Every other year I have this “baby-sitting” gig. It's a big job and tougher than one might think but I'm happy to do it.
My two charges are in their mid-70s. One has a newish hip with a tendency to fall and the other has two bad knees.
They are my mother and her best friend.
My mother’s best friend, Dolly, is a wonderful British woman who swings through the states every other year, as she makes her trip halfway around the world back to Sydney. When she stays, she stays for 6-8 weeks on average. Not with me but with my mom and dad. To say they have fun with each other is an understatement. We love it!
And every time she visits, they ask me to take them into the city. It's a very short Metra commute from where I live and it’s easy.
So what makes this challenging you ask?
They are unsteady on their feet. They drink a lot of wine. They have an agenda. A dangerous combination but that’s why I’m there. Did I mention it’s a full day affair?
At one moment I’ll be walking with them, side-by-side, listening to their funny stories. The next thing I realize, I’m almost a block ahead of them. I walk back.
The day before New Year Eve, two years ago, was the chosen day. The city was crowded. Mom and Dolly ate, drank and shopped their way around Chicago.
Getting them back to Union Station for the trip home was like culling a cattle herd of two. We had a specific train to catch and, at the rate we were moving, we needed to pick up the pace to even have a chance of making it. It became obvious that wasn't going to happen so they sat and had another glass of wine.
Successfully seated on the next train 45 minutes later, I took a deep breath. We made it. I phoned ahead to my son for a pick up on the other end. We only live two streets from the village train station but I didn’t want to take the chance of walking them up the hill to my house in the dark.
As always, I forewarned them not to get too cozy as departing the train is tricky (for them) and our station comes up fast. Be prepared to exit BEFORE it stops. They’ve heard the speech before.
The conductor called out “Next stop Western Springs. Western Springs.”
“Ok, ladies. Let’s start wrapping things up.”
“Hiiiinsdale. Next stop is Hinsdale.”
“Up, up! Time to get to the door now. Remember, one stop ahead.”
They were not prepared. My mom was putting on fresh lipstick. Dolly was looking through her packages.
“Now. We need to go NOW!”
Pulling into town, I saw our car at the curb through the train's window.
I couldn’t get them to the door in time and as we descended the stairs, the doors began to close. As the doors were closing, my mother stuck her hand between them as if they were elevator doors sensored to open.
The doors closed on the palm of her hand, wrist on the inside, fingers AND PURSE on the outside.
Then my phone rang.
“You guys didn’t get off. There’s a purse swinging outside the train door.”
“Honey, I gotta go. Pick us up at the next stop! MOTHER! Why did you do that?
“I thought it would open if I stuck my hand in.”
“It doesn’t work that way. Is your hand okay? Does it hurt?”
“No. My purse is just getting heavy out there because the train is moving fast.”
“Drop it if you have to.” It weighs a ton.
“I am NOT letting go of this thing. All my stuff is in it and my good ring is out there, too.”
Once I realized she was ok; she wasn’t hurt. The only thing I could do was sit on the stairs, place my face in my hands and laugh hysterically. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as my mom hung on.
Arriving in the next town, we stepped off the train laughing, as people who’d just had a lovely day together would. No harm, no foul.
And as we drove home, I whispered to my son, “Thanks for picking us up. That was grandma’s purse swinging outside the train. Best not to tell grandpa.”
After the last time, I wasn’t so sure I could handle them anymore. So it was with great trepidation that I agreed again this Holiday season and accepted the gig. Things went off without a hitch. I did a good and safe job with everyone arriving home in one piece including their belongings.
It's sort of a "circle of life" thing. I hope I have a qualified baby-sitter when I'm their age.