneventful, and we pulled into our driveway around 12:40 am. We agreed to unpack the car the next day, and after getting a snack and something to drink we were off to bed.
My next post will cover what has occurred since getting home from Florida.
Thank you for praying for us. Please be sure we are continuing to lift you up in prayer as well.