Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Spots of time


My mom came to town last week for her 80th birthday. She’s anxious on planes these days, so my sister, Judy, came with her, like always, and we lined up a few things to do that we thought they’d like. It’s not easy to entertain an 80-year-old lady with a portable oxygen concentrator (she’s had emphysema for the last few years), but we did our best.

On her birthday Sunday, we piled her into the car along with a wheelchair we had rented, and took her on one of our favorite local hikes. Three and a half miles along the middle fork of the American River.

Foolhardy? It seemed like it at first, as I tried to keep her from careering downhill from the parking lot on the rough, rocky drive. I suppose the gate at the trail head would have stopped her, but you never know. Managed, somehow, but then the trail leveled out and the four of us eased into a steady pace on the crushed gravel. It wasn’t hard to push the chair on that stuff, luckily, though Mom’s ride seemed a little jarring now and then. She was a good sport about it, fiddling sometimes with her smartphone to snap a picture of the gorgeously sunlit canyon with the river swimming along below. She kept showing her photos to Judy and asking if she got the picture, and Judy said if you meant to take a picture of your knees you did. Judy got some good shots for her instead.

At the picnic tables almost a couple of miles in, we had blueberry muffins from a local bakery and washed them down with Capri Suns from our backpack. The dog sat under the table and got his share from my wife, who was talking about the longevity of some of the great movie actresses from the past, like Bette Davis and Lauren Bacall. (Sue’s a real movie buff.) You’re doing as well as them, she said to my mom, who recounted again the time she packed all us kids up into the car when my dad hadn’t come home for dinner and took us to the drive-in to see Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte. She wanted to stick it to Dad, and it worked. He was stunned to ramble in around nine to find nobody home.

On the way back, people were giving us the most tender looks — a middle-aged man pushing an elderly lady with an oxygen concentrator in her lap in a wheelchair on a just-traversable trail. Everyone said hi. Some people were almost too eager to engage, and I chalk it up to a little bit of anxiety over their own aging parents, or how fast time goes in life. But it doesn’t go so fast that you can’t plan a few nice things and try something out of the ordinary to make a loved one happy for a while.

Monday, we took Mom on a Lake Tahoe cruise, hoisted her up to the top deck and wrapped her in a thick wool blanket so she’d be comfortable in the breeze. We had to be up there, because only there could you see the lake and the mountains and the sky in their entirety, and it was all so blue and crisp and expansive and magnificent that we all agreed it was worth being just a little chilly.

Mom fiddled with her smartphone and took some pictures of the table legs.

15 comments on “Spots of time

  1. John W. Howell
    October 8, 2015

    Good times. These are the moments worth sharing. Thanks.

  2. Lynn Brennan
    October 8, 2015

    Aww. Can’t wait to see the pictures of her knees!

  3. MacNutt
    October 8, 2015

    Nice story. I grinned all the way through!

  4. kingmidget
    October 8, 2015

    My mom turned 80 on Monday. The last few years my brother and I have made a point if spending a day with her. A couple of years ago it was an eight mile hike on a dirt trail in Pt. Reyes. This year it was a couple of miles on a paved trail near home. It was nice, but a stark reminder of the passage of time and I always wonder why we didn’t make a point of doing this years ago.

    Regarding the people saying hello and engaging, I think part of it is that they are enjoying the moment so much they want to share it with others who are too. When I’m on my hikes I find myself more interested in talking with people I meet than I do in other situations. But, yes, there is also something about respecting those people who have made an extra effort to get out there and experience the beauty of the world.

    I’m glad for you that you got this time with your mother. Precious moments.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 8, 2015

      Thanks, Mark. It was incredibly special, more so because it’s not the kind of thing my mom is accustomed to doing. That she was game spoke volumes…

  5. sknicholls
    October 8, 2015

    I hope my sons grow up to be like you 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 8, 2015

      OMG, that’s just about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me! 😘

  6. Phillip McCollum
    October 9, 2015

    What an excellent birthday present, Kevin. Those photos of table legs and knees will be all that more memorable.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 9, 2015

      We’re still laughing over the video tour she made of our new house. I’m sure we’ll be watching it annually!

  7. cinthiaritchie
    October 10, 2015

    I love this! My mom turned 80 last year and we all flew back to PA to celebrate, except with our family dynamics, our scene was a tad bit different, lol. But a few years before that, my mom came up to Alaska and hiked to Exit Glacier and yes, people were very tender and caring when they encountered her struggling up the trail. It was really a beautiful thing,and thank you for the reminder. Cheers and happy autumn.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 11, 2015

      It’s touching when you see that tenderness in the eyes of strangers out there. It means this thing you did for yourself (and Mom, of course) had an effect on them. Quite unintentionally too.

      Hope your Alaskan autumn isn’t too chilly yet!

  8. 1WriteWay
    October 18, 2015

    What a great story and it made me a little choked up since I was just visiting my mom, who will be 92 later this month. She’s never been a hiker but she used to be able to out-walk me. Not so much now. She worries about her balance, but she lives alone and that’s how she likes it 😉 Too bad your sister deleted the photos of your mom’s knees. They would have made a cute photo album … lol 🙂

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