Growing up, the Welmans were that family. You know, the family that was always late to everything. In our extended family, we frequently arrived at my grandparents’ farm house in the bootheel of Missouri with approximately 40 faces staring at us with hunger in their eyes, as the meal had been held off until our arrival.
I was once late to my own birthday party. During the height of my gymnastics obsession, I opted for a lock-in of sorts at the gym where my friends and I could bounce on trampolines, jump in foam pits, and pretend to be Kim Zmeskal. Instead of flipping on bars or creeping across balance beams though, my friends were waiting in the parking lot for my mom and me, who showed up 30 minutes late.
Many associate tardiness with disrespect of other people’s time, but for us, Mom in particular, we were just incredibly bad at assessing how much time it took to do things, in particular drive in a car from Point A to Point B. Over time, my sister and I took measures in our adulthood to be more punctual. I am now typically oddly early to things and just always have a book on me. My sister changed the clock in her car to be ten minutes fast so she always felt like she had less time than she did to get places.
We also pulled tricks on poor Dolores to ensure we made it to family gatherings on time. The two of us would band together and claim we needed to leave easily 90 minutes earlier than necessary and insist we aim for that because we knew our mom would then be able to arrive on time. Even for a simple day trip to the farm, she would somehow manage to pack four bags of stuff, prepared for a tornado, messy meal, car breakdown, or act of God.
We also were always those people who tried to do everything. We had dance classes, piano classes, gymnastic classes, soccer, theater rehearsals, church and Sunday school, and my mom spent the majority of her life as a single mom functioning as Hoke to our Miss Daisy. When you spend that much time shuffling from one place to another, you tend to be late. When your youngest, spunky redhead of a child also chronically loses things, it inevitably tacks time on when you get out the door. This is why I keep three sets of car and house keys in my car/purse/house and have another four sets spread out amongst friends in Vegas. It sounds crazy, but like Dolores and her chronic tardiness, I knew I was never going to learn how not to lose things, so my solution is to just buy two of everything. Mom, on the other hand, just accepted timeliness wasn’t her thing, as one thing she always hated to do was hurry.
It wasn’t so much that Mom dawdled. She simply took longer than anyone I have ever met to do just about even the most basic of tasks. This is the woman who could take a dine-in meal at Long John Silvers and stretch it out to 45 minutes (yes, in the past year I have dined-in at the ole LJS multiple times). She would also do things like curl her hair with her beloved hot rollers before going to get a haircut because she could not bear not looking okay in the brief walk from the parking lot to the second floor salon of our local department store, McCalpins. Even at her sickest, she still insisted on “getting dressed” to go to her oncology appointments. Somehow, she found a pair of stretch pants that resembled khakis, which she would pair with an L.L. Bean blouse, her “going out of the house sneakers”, and even a little make-up.
My mom was the one who instilled in me that having spares of everything from your favorite jeans to your laptop is a good idea. Like a Boy Scout, she wanted to be prepared. That is a lesson I did manage to learn from her, but this habit of taking your time and not rushing is something I probably should make more of an effort to do now that she is gone. Granted, I don’t intend to do it at an establishment where I order at the counter and ask for “extra crispies”, but I’ve lived my entire life in a hurry and that should probably change. Waiting makes me uncomfortable, but I need to live in the present a little more. My last weeks with my mom, there were some days I wish could last forever, so I think I might just be making progress on this front already.
And Dolores really hammered this point home in the most Dolores way possible–she was late to her own funeral.
People use that line as a joke, but our mom actually managed to pull it off. We did a visitation and funeral mass in Memphis, but mom was buried in Lexington, Kentucky next to our father in the most beautiful cemetery in the United States. While her family and Lexington friends waited around in a torrential downpour of rain, we were informed that the vehicle transporting her was stuck in traffic.
At first I was angry that the weather was awful and we were all just sitting in our cars mulling over what a long, sad three days it had been. I felt like the burial didn’t do my mom justice. I left sad that, while everything else seemed to celebrate her life so well in the funeral process, this day sucked.
Two days later, I was supposed to meet a middle school friend for dinner. I had misplaced my car key, which set me back enough to text her I’d be five minutes late. Then I overestimated my memory of Lexington back roads and got lost. As I profusely apologized to my friend, I realized I was seriously late for the first time in a while. Then I thought to myself, maybe Lexington is what makes me late. Or perhaps I had spent too much time with Mom and she was rubbing off on me. Then I burst out laughing, prompting funny stares from other cars at the traffic light at the crazy lady cracking up alone in her car. But that crappy day at the cemetery wasn’t crappy. It was actually about the most perfect way Dolores Welman could leave the world–thirty minutes late.