***Please note this essay is a snapshot of our routine as of a year ago.***
Every work day begins the same. Mom lives one town over from me and hasn’t been driving for over a year. My routine starts with listening to fifteen minutes of a favorite podcast, usually true crime, human interest, or something science based, on my drive over to her house. The moment I pull up in front of her driveway I quickly switch to a carefully curated playlist on Spotify. Often the music rotates between bands like the Beach Boys or Fleetwood Mac, familiar and beloved songs that I love, but more importantly, that she loves. Some days call for something upbeat and modern, like Beyonce or Maggie Rogers. Music lifts her mood and engages her. It brightens her face and gifts us with a moment of untainted joy.
The speakers pulsate with their audio medicine, dosing us with relief. From time to time she drops her red, quilted gym bag before climbing into the car, and dances. Her flailing and audacious arm movements cause a fit of ugly laughing, the kind reserved for family and close friends. The kind of obnoxious noise that only someone who loves me can tolerate.
On bad days she doesn’t dance.
After she places the red bag at the foot of the passenger seat she climbs in and attempts to buckle up. Usually she can do it herself, but admittedly I don’t always have the patience to let her. We collectively dislike the aggressive beeps of the car when the buckle isn’t inserted quickly enough for its satisfaction.
“Are you ready Mom? Are you? Are you ready for this?” I tease. Then I turn up the volume.
The beat evokes hand gestures and head swaying like I’ve never seen. She points her finger to the beat, at pedestrians and other drivers. She rocks forward, backward, forward, backward. Hands play the drums on the glove box. Her head wiggles in impossible ways and her foot taps out of sync.
I love it.
I imitate whatever dance she’s featuring for the day. I giggle at her, at me, at the wonderful absurdities that happen inside the confines of the Subaru.
On occasion we don’t get out of the car as soon as it’s parked outside of my work. Sometimes the song is too good. Sometimes I want to feed our laughter just a moment longer. And once in a while I would rather stay in the car dancing with her than go to work.
Twenty-eight minutes from my front door to her front door to the entrance of my workplace. I’ve gone through this morning routine many times, both willingly and not. For her, time is a concept no longer grasped with clarity. In her reality those twenty-minutes could be five minutes or they are an hour. To me they are not a measurement of time, but of a chance to shield ourselves from disease and sorrow, frustration and regret. They are twenty-eight minutes in a parallel universe. Twenty-eight measures of freedom, if only for a blink.