Saturday, September 11, 2010

As We Ride Off into the Sunset

It is the land of red and black and people refer to themselves as corn huskers. We are starting to see boots and cowboy hats, elaborately carved belts, turquoise and silver jewelry and people who have spent too much time in the sun. We are headed west.

We are on the first leg of our Colorado trip and we sail down 80 trying to stay ahead of the Iowa State/Iowa craziness outside Iowa City. Dave stopped listening to his beloved Cyclones when they were losing 35-0. Why listen to anything that causes you such irritation? I do not understand the sports obsession.
As a child I always thought the whole state of Iowa was just like the Dubuque area. Rolling hills, stunning bluffs, a strong river running south in a wooded valley, the Driftless Land where glaciers found no foothold to crush and flatten. But no, Iowa is prairies, flatness and wind, endless acres of corn uninterrupted by water or cliff walls. And the land starts to stretch out as we near the Nebraska border like someone is straightening a large linen on a bed frame. The trees are becoming fewer and they are scrubby and dusty. The sky is huge and fills a large half a dome above us and we can see wispy clouds transparent and frothy passing over more solid looking embankments, a strange contrast. And then we cross into Nebraska and the corn is small and completely dry. Large irrigation machines like mammoth spiders creep across the fields. That night the sunset fills the whole sky with pale yellow and mauve and peach extending to even the eastern border.
We had stopped at Subway for our lunch, always my mother's choice. "Your mama's last meal was from Subway," Dad says. I had not heard the story. She wanted a roast beef sandwich but had eaten only two bites, Dad reports. And the sadness enters his eyes and his mouth tightens and he goes somewhere I cannot follow. I have my own such place and that is what I have discovered about grief. We are all sharing this experience but each of us has a unique perspective on my mother's death. Our grief is defined by our experiences, our personalities, our scope of what we have read and heard, what has come before. Her last meal was July 3 and she was hospitalized the next day, Sunday. I was in Michigan, comforted by my sister's report that it would be only a one night stay. Tuesday I was running back to Iowa fueled by my father and brother's conversations of nursing homes and deterioration.
I have never been impressed by Nebraska. It is basically a highway stretching the width of the state with dusty cornfields and empty prairies on either side. Kearney, where we park our car that night, was the site of an Indian fort. People stopped in Kearney in the early days to stave off Indian uprisings or to pack supplies and prepare for the Rockies crossing. Amelia Jenks Bloomer, a suffragette lived in Kearney and in her honor a piece of female underwear was named after her. Is that the best they could do? A few miles from us is Hastings, the home of the Kool-aid museum. Sigh. Tomorrow we will turn south and the land will turn into sunflower fields and then hard, brown soil. It is not a pretty state.
We dine at Red Lobster, another mother choice. She always had coupons. Dad and I order blackened tilapia and Dave, the maple-glazed chicken. And ooh, those cheddar garlic biscuits.

1 comment:

MrDaveyGie said...

You are good for papa.