Actually, that’s a lie. I tried to blog in Memphis, but the hotel we stayed at, Heartbreak Hotel just outside Graceland, only provided internet service on two public computers in their lobby. I guess they figured if Elvis didn’t need internet access, neither do guests.
We were pressed for time and so we didn’t take the official tour of Graceland. My friend, Jenna, provided me with a popup book of Graceland, however, which in many ways is even better than the real thing. Here are two photos of me freezing my ass off at 8:30 a.m. yesterday in front of Graceland. It was about 35 degrees and the wind was blowing hard, but doggone it, there were pansies alive and well in the planter by the sign (mine in PA died weeks ago with the first frost) and I figure if they can stand the cold, so can I.
I’m actually blogging from Bella Vista, Arkansas, this morning. We arrived last night and are staying with Larry’s sister. His other sister lives here, too, but the real reason for our visit is to see his mother, Lillian.
Lillian is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. She hasn’t known anyone for years, but now she isn’t able to walk or speak. She can still swallow, which is often the last motor function to fail. This will not be an easy day for my husband. He tries to tell himself that he said goodbye to her when she didn’t recognize him anymore, but she is still alive, she’s still breathing and existing, and she’s still his mother. How do you say final goodbyes to the living?
The three-day drive out here reminds me of the geography book we studied in fifth grade. It chronicled a family on vacation, driving coast to coast in their big old station wagon in the 1960s. I remember making a topographical map of the United States using paper mache and markers. When Larry and I drove across the Cumberland Gap I about wet my pants I was so excited. “I read about this as a kid!” I told Larry. He looked at me like “How old are you?” He looked at me the same way when I exclaimed, “Hey, there’s a cotton field!” And, “Look! Rice!”
The Mississippi delta in all its flatness reminded me of growing up on the plains. I felt free and open as we drove through it. I could stretch out unconfined. In the hills of western Pennsylvania where I live and all through the Appalachians I feel claustrophobic. They are narrow, and even though they are much bigger than me, I feel my movement restricted, like I have to make myself smaller to move between them. On the plains and in the delta, I can take up as much space as I want to, stretch out between the sky and the ground with plenty of room to spare.