This trip was mom‘s last. A trip to the coast.

You don’t know when the last things will be the last. Maybe it’s better that way.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023


At the beach

It’s moments like these…

I’m kicking up a cloud, scrambling to ready for a trip to the beach, close up my house —but not too much because my pets will be here—, water plants, pack clothes, food, my bike…

My phone rings. The farm is calling.


“Is this Pennie?”


“Is this Pennie?”

A little louder so she can hear, “Yes, this is Pennie.”

“This is Martha. Remember me?”

Sometimes it’s hard to know if she’s joking —she still does sometimes— or confused.

“Of course I remember you, Mom,” still loud so she can hear.

I “hear” as her mouth and tongue scramble for the words. She’s not joking. “I don’t think I can… I don’t know…”

She’s always unsure before a trip.

“I’m still packing. I’ll be up to get you as soon as I shower.”


I double up my packing pace. Somewhere I have a list, but I wing most of it. In high school, I took home the Hustle and Desire award twice. When you’re the couch’s daughter, you have to show up double.

I’m still the coach’s daughter.

At her house, I help mom with the last minute things. She might be anxious, but sometimes in these moments, she’s spot on.

“I’m worried about my…. ” she lifts her pant legs and points at her feet.

“You’re right, Mom. I didn’t pack your shoes yet.”

We pull her small suitcase through the house.

Two questions on repeat.

“How long will we be gone?”

“Three nights.”

“Oof,” as if something socked her belly.

“How many?”

She’s asking about the people.

“Four or five of us.”

She loves gatherings, but too many is too many. Four or five is comfortable.

A birthday moment

Today is dad’s birthday. I wanted both mom and dad to come with us to the beach, just spend a couple of nights. I wanted to charter a fishing trip for dad’s birthday. But dad’s not going. Too many things going on.

“Well, if you can’t go, at least let me take mom for a couple of days. That will be your birthday present. A few days to yourself.” I know dad needs a break. Keeping up with mom is hard work.

“That’s the perfect present.” And he means it.

I explain for the fifth or fifteenth time as I pull onto the highway, “Don’t worry. We packed last night. I have your clothes, your toothbrush, your shoes…”

She grabs my hand and shakes it in the air, like a victory shake.

She relaxes for a few moments, but I know the anxious questions will return. I will answer patiently. Every single time. I’m the coach’s daughter.

It doesn’t require many moments before the payoff for patience kicks in. These are the moments I can give her.

Crossing the bridge over the Pearl River basin, she points and declares, “This is beautiful.”

It absolutely is, and this is a beautiful day for a drive.

A moving cluster of west-bound cars and trucks, “Look. All the cars!” She marvels at crowds of any kind, a little horrified if she’s too close to them.

“Yes, lots of people out on this lovely day.”

Here for the moments

The sun, the blue sky, the bright green of the trees, the bridges, these are moments that quicken mom’s mind. Not enough to cure, not enough to last. But for a few moments, she’s sitting above the Alzheimer‘s monster, she’s enjoying life.

The first three days of my semi-vacation will be a lot of hustle, patience, and desire. Mom will get up five or six times each night, turn on lights, brush her teeth three more times. She’ll apologize when I bring her back to bed.

“It’s OK, Mom.” And I mean it, because we’re going to capture a few more moments when the sun comes up.

And dad… Dad can have a few moments to himself as I try on this 24-7 experience with mom’s ALZ river.

We don’t get to hold the good moments in our hands, place them on a mantle for display. Mom won’t remember most of them, unless, in another moment, something wakes it, like on I-10, when she remembered, “We were here not long ago.”

“Yes, a month ago, when we went to Alabama.”

I’m the coach’s daughter. I can’t fix this mess we’re in, but I can give mom and dad moments. like these.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021