Grabbing the aide bar in the passenger seat of the Ford Explorer, she heaved herself in with the help of her daughter. Her hair was done up nicely in a refined, quiet up-do, her shirt an off-brand of “Simply Southern.” We pulled the seat back, giving her more room to breathe. I had been waiting a month for a notification from my intern coordinator as to whether or not I would be shadowing a midwife during my summer in the mountains. Cell reception was not granted, and though I attempted to gain it, it was pretty useless to try. I gave up. Instead of driving the three hours to the city not knowing whether or not I would be shadowing, I decided to do something entirely different.
The Ford was on good terms with the mountains. It hugged the roads and weathered the climbs, and as we pulled away from the trailer and down a steep decline, she gripped the bar while I hoped I wasn’t in trouble. Part of me didn’t even care. I was supposed to be helping people. Shadowing? I didn’t see that helping anyone anytime soon. Instead I drove, listened to the drawl of stories, and sometimes shouting, actively assisting the sound waves across the hearing aids.
We were on a quest for a second series of shots for osteoarthritis therapy. The knees were inflamed again and “Mamma,” as we called her, was in too much pain to skip any appointments. The more I sat, watched, and listened to her humor, the more adamant I became about providing care for her. Yes, I was merely transportation, but when mountain people go through the stress and trauma of finally setting up and having all insurances ‘go through’ to cover their procedure, only to be met with a transportation problem, it is devastating. The stigma against people in the ‘mountain dew belt’ may be somewhat true, but people are still in pain from various ailments. Mamma sure was. But she never complained. Her spunky spirit was like a fog to my ship attempting to discern what lay ahead.
“Christy?” Finally having service I called my coordinator to explain my absence at the midwifery clinic. Passively - but audibly upset - she told me she’d have to ‘sort everything out’ and tell the clinic I wasn’t bothering to come in. Hiding my emotions, I cringed inside. But the cringing wouldn’t go away. I brought Mamma and her daughter somewhere we could eat. I sat quietly. Half of me convincing myself I had been terrible in not following my coordinator’s wishes to the letter and half of me stubborn, believing I did something that was meaningful. Mamma looked over her sandwich at me.
“You’re a sight.” She looked at me, then shifted her gaze to the pretty lilies at our table. “She’s a lovely thing...isn’t she, Angel?” He daughter just smiled, wistfully. I complemented Mamma on her shirt, mostly because I wanted to shift the conversation, but also because there was a bejeweled Eiffel tower gracing it. After bringing her home, she gave me a small, framed print of the tower. Her recollection was perfection.
After the appointment I was still a bit shaken, and though Mamma and her spunk had been quiet, she was happy. We drove home in the twilight on the Hal Rogers Parkway listening to sounds quite forgotten by today’s culture: A sound of raw spirit and vulnerability, sounds of quiet and stillness; communication without words. Commune itself. Mamma never thanked me, and I’m almost glad she didn’t.