The Last Joy Ride

author/source: Kristine M Callahan

Photo Courtesy of Ford EconolineHave you ever been a passenger in a van with no brakes?

One day at the nursing home where my Aunt Rita resided, two feisty staff members (both named Pat), asked me how they could help fulfill my Aunt's dying wish. I told them I thought it would be impossible; “she wants to have clam chowder at the beach”.Photo Courtesy of Eugene Chystiakov

At 87 years old Rita was bed-bound and declining rapidly.

Our first joy ride when I was ten was in Rita’s 1976 Plymouth Duster. Now we had been reduced to joyriding in Rita’s impossible to steer, clunky blue vinyl reclining chair.

Pat conspired to borrow a deluxe geriatric chair from a napping patient. Away we went in the nursing home’s handicapped van. In the back with us was our other Pat, we were heading to her fiancé’s restaurant on the harbor for his famous chowder. It was a perfect plan until we heard Pat yell, “We have a problem, ladies”!

Pat pumped her right foot with no reaction from the brakes. She grabbed the emergency brake to slow us to a stop. This was not one of her pranks. What do we do now? Abort the mission?

Keep going and risk it? Oh yes, risk it we did.

Pat rode that emergency brake across three towns and back again.

We hung on tightly, laughed, cried, and sang our way to the beach. Chef Ralph greeted us with his famous chowder and personally spoon-fed it to Rita. Little did I know; in years to come, Pat’s friendship would help fill the void left by Rita’s passing. With a smile from ear to ear, eyes gleaming like a kid on Christmas morning, Rita got her wish. It was the joy in that ride that made it easier to say goodbye to my aunt, mentor and favorite person in the world.

I was offered a job while riding in the back of that van. I had never worked in health care. Another adventure with no brakes was waiting for me. I stayed on at the nursing home well beyond Rita’s passing. I have been serving seniors professionally ever since. People often ask me how I got into my field, I always say, “a bumpy journey brought me here”.

Thank you to each Pat and of course Ralph, for being a part of this memory imprinted on my soul. Aunt Rita I am grateful for your unwavering support and all that you taught me. I love you.

Till we meet again.

Kristine Callahan CSA CPC CDP