… Or Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes or Columbo or Ellery Queen. Fill in the blank with your favorite detective.
On a recent weekend excursion my mom knew that we would be near a place that was important to her and she wanted to hit it on the way back. She wrote the name of the town on a piece of paper and showed it to me. I asked her if she would be able to find the specific place in town. She said, “I hope so.”
My mom has dementia and communication is always a challenge. She still at this point knows what is it she wants to say, but she can no longer always get the words to say it. It’s beyond frustrating for her, as well as for me, who wants to help, but is not always aware of the context. It’s like trying to do a crossword puzzle in a language you are only slightly familiar with. But I like puzzles, so I was happy to give it a shot. Maybe all those years of reading Agatha Christies, John D. McDonalds and Lawrence Blocks would finally pay off as I attempt to unravel this latest mystery.
In the ’90s she was a very active member in her local historical society and instrumental in helping to preserve many local buildings and sites, as well as having historical markers erected. She had talked every once in a while about wanting to go visit one of her “things,” so I was pretty sure that was what we would be on the lookout for.
So as we were driving back home, I tried my best to find where I think it was that she wanted to go. I remembered on a previous trip about a month ago when we were driving through a quaint shopping district that she had wanted to stop. But as we circled around, looking for parking, it was clear that would be impossible. It was getting late, so I had promised that next time we were in the area we’d come back. I was sure she was referring to this trip and one of her markers. The only problem was that I am still unfamiliar with the area, as my daughter and I just moved here last summer, so I would have to figure out how to find not only the marker, but the street in the shopping district, as my mom wouldn’t be able to direct me. But we both love an adventure.
Luckily Florida is mostly a rectangle, so if you drive in one direction long enough you will either be driving towards or away from water, and I knew this was on the ocean side. I got us to the town in question, but at a major intersection I could go north or south. I decided to bet on north, and luckily, after about ten or twelve intersections I was rewarded. Both my mom and my daughter in the back seat started to say that things looked familiar. At the next traffic light we all were sure. I found a parking spot after driving a few blocks and we got out and started to check out the shops. It’s a great place for window shopping.
There was a puppy store, plenty of nice restaurants, a cool-looking art supply store. We got to a corner and I was ready to cross the street when my mom said, “Well, that’s that.” “That’s what?” “That was it.” It was the art supply store, which was closed on Sunday. I was floored, because this wasn’t what I was expecting, but I quickly shifted gears and we turned around and picked one of the restaurants for a late lunch.
After lunch we checked out the puppy store, which was open, and I escaped without an overpriced tiny dog, but I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out against the combined puppy love exhibited by my mom and daughter. We got in the car and I headed for home. I was feeling pretty happy with how things worked out. The store wasn’t open, but we managed to find it and now we could go back when it was. I know the location and a way to make my mom happy.
As I drove out of the shopping district I heard from the back seat, “Oh!” “What?” “I thought you were going to stop.” “Where?” At one of those things that I did.” Wait a minute … “You mean a historical marker?” “Yes.” I was floored. Again. Had I been right all along? Was that her original objective? Or were there two? Is this just proof that as “right” as I may get what she is trying to say, I will always miss something? But I just smiled and enjoyed the irony. After all, we’ll be going back.