Every Christmas brings some type of epiphany to me. This year was no exception. Late Christmas Day evening, I set out for Charlotte to visit my developmentally disabled sister in the nursing home. For some reason, the cold and the looming darkness gave me an eerie feeling about making the trip alone. Even so, I wanted to go, and I left at about 5:15 for my trip. The interstate was busier than I expected. I had my favorite Spotify Christmas playlist blaring on the stereo as I headed east on 85.
As I was crossing the Catawba River, Chris Botti was romancing me with “First Noel,” I got this sinking feeling in my chest. This tug on my heart. Tears filled my eyes as I so longed to see my mother. The bridge crossing the river was one we had crossed so many times before on our trips to Charlotte to shop and have lunch. Once we crossed the bridge, my mom would say, “We are almost to Charlotte.” In an odd way, I could feel her presence in the dark and empty car traveling down the freeway. My uncertainty of being alone, became an opportunity to be with her again. Crazy as it sounds, I believe the lost souls we love are not far away. There is a bridge between us, and we live in a promise that we, too, will all cross to the other side, having no idea when.
As I exited the interstate, the roads were quite desolate and lonely. I passed two homeless people at the South Boulevard intersection begging for sustenance. The woman looked cold. in her frayed toboggan. Her face was red and chapped, her eyes mostly empty. The rest of the trip was empty parking lots and twinkling Christmas lights draping from trees, shrubs, and outlining houses and buildings, and road after road without the usual traffic.
I pulled into the parking lot, and there were a handful of cars. Two men were outside, one standing and smoking and the other hunched in a wheelchair. Fog seemed to blow out of their mouths as they talked in the darkness. I walked to the front door and rang the bell. Another lady in her bathrobe and carrying a cake emerged from the parking lot to wait with me until the door magically opened. Once inside the dark entrance, the lighted halls were visible and staff were pushing carts, while those in wheelchairs were moving down the halls to probably nowhere. I said my “Hello and Merry Christmas” as a nurse looked up at me as I walked by on my way to my sister’s…