When a friend asked me recently to drive her to the hospital where she was about to begin a stint as a nursing student, I hesitated. My initial reluctance wasn’t prompted by concerns that I’d get to the office later than planned or that I’d find myself in the midst of the morning rush hour—and that I crawl from my bed at the crack of dawn should give you some idea of how much I do not want to get stuck in rush-hour traffic. I’ll admit that I pondered for a moment these possible consequences of the detour, but the deliberation was simply me being me: weighing the pros and cons is instinctive. It was something else that made me pause, and for longer than I normally would have. The hospital in question was the one in which my mother spent the last month of her life, and the drive ahead of me was one I’d come to dread over the course of that month. Moreover, that month ended when Mum passed away not long ago, and I’m still adjusting—very slowly—to a world without her in it. So I hesitated.
I hadn’t minded the drive to the hospital at first. I was keen to visit and spend time with Mum every day. But every day that I drove to the hospital meant that we were one day closer to the day I wouldn’t have to drive to the hospital anymore. I couldn’t know when that day would come, but I knew there weren’t many days left. Eventually, it became harder to get behind the wheel and drive that route. And not wanting to go to the hospital made me feel guilty: only a monster would balk at visiting his mother in hospital. I finally let myself off the hook the day I decided that not wanting to see Mum in that context was normal and that it was okay to not want to go, and even to want not to go, provided I went.
I did drive my friend to the hospital that morning, mentally ticking off various landmarks along the way—individual trees, buildings, and intersections that had come over that month to mean that I was getting closer to the hospital. Soon we were there, and then I was alone in the car. Not wanting to think about where I was, I focused all my attention on one thing: how the heck do I get to work from here? I’d have had to backtrack to get to anywhere along my normal route. I wasn’t lost—I was on ground that was only too familiar—but I’d driven only from work or home to the hospital and not from the hospital to work. What was the best route? The fastest, the least traffic-jammed? I decided to ask the genie in my cellphone. The route my phone proposed would lead me through neighbourhoods that were almost completely new to me, as were the streets along which I would drive. Oh, well, I thought, nothing ventured….
I got to work only a few minutes later than usual—and in a wonderful, uplifted mood. My unexpected drive had shown me my city anew—new views, new parks, new avenues and boulevards, new places to come back to and explore. The heavenly special-effects department had even kicked in its two cents, the day abruptly going from cloudy to sunlit as I drove. It was the sort of experience I used to look forward to telling Mum about later in the day. I miss being able to do that—but it makes me smile to think that she already knew all about it.
Murray Lewis, Editor-in-Chief