We set off for Charleston, West Virginia just before 9:00 a.m. Our destination was the US Customs and Immigration Office (USCIS). My English husband had to be photographed and fingerprinted so he’d be a legal permanent resident for another ten years.
Our little corner of Virginia is tucked into an indent in West Virginia’s border. The drive is a beautiful one that hugs the New River as it flows north, continuing to carve away at the Allegheny Mountains as it has done for millennia.
As happens so often these days, a thought lodged in Peter’s mind. Over and over, like a needle stuck on one of his 78 rpm records, he said, “I can’t imagine how they moved all these rocks and trees to make this road, can you?” I always try to answer his questions until I realize he’s in repeat — in my mind it’s “rePete” — mode. After about the fifth rePete I murmer the noncommittal and very useful British “mmm.”
Even with a stop for coffee, we arrived in Charleston two hours early. “Arriving at your destination. Turn left. Turn left here!” the GPS nagged frantically. Silly thing failed acknowledge the median down the middle of the street. I had to drive another two blocks to make a U-turn in order to truly arrive.
The name on the building wasn’t the same as the information USCIS had furnished, so I parked and went inside to make sure we were in the right place. We wanted to have lunch before Peter’s two o’clock appointment.
Not only was it the right place, but the young man in charge offered to process Peter right then. He began to sign in and, as I often do, I tried to help. I was told politely that Peter was to do it himself. I whispered to the fellow that my husband has dementia and would need some prompting. He whispered back that he understood. “We’ll take care of him,” he said.
He handed Peter additional papers and a pencil. It was the very same form I’d completed on-line several weeks earlier to expedite the process! Peter worried about using a pencil instead of a pen, but I assured him that’s what they wanted.
“Hm, do you think his eyes are hazel,” the young man asked when Peter completed the paperwork. “I think they’re blue,” he said as he studied my husband’s eyes. Difficult for Peter to hold eye contact for so long, but he managed.
“Well, he’s always said ‘hazel.’ But he did start to write ‘gray’ for eyes and ‘hazel’ for hair color,” I said.
He laughed. “OK, hazel they are.”
Peter was processed quickly — no messy ink these days, nor film either — and we were on our way to lunch within minutes. At his scheduled appointment hour, we were almost halfway home.
The drive was punctuated with another question that had snagged in his brain. “How long before I have to do this again?”
“Ten years. They probably won’t even care by then,” I said. “And I certainly wouldn’t drive you to Charleston anyway!”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Can’t drive a wheelchair on the interstate,” I said, and we laughed.
Header photo: New River, Virginia, Eric T.Gunther, Creative Commons Attribution.