Falling from Grace:  a Fumbling Attempt to Keep my Mother from Driving
or When Children Become Adults

The day before my departure back to Berlin, Germany, where I live, a friend's son came to load up my mother’s battery-dead Volvo onto his trailer. This happened while I was with my mother at Sunday services. When we arrived home I parked the Toyota in the garage as usual. My mother failed to notice the empty space next to the Toyota. My father’s two aids and I were delighted; one more day of peace--one more day of my mother remaining blissfully ignorant of our conspiracy to silently remove her two cars out from under her.

Life is easier without the wrathful scorn of my mother. She is actually a very caring and compassionate person, and has the rare skill of being able to see life from multiple perspectives - that is, if you do not cross her ultimate boundaries of control. These areas include: property, money and helpless animals. If you on some fateful day cross one of these boundaries, you will be set straight quickly and efficiently. You will be sent from the premises and authorities will be called. You will regret the day you went one step too far.

This is precisely what happened to me on that fateful day when I removed her second piece of motorized property: the Toyota Priaz. In a practical, yet cowardly way, I had waited until the very last moment before my departure, to remove the Toyota and deposit it in a friend’s driveway a few miles away. The friend then drove me back to my parent’s house, just in time to grab my luggage and jump into my uncle’s car, which would whisk me off to the airport. If all went as planned, my escape would be quick, and she would only discover hours, or even days later that the cars were even missing. If it were days later, perhaps she wouldn’t even connect me to the missing cars. 

She had it in her mind, however, that she would be taking me to the airport. She therefore went out to the garage, purse in hand, only to discover an empty garage! News traveled fast. The aid’s word got to me first: "she’s knows that both cars are gone!“
I rushed to get the last of the luggage out the front door, but there was not time enough; she intercepted my escape. 
„Where are my cars?,“ she demanded with full fire. Her eyes were like darts penetrating me. „You are not leaving until you tell me where the cars are!"
„They are in the shop,“ I replied meagerly, trying to be nonchalant. 
The firestorm of repetitive questions continued unabated. Now I really needed to leave if I were to catch my flight. She wanted to call the police for stolen property. I wanted to get home to Germany. 

My Mother, Angela Rose Erber (center), at her 80th birthday party October 24, 2017.

Her only child had betrayed her - at least, in her mind. I am sorry that she has to experience this pain of betrayal, and from the person she has always trusted most in her life. It must be a horrible experience. I depart the country, fallen from grace. As solace to myself, I imagine her spirit speaking to me after she has passed. Her spirit forgives me, and tells me that she is sorry. She was behaving in the only way that she could at the time. It was the cancer affecting her reasoning and understanding. "I understand now why you did what you did," says her spirit to me. 

I would like to think of myself as brave for taking action, but I feel more like a coward. There must be a more graceful way of keeping my mother from driving - even though she has fought endlessly with doctor after doctor on the topic, always insisting that she is an excellent driver, „always has been“ and is fit to drive. She is determined to continue her life and to keep her independence; such a strong will! But how can you reason with someone that can no longer reason and weigh in the facts? Each and every doctor has informed me that it is my responsibility to keep her from sitting behind the wheel. Although they say she is very likely to experience a stroke or seizure in the not-so-distant future, still no one knows when it will happen and when she will pass.

I am sorry that she may be close to passing, and that this issue is coming between us, tearing us apart. I remember her behind the wheel, taking me to and from school, to my music lessons, and sports practices. I remember her waking up before sunrise to drive a 16-hour day, almost without stopping, on route to Florida. Throughout my childhood I spent many long hours in the car with my mother - typical for Americans - and we shared in many long conversations. Riding in the car seemed to lull us into an almost hypnotic state; we opened up to one another and dreamed together. Riding in the car was peaceful and I knew that everything was okay. When I was a baby my mom would often put me to sleep by driving me around in the car.

Mom, I am sorry to be the one to take away your emblem of freedom and independence. I am sorry that I did not find a more graceful way of doing this. Please forgive me. And please forgive me that I cannot be there as much as you were there for me. When I am home, I am happy to drive you around where you would like to go.

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