We drive. We drive to experience the sun. We drive to pass the time. We drive so that Lois won’t sit all day. We drive to talk. We drive to while away the time in companionable silence, with no need of words to get in the way.
We are on a wide expanse of hard-packed gravel road west of Summerland, high up in the semi-desert hills of the Okanagan. Pines are spare and lean but tall, very tall. Trees like this can be found in Alberta but not in these numbers, not where I live. Rich carpets of dozens of years of needles lay quiet at their feet. It is fuel for fires. They will come.
But for now, the road is our focus. My focus is easy. Lois is uneasy at the moment. She can no longer see clearly what lies beyond the edges of the gravel. To her, it might as well be a sheer drop – hundreds of feet. It is not. It is a gentle slope a child could roll down, arms flopping about with sheer joyful abandon.
We drive slowly, perhaps 30 kmh. She grips the arm rest. She hisses in a breath.
We’re good, Mom. It’s all good. There’s lots of road on both sides of us. Would you like to get out and walk a bit?
No, she says, not today.
She is tired. Every day she is a little more tired. Even though all we do today is drive – and 99% of it is fully relaxed with no nerves about cliffs – she will rest tomorrow. She will nap more than usual. We are at the point where a simple drive is good, it is welcome, and it leaves her weary.
It can be incremental, this cancer business. However it arrives, slowly or quickly, it moves in methodical steps and eventually it sounds a horrifying fanfare that heralds the end. It exhausts slowly, slowly, and then quickly.
Mom’s cancer showed up in spots of blood in her stool: an occasional spot now and again, and then more. Soon there were still more but Lois decided that they might not be important. She waited too long. She denied it for too long. It was slow. And then it was not.
We walked and we drove. And then we did not.