Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Mother and Bridges

Pensacola Bay Bridge
Photo by Skye Marthaler; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

I've had a minor scheduling glitch for the past few years with my blog.  My mother's birthday was November 11.  As most people know, that also happens to be Veterans Day.  So I've had to choose one or the other to write about on that day.  The other easy solution, to write about my mother on Mother's Day, works well, but it means that I don't write about any of my grandmothers, with or without "greats", on that day.  (This all presupposes that I'm only writing one post on a given day, of course.  Most of the time that's all I can handle.)

I've come up with a solution.  I'll be writing stories about my mother primarily on her yahrzeit.  This is a Jewish tradition that commemorates a relative on the date of that person's death.  My mother died on January 2, 1995.  Converting that date to the Jewish calendar (Steve Morse's One-Step site has a great tool for doing this) gives the date of 1 Shevat.  This year that falls on January 28.  (And if you want to know why the Jewish calendar dates change in relation to the Christian calendar, Steve Morse has information about that also.)

The idea for this post came about because of an article I read late last year about a service that's available for people who are afraid of driving over bridges.  My mother would have appreciated that service so much!  She had a lifelong fear of heights, and that fear extended to bridges.  I don't remember this being much of a problem while we lived in Southern California and Sydney, New South Wales, but when we moved to Niceville, Florida, there was indeed a problem.

Niceville is on the coast and in an area with lots of water and lots of bridges.  My mother actually did well with the bridges in the immediate area, none of which was particularly high or long.  But there was one that she dreaded:  the Pensacola Bay Bridge.

See, Niceville was (and still is) a fairly small town, and sometimes it was necessary to go to the "big city" to do business, see specialty doctors, etc.  Most of the time, that meant going to Pensacola.  The trouble was that between Niceville and Pensacola was . . . the bridge.

The Pensacola Bay Bridge isn't actually that long.  It's a little shy of three miles.  And there are certainly taller bridges.  But it was long enough and high enough that my mother couldn't drive over it.

One of the main reasons we would go to Pensacola was to accompany my grandfather when he needed to visit a specialist there regarding his amputated leg.  (He lost the lower part of his right leg when he was 13 years old.  Over the years, he occasionally had to have adjustments made to it and his prosthesis.)  Grampa usually drove.  But one year, in 1975 or 1976, when Grampa needed to see his doctor because the leg was bothering him, my mother decided she was finally going to conquer the bridge.

It started off great.  We headed west on Highway 98.  My mother was calm.  She sounded fine.  Everything was going well.  We really thought she was going to make it.

Then right at the last minute, at the foot of the bridge, she suddenly pulled over to the right.  She just couldn't do it.  Grampa had to drive over the bridge.  And as soon as we were over, my mother took over again.

She came so close.

The other bridge that really terrified my mother was the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.  It isn't tall — the definition of a causeway is that it's built on an embankment, and they're very close to the water — but it is almost 24 miles long.  My stepfather has told me that she would sit in the back seat of the car with her head covered while they drove over it.  And in an odd coincidence, my grandfather was supposed to have worked on the causeway.


  1. Janice, I like the way you've solved the question of when to write about your beloved mother. Wow, your family lived a lot of places . . . and I like today's post because you're telling the story from your own experience. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Marian. Yes, we lived lots of places; by the time I was 21, I had lived at 21 addresses. And I've ben trying to record the stories I grew up with so that they're not lost. I'm glad you enjoyed this story.


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