Several years ago, I went with my mother to a ceremony honoring the deceased uber-boss. A mountain in the Hudson Highlands was to be named after him. I took the 8:45am bus from Port Authority and was picked up on Route 17 by Mom in her Prius. I had volunteered to drive both my parents to the event, as my father’s back was giving him mucho discomfort. Though I might earn brownie points in heaven by pushing the good-son altruism envelope, he wisely decided to stay home due to miserableness.
“Would you like me to drive, Mom?” She proved incapable of relinquishing the steering wheel, so I became the designated navigator while she observed the speed limit and less.
This boss, who died just several weeks short of his 98th birthday, had been the prime mover behind the establishment of 4,000-acre nature preserve bordering West Point and the Palisades Interstate Park. The celebrants gathered at the Lodge building for several minutes of muted conviviality, then were bused to the foot of the formerly anonymous ridge. Respectful words were spoken into a light breeze, then a bed sheet was flung aside and an inscribed rock revealed. This was followed by aimless milling, fly-swatting, idle chitchat, and even a couple attempts at crypto-hiking as people wandered to the top of the ridge. One such hiker was my mother who took off up the hill, oblivious to her recent bout with Giant Knee Syndrome. I didn’t realize she had bolted until my gaze wandered and I saw her gimping down the rocky path held up between two strapping gents. Presently, we were herded back onto the school buses and departed the shadow of what will be known in perpetuity as ‘Old Jew Mountain.’
Back at the Lodge we were feted with canapés and video testimonials, a combo designed to simultaneously promote and defuse conversation. Images of gratitude and appreciation were underscored by placid munching. Had all this nonsense occurred at any other time than the most perfect day of the year so far, there might have been an epidemic of crabbiness among the assembled multitude. It was classically gorgeous – cloudless sunshine, seventy-two degrees, and the endless yellow/green froth of the mid-spring forest. The party dissolved around two and I was back in New York by four o’clock.
We pulled up to the bus stop with fifteen minutes to spare.
“Good-bye, Mom.” I gave her a peck. “This was a lovely day.”
“I’ll just wait for the bus,” she said.
“Mother,” I said, “I’m a fifty-eight year-old man. I can wait for the bus by myself. And if by chance one doesn’t come, I can figure it out.”
She let me out and drove away, not because I asked her to, but because she was getting honked at by a line of cars trying use the highway exit ramp.