About 50 years ago, while I was on a grocery shopping trip from the west to the east bank with a 2- and 4-year-old daughter and son along, it began to snow. Heavily and delightfully in the eyes of one unaccustomed to the white stuff. Long story short, I piddled along, taking in the sights on St. Charles Avenue, visiting with my father-in-law at his florist shop, until I reached the Greater New Orleans bridge, took an up-ramp, and heard on the car radio that they were closing it right then. Oops!
Mark and Jill and I spent four hours at the top of the bridge, because their mom, inexperienced in driving in snow, quickly burned out the clutch on the little Ford and had to wait for a policeman to push us down. The kids slept; he relieved himself in a paper cup, she in her diaper; I cried and cussed myself and banged on the steering wheel.
I got to thinking about that when I heard the news that freezing rains would close bridges and overpasses here this week.
Just as sure as I write about freezing weather in New Orleans, things may shift, and bring us the sun with temps in the ‘70s. But as I write this — on Monday — the paper says to expect an icy rain tonight and Tuesday with the probability of more of it on Wednesday.
So my husband and I are grounded. Our daughter has called and politely suggested that we not even think about crossing the Crescent City Connection for any purpose, recreational, social or shopping. She thinks it best, she said, that we STAY AT HOME.
A few years ago I grounded myself insofar as nighttime trips to the east bank are concerned. The Tuckers — my birth family — do not see well in the dark, and I could have expected this genetic disability to catch up with me as I aged. When I ran over a curb in the maze of streets at the end of the CCC’s Tchoupitoulas street down-ramp, I decided it was time to forego movies at the Canal Place theaters except in the daytime.
I’ve also — only a week since — decided that I will no longer make driving excursions at night on the West Bank Expressway. That was after I’d tackled 6 p.m. traffic when coming home from an early movie.
However, deciding these matters for yourself is somehow different from being told of their necessity by a smart-alecky 16-year-old. (For the record, our daughter is decades older than her teens and is not a smart aleck — but still …)
A man who was my editor when I came to work here for The States-Item griped until the end of his years — which were 98 — about his sons’ temerity in insisting when he was in his middle 80s hat he no longer ever occupy the driver’s seat in his car. If we were both invited to the same social gatherings, and many times just for lunch, I’d pick him up and endure for several blocks his grousing about the vehicular constraints imposed by his juniors.
I think it’s less aggravating for an outsider to take away your car keys than for a mere child to do it. In my mother’s case, we “kids” were blameless. Before I arrived to take her home from the hospital after an illness, she had been told by her revered doctor that her career as a driver was over. She quietly surrendered the keys, and my sister arrived the next day to pick up the vehicle, much appreciated by one of her daughters. (I shudder to think what Daddy’s response to being “grounded” would have been had he still been with us. Older women often times are much easier to coexist with than older men, don‘t you think?)
There are other things about which seniors seem to disdain advice from those whom they toilet trained. A very affable cousin of mine, who had been laid-back and agreeable all her life, dug in her heels during an illness and refused to leave her home for assisted living, causing much consternation among three working daughters.
I resolved then and there that I’d behave differently in similar circumstances. But, honestly, I can’t be completely sure my good intentions will survive illness and passing years.
We can’t really know how we’ll react to being grounded until it happens to us, can we?
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her email@example.com.