The traffic light turns green. Two seconds pass. None of the cars in front of us move so I lay my palm onto the horn and honk to high heaven. Mom looks over at me aghast. Blankly I stare back at her. She tilts her head a little, silently scolding my behavior. Oh really? She has a problem with the honking? She doesn’t seem to have a problem with me driving her all over town to run errands.
“What?” I demand in a VERY bored tone. “We don’t do that here?” she says gently. “What? Drive when the light turns green?” I ask with mock-innocence. “Honk,” she replies flatly. “Oh. Well…what does green mean in Minnesota? Because in New York is means go,” I explain and merge into the turn lane, the massive Southdale Mall looms to my left. “Where do you have to go in such a hurry on a Saturday morning?” Mom asks. “The Mall,” I reply and point at it. “It doesn’t even open for another 15 minutes,” she argues. “ I need a latte. And I need it now,” I explain. My parents don’t even own a coffee maker. Today is Day Four in Minnesota sans le café, and Desi Girl is crashing from the lack of latte.
The light turns and I drive into the mall complex and find a spot close to the door. It’s that time of the year when winter goods are relegated to the back of the store because they are marked down to almost give away prices. I am an Indian bargain huntress and today, my prey is bins of sale cashmere.
Mom and I make our way to Caribou Coffee. I settle Mom at a table and she hands me a $20. It’s our pre-shopping routine. She pays; I order and sweeten --- sugar for her, the fake stuff for me. I return with steaming coffees and watch the J. Crew staff putting their final morning touches together. I am poised, in position to shop when my phone rings. Hhhmm. It’s my parents’ home phone number. And Dad is not a phone person, so it is never good when he calls. And his timing? Seriously? RIGHT before the stores open? Where is the justice?
“Hey Dad,” I reply. “Oh. Is it Daddy? How is feeling? He fell down this morning…” Mom says. I sigh and shake my head. Really? Must they BOTH speak at the same time? I may be chatty, but I really can only carry one conversation on at a time. “The doctor just called and thinks I should come to the hospital. He doesn’t think an imbalance in my medication is causing my inability to stand or walk.” For the past 36 hours Dad, who is an architect and not a doctor, has been convinced that his self-diagnosis of his weak condition is due to losing 20 pounds in India and not having his blood sugar meds adjusted.
“Okay, Mom and I will come home now,” I reply. With the vast majority of our relatives in Delhi, I have not experienced losing close family members. So I try to focus on being annoyed with my shopping trip being cut short, but I cannot. Panic is rising and building inside of me. My father has never been hospitalized or hurt. He has only been very strong, very stubborn, and very in-my-face, for my entire life.