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The Passenger Side Door

Posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Dave!"A gentleman always opens the door for a lady." — Grandma Marie

My grandmother worked at a five-and-dime in town. Before each school year she would tell me (and eventually my brother) I that she would buy us a toy OR buy us school supplies. I could be wrong, but I believe I always picked the school supplies. Looking back, I should have taken the toy, because my parents were legally obligated to provide school supplies... but I was responsible at an early age and liked the idea of being able to pick out my own stuff. Posted at the store was a list of supplies required for your grade, and we'd go through the list together until I had everything I needed. Then I'd get to write my name on everything, which was almost like having a toy.

My maternal grandmother was an interesting woman. She was the first of seven sisters (Catholics, amiright?) and had a brother as well. Which meant a significant portion of her life was spent helping to raise her younger siblings. She was there as each of them came into the world... and, remarkably, she would survive long enough to be there as each of them left it. She was loving, kind, honest, hardworking, and made the best apple pie you've ever tasted. I grew very close to her over the course of my time on this earth and was holding her hand when she died. She was one of those people who fills such a huge part of your life that you don't know how to survive without them when they're gone. The gaping wound I suffered after her passing will never heal.

Grandma and Dave
Grandma helping me with my drinking skills during those early years.

When I had sold movie rights for one of the books I had worked on (don't get excited... like most projects in Hollywood, it went absolutely nowhere) I was flying to L.A. once or twice a month to consult on the project. A couple times I took my grandmother with me and flew into San Diego. That way I could drop her at my uncle's house on the way up to L.A. so she could see her other grandkids. On her first trip I rented a convertable because the forecast was amazing in the way that only Southern California summers can be. We had just gotten to the beautiful red machine that would be our ride when I remembered that I had left the paperwork behind. It took me a couple minutes to run and get it, so I was surprised to see that my grandmother was still standing next to it when I got back.

"I'm sorry grandma, I didn't know they had locked it!"

"I don't know if it's locked, I was waiting for you to open the door."

Oops. I had made the grievous error of not opening it for her before leaving. Once I opened the passenger side door and got her settled, I hopped in the driver's seat and said "Do you remember that you were the one who taught me to open a door for a lady?" — "Yes, but apparently I didn't do a very good job!" It was one of those sick burns where she said it as a joke so as not to make her favorite grandchild (=ahem= ME, because I was her first!) feel bad... but she was 100% serious under the surface.

I was fairly young when my grandmother had taught me to always open a door for a lady. In some cases, when the door was heavy, I had to have help. But it was one of those things that became fun for a young child to do, so eventually it stuck. After a while it just got to be habit. A good habit (for once).

It's such a habit that the way that it finally sinks in that a relationship is over is when I go to open the passenger side door for her a couple times... and she's not there.

After a particularly brutal heartbreak I went to the passenger side door as I had a hundred times before... once again remembered that she had broke up with me... and broke down in tears in the JC Penny's parking lot.

But even worse than that, of course, was after my mom had to leave. I went to open the passenger side door after taking her to the hospital and being told she couldn't come home again. I went to open the passenger side door when I would visit her. I went to open the passenger side door after dropping her off at the care facility where she'd live out the rest of her days. I was always opening the door for her in the years I was taking care of her and didn't know how to stop.

Last night I went to open the passenger side door for her after picking up a prescription at the pharmacy. I don't know why. She's been gone for over two years. Any time I had to go out I would take her with me to get her out of the house and we made many, many runs to the pharmacy for her medications. So maybe something in my brain got crossed and I thought the pharmacy run was for her? No idea.

After I moved mom out of my house, my brain kinda broke down. I had been taking care of her for so long that I didn't quite know what I should be doing with myself once she was gone. It's quite possible that I never recovered fully. It's quite probable that I never recovered fully. And so I suppose things like this are going to happen.

Which sucks in some ways... but is kinda profound in others. I am so very lucky to have had the privilege of opening doors for these two amazing ladies in my life.

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