This week I can bet that I have driven more miles in one week than most people in New Hampshire! It started off with a quick turn around inexpensive Mother's Day weekend to Bethany Beach, Delaware, and ended with a take your breath away University of New Hampshire law graduation ceremony for someone who I quickly realized I had no true understanding of what she was trying to do each and every day for three years.
Last Friday, the four of us hopped in a rental car and took on the 550 miles long drive to Delaware. Mind you, we knew it was a long, long, long drive. Mind you, we also knew that the forecast was for pouring rain the entire time that we would be there. What can you do? Bart reminded us that time together is time together, rain or shine. Some might say you get what you pay for.
Anyway, even with the stormy ocean and high winds, we were determined to relax and take in the ocean air and find a little peace and tranquility. Life really is a box of chocolates. Unexpectedly, our first night we received a call from my family in Toronto to let us know that my favorite aunt was very ill and that we should come to see her immediately.
Well, if we had our passports with us we would have just left the beach and headed directly to Canada. In just another 700 miles we would have been by my aunt’s bedside. Also, if we had the Real ID driver’s licenses those would have permitted us to cross the border, too. Unfortunately, John and I had made the decision to wait to apply for ours because our renewal date for our driver's licenses is this August. Why have to do it all over we thought — bad move.
The only choice we had was to head back to New Hampshire the next morning, yes in the pouring rain still and yes another 550 miles. When the girls were little long car drives were pretty easy really. Now two adults stuck in the small back seat for over a 1,000 miles of driving wasn’t fun at all. If the torrential down pours, traffic and get-the-heck out of my way New Jersey drivers didn’t stop us from getting to see my aunt, nothing would.
We made it back to Londonderry only to turn around once again, with our passports this time, and take on the 10-hour or 578-mile ride. We decided Meredith and John would stay put here, because in just a couple days Meredith would be sworn into the New Hampshire Bar Association Friday and Saturday, graduating from University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord and she still had some last little details to finish up. The way things were going, on this “fun” family break, we decided not to take any chances on at least her not making it back to the states in time.
Mackensie and I tried to get a few hours of sleep and then headed back and out to the rain and more driving.
Well, for all of my whining to you here, the long drive went really well and by that evening we were in my aunt’s hospital room. Just such a helpless feeling to see someone we love in so much pain and there is nothing we can do. My cousin Cathy who is a surgeon and who hardly has left her mom’s side, used the phrase "You walk and chew gum… right?” several times while we were there and that is where our title came from.
You probably know this, but this phrase simply means to do more than one thing at a time. Mackensie and I got a firsthand unexpected education on exactly what socialized medicine is really all about. In my very humble opinion, it’s definitely not what it’s cracked up to be at all! Mackensie, being a nursing student, was really shocked or saddened to see how different the level of care was there compared to here. Hurry up and wait, low security, results that seem to take days tend to be the norm. We’ll talk about my new thoughts and perceptions on socialized health care next week.
Cathy used "walk and chew gum" often as she tried to get other professionals to think outside of the box and to help her mom. Very very sad. God bless the U.S.A. and our health care, even though it is not perfect.
The more I thought about our title and how it pertains to so many things, it made me think about all of our graduates this month and next. God bless each and every one of them, too. Thank goodness we did make it home for Meredith’s ceremonies and I quickly realized that I had absolutely no idea how much “walking and chewing gum” she has had to do the last three years! Boy do we all really take each other for granted, and we so seldom, maybe even more so with those that are closest to us, have any clue as to how they are walking and chewing gum with grace and perseverance every day.
I am so proud to be able to tell you here, my chosen family that is somewhere out there, that I’m so very proud of our daughter Meredith Rose — law school! I can’t even believe I’m typing it to you and she just turned 24-years-old. After listening to the federal court ceremony where she was admitted to the state and federal bar, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that I had no real idea what she was doing and struggling with almost every day to accomplish this. So sad that even with those closest to us, we just don’t really empathize with the level of work and worries that they are going through or have gone through until someone else in a speech or presentation spells it out for us.
I couldn’t wait to use this title from the first time Cathy said it, and Mackensie wrote it down, too. I had no idea that by the week’s end it would have an entirely different meaning for me.
I wish I could have taped the speeches that we heard for you to listen to. Professors spoke of the responsibility and duty of being a lawyer to serve others, to help people, to make a difference. Each student took an oath that they will honor this. Each student that I watched with Meredith had found the way to definitely walk and chew gum, so that they could be of service to others.
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry town clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.