It was 6 o’clock in the morning. The sun was eagerly making its way into the sky, and we were moving equally as fast to get out on the open road. We had a 10-hour trip to Orlando ahead of us, and there wasn’t a second to waste.
Nana climbed up into my RAV4 (with a teensy little boost from yours truly), and I threw her 3-wheeled walker into the backseat.
“Got everything?” I asked as I cranked the car.
“If not, we’ll buy it when we get there,” said Nana as she put on her sunglasses and ripped open her fresh bag of Cheetos.
I reversed out of the driveway and began to think aloud about our plans for the next few days – “We’ll get there late this afternoon, so we should have time for dinner with Ashley and her crew.”
Ashley is my cousin who just had her second baby – a little boy who I was taking my Nana to meet.
“And then tomorrow I need to go for a run, but you can sleep in and maybe we can meet them for brunch and if we have time go to one of the Disney parks and…”
Nana cut me off before we even made it to the interstate.
“Have you heard of audiobooks?” she asked, as though I wasn’t right in the middle of a sentence. As though I wasn’t speaking at all.
“Ummm.. yes, Nana. I have heard of audiobooks.”
“Maybe you could put one on. I’m not listening to you talk the entire way to Orlando.”
……so much for quality time.
I opened my app and put on the preview of an audio book I’ve been wanting to listen to. “I don’t like this man’s voice,” said Nana a few sentences in. “What else ya got?”
I tried seven or eight others before we (and by ‘we’, I mean ‘she’) concluded that no one’s voice but Nana’s would do to pass the 10-hour drive.
She began to tell me stories about her childhood. And then my dad’s childhood. And then hers again. And then she told me about my Pappy – her late husband – and how he had proposed to her.
They were on their way to go dancing with friends. He was driving, she was in the passenger seat, and there was another couple in the backseat. Nana and Pappy weren’t seeing each other – just good friends. In fact, Nana had a date scheduled for the following evening with another man.
She was a flight attendant and would be leaving soon to go back to work. Before she and Pappy (and their friends in the backseat) exited the vehicle, Pappy asked Nana if she wanted to get married. He said if she agreed, there was a ring waiting for her in the glove compartment.
“Why not?” she said, and put the ring on her finger.
When she canceled her date with the other man the following day (I don’t know his name but we’ll call him Theodore which is definitely not it), Theodore said, “Peggy (that’s Nana's name to other people), when I asked you out, you said you weren’t seeing anybody.”
“Well,” Nana responded as she waved her hand around displaying her new ring, “when you asked me out, I wasn’t.”
And the rest is history.
Pappy was a pilot, and he and Nana flew all over the country in his little puddle-jumper. She loved him deeply, and he was her world. They would’ve been married for a billion years and a day if he hadn’t been taken from this life too soon.
Nana continued to tell me stories for the entire ride to Orlando.
(And she had been worried about ME talking too much.)
But it wasn’t too much. I enjoyed every second of it.
We had an incredible trip. We spent lots of time with family, stayed in a gorgeous hotel that my cousin hooked us up with, and laughed until our sides hurt.
On our final day, Nana wanted to go to Epcot so we could have margaritas in Mexico. Because if you don’t have margaritas in Mexico with your grandmother, are you really living?
We rented her a wheelchair, so she didn’t have to push her walker around the world. It started STORMING the moment I pushed her chair through the gate. Like the rain was coming down heavily and horizontally. I ran us into the nearest gift shop, which was of course packed with wet, frustrated park-goers whose evenings looked to be ruined.
“According to the radar, this isn’t passing until 10 p.m.,” said a lady next to us. “I bet they don’t even do the fireworks tonight.” It was early evening, and we had just arrived. We couldn’t just turn around and go back to our hotel.
“Well, I guess we’re going to need some ponchos,” said Nana, as she got out her wallet.
I smiled at the realization that we were on the same page. We were taking on Epcot during the thunderstorm.
We bought two extremely over-priced ponchos. They were really just oversized Kroger bags with Mickey Mouse printed on the back of them, but we didn’t care. We were getting those margaritas.
Nana tucked into a tiny ball on the seat of her wheelchair, completely engulfed in her over-sized Kroger bag. She looked like a little hedgehog when they curl up as a defense against predators. I threw my poncho on and sprinted as best I could as I pushed Nana through the storm to try and make it to the next nearest country. It happened to be England.
We forced our way into the crowded pub. There was no way we would make it across the world to Mexico in this weather. It was getting later in the night, and I was losing hope. It appeared as though this would be as good as it got for our evening in Epcot.
We did have one tool working in our favor – when you're pushing your soaking wet Nana in a wheelchair, people are more inclined to clear a path for you. Nana and I had no trouble scooting our way through the masses over to the jam-packed bar.
The bartender looked at us like we were lost. “I need two margaritas.” I yelled over the chatty crowd. (a totally natural thing to order in an English pub). He looked a Nana and smiled, “Coming right up!”
We never made it to Mexico, but the rain did stop just before the fireworks were scheduled to blast into the night sky. I wheeled Nana over to the waterfront as the music began to blare through the overhead speakers and the sky was filled with light and color. She began to cry.
I looked at her face, as she stared up at the spectacle. I could see the fireworks reflecting in her tear-filled eyes. For a moment, the whole world stood still. I didn’t hear the music or the roaring bursts in the sky anymore. I forgot anyone else was around us. And I wanted to remember everything about that little window of time.
I closed my eyes and tried to take it all in. Just for a second. The sounds, the smell of the rain, the colors of the lights – and Nana. Sitting in her wheelchair soaking wet, poncho hood still covering her head, gazing up at the fireworks with wonder.
"I want to remember this moment for my whole life,” I thought to myself.
And I took a little photo in my mind. There are other times I have done this. When my husband proposed (also during a thunderstorm). When we got lost and ended up watching the sun set over Giant’s Causeway off the coast of Northern Ireland. When my dad looked at me and said, “You ready?” just before he walked me down the aisle. When I had to tell my Aunt Jean goodbye for the last time.
It’s important to stop and remember moments. The words said, the colors around you, the sounds, the smells, the feelings, and most importantly the people. Life happens so fast. But if you stop for just a moment and intentionally take it all in – really make time stand still – I think you can hold onto that moment and look back at it whenever you want.
Also, if you ever have the opportunity to have margaritas with your Nana in an English pub, I highly recommend it.