In Australia, a young boy becomes a man by going on “Walkabout” – an Aborigine rite of passage. The boy strikes out into the Outback, the Australian wilderness. He must survive on his own for several months, armed only with a spear. If he makes it back alive, he has passed the test for becoming a man.
My walkabout was not quite like that but it was also a very special journey. No spear was involved and most of it was by car. So, perhaps it needs to be called a Driveabout.
It began like this: Amanda, the activity director at my brother’s nursing home in Burnsville, told me since he and I were now fully vaccinated, I could at last take him for a car tour. That was something we both loved to do before COVID interfered lo those many months ago. And so began our version of a walkabout. Or, rather, our driveabout.
In the car, we were armed – not with spears – but with a pound of grapes for munchies, a jug of water, paper towels, a large dish towel for a bib and a collapsible wheel chair in the trunk. We were ready for almost everything.
Off we went. Calvin wanted to visit a gazebo we had discovered when he lived in an assisted living apartment in Anoka. He had often said he wished he could see that place again. Now, after two years away from Anoka, he was going to be able to do just that.
The gazebo is set in a tiny park on the shore of the Mississippi alongside a most excellent swing. We sat in the gazebo and watched Ol’ Man River for a while. I sat in the swing for a few minutes. It was just swell, but then the cool breeze off the river began to feel chilly, so we got ready to leave – but not before I placed a small rock in an obscure location to record our visit. We plan to add a rock every time we go there, which we definitely will.
We next made a quick stop at River Oaks apartments, where Calvin had lived before moving to Burnsville. Then we moved on to Coon Rapids where he and his late wife, Audrey, had made their home for years. Health issues forced them to sell. The buyer was a young man. He later wrote a kind letter to thank them for letting him buy their lovely home. The letter was so touching, Calvin said, that “it made Audrey cry.”
The day was truly a sentimental journey for Calvin. The Coon Rapids house was their first and only home where they had raised their three sons. I pulled into the driveway and knocked on the door. It was a Sunday afternoon and the young man was home. I explained who I was and that Calvin was in the car. With that, the young man, Bryan, immediately stepped outside with his mask on and barefoot. I was surprised he didn’t put shoes on. He said, “I’m OK It’s not that cold.” He told Calvin he hadn’t had to make many changes, that the house was in good condition. He said he was soon to marry and planned to raise his family in the home where Calvin had raised his. As we drove away, Calvin was moved by the knowledge that a new young family would be enjoying the home he and Audrey had loved so much.
And, now it was time for some snacks. We were just down the road from Calvin’s favorite McDonald’s. He had hoped his friend, the manager, would be on duty; but no, it was Sunday and she was at home. We ordered two quarter pounders and coffee to take to the car. No eating indoors was their policy. Fine with us, we were prepared with all our supplies. We were very hungry and those burgers really hit the spot.
Calvin leaned back in his seat, heaved a sigh, and said, smiling in the sunshine, “This has been a perfect day.”
And off we went back to Burnsville. I brought his wheelchair to him and helped him into the lobby where he was greeted cheerfully by the nurse on duty. I said, “Do you need me to get you to your room?”
“Oh, no,” he said, “I can take it from here.”
And, after that perfect day, I think we can both “take it from here.”
I drove 255 miles over a 12-hour day. To my amazement, I did not feel tired at any point – during or after our “driveabout.”
In fact, I felt revived – still do.