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Next Time, Make it a House Call
What a way to spend the night, I thought as, in my mother’s silver Honda CRV, we slipped down the barely-visible stretch of highway to my doctor’s office.
For lack of something better to do, I gazed outside. Electric blue twilight wound slyly around silhouettes of majestic oaks and buildings, whose tips rose and fell like the line of a heart monitor as we sped past. For a better look, I pressed my forehead against the glass; its icy touch seemed to mock the streams of heat that gushed from the vents. After the initial shock, I gazed again to the sky, where a silver crescent moon had begun to rise.
A few suspiciously short minutes later, we arrived at the doctor’s office. With deliberate delay I unbuckled my seatbelt, then leapt into the icy wind and thought, Mom’s right. I do need a winter coat.
“That’s strange.” My mother’s remark threw me back to reality. She peeked into the office’s blinded window, then jiggled the doorknob for what I thought must have been the second or third time. The door didn’t budge.
“She’s running late,” she muttered. “Why don’t we wait in the car?”
So we waited, her reading, me playing my pink Nintendo DS. After ten minutes, the doctor still hadn’t arrived.
“I’ll try calling the office,” my mother said. She did so, but, as expected, no one answered. She called again, left a message, and told me, “We’ll wait a little longer. If she isn’t here by five-thirty, we’ll leave.”
When five-thirty came she still hadn’t shown up. So, perplexed, my mother backed out of the parking lot and drove off.
The return journey passed in silence as, once again, I watched the trees waltz to traffic’s gentle whir. Behind them, stars emerged, flickered like crystalline snowflakes against the navy blue sky. The moon, too, shone in full splendor and seemed to guide us as we raced home.
When we’d just about arrived, the air filled with a pathetic rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth: my mother’s ringtone.
“Can you get that, Sandy?” she asked. She dug into her enormous purse, then, eventually, handed me the phone.
“Sandy? This is Dr. Barnes. Did your mother leave a message on my machine a little while ago?”
As quickly as I could I explained.
“Well,” she said, “you do have an appointment tonight, but I have you down for eight o’clock, not five.”
I glanced at my mother, then back. “Maybe we misread it…”
“I could’ve written it wrong. But I really thought I wrote eight…anyway, will I see you later tonight?”
What should I do? I wondered. If I agreed, and my mother didn’t want to return, she would be furiousâ€”maybe not with me, but furious nonetheless.
So I handed her the phone (probably not the safest or wisest thing to do while she was driving, but what choice did I have?).
“Hello,” said my mother. She spoke in dwindled spurts for a moment, then hung up. “Sandy, I asked if we could come another time; I don’t want to drive all the way back tonight. Okay?”
I nodded. Frankly, I didn’t feel like embarking on the dull half-hour trip again either.
When we got home, my mother tossed her coat and purse onto the tattered blue rocking chairâ€”the item nearest the doorâ€”then darted to the kitchen. Once there, she started to sift through decades-old layers of varied documents, many of which had yellowed or crinkled like a wind-swept river with age. Moments later, she found what she was looking for: the sheet where the doctor had scrawled our appointment. “See, Sandy, Dr. Barnes did write five,” she said.
I leaned over for a closer look, then laughed, “Mom, that’s an eight.”
“It is?” She squinted harder. “It looks like a five.”
“Only to you.” But really I couldn’t blame her; her vision was so poor that, even with contacts, she struggled to see things close by.
As I sauntered back into the living room, I wondered if, some lonely day, the same fate would befall me. In that case, I’d be running three hours early to an appointment with a different kind of doctor: a LASIK surgeon.