I'm tooling along Interstate 90 like I've done dozens and dozens of times in the last 2 years, gradually moving over into the right lane in anticipation of taking the 190 into the city of Buffalo.
"We're not going downtown this time,'' Mom says gently from the passenger seat.
Realizing my mistake, I smile.
Carol Kindberg with WJTN radio personality Jim Roselle during a “Times Of Your Life” interview last month.
Photo by Scott Kindberg
"I know," I say. "Old habits ..."
" ... Die hard, don't they?" Mom adds, finishing my sentence. "We'll be back."
Yes, we will - another visit to Roswell Park Cancer Institute is on the calendar at the end of January - but, for now, I flip on my left turning signal, move over a couple lanes and continue on our way to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. It's less than a week before Christmas and our latest road trip is a special one, because we are picking up Elizabeth, my niece and one of Mom's eight grandchildren. Nine years old, Elizabeth, who lives in St. Cloud, Fla., with my sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Tracy, will be in Jamestown until after the New Year.
It figures to be another memorable holiday for the Kindbergs and I want to capture it all. So as we get closer to the reunion with that special young lady at the Southwest Airlines gate, my iPhone, which rests on my right leg as I drive, continues to record my conversation with Mom. As we talk about family, faith, personal and professional milestones, and the power of prayer, she has no idea that I'm recording it for posterity.
But one thing is certain: As the rain continues to pelt the windshield, I can't help but think there's no other place I'd rather be.
The youngest child of Bernhard and Dorothy Lind, Carol Kindberg developed a strong faith from an early age that has served her well as she closes in on her 80th birthday on Feb. 8.
"The Lord," she is fond of saying, "is always one step ahead."
It's a mantra that Lisa, my brother Gary and I have heard for most of our lives. It's one that is especially meaningful now. You see, Mom is battling soft tissue sarcoma. She had her second chemotherapy treatment yesterday in Jamestown.
Yeah, Christmas Eve.
Cancer doesn't stop for holidays.
Mom hasn't let cancer stop her, though.
Even after two surgeries, six weeks of radiation and multiple doctors' visits since June 2011, she continues to do the things that have made her a beloved mom, friend and neighbor for as long as Lisa, Gary and I can remember.
Always a glass-is-half-full kind of woman - an attitude fortified by her deep faith that took root in the mid-1940s - Mom has made it a practice to do the right thing when nobody is looking.
"I think mom and dad did a pretty good job of teaching us unselfishness," she said.
Celebrating a birthday or an anniversary? Achieving a milestone? Welcoming the arrival of a new baby? Expect a greeting card. She and Hallmark are best friends. On average, she sends out 15 cards a month. Some months she sends out one a day. She should own stock in the company.
"I like to know that people are thinking about me," she said, "so if they get a card, they KNOW that I'm thinking about them."
Do you need a prayer said? She's a warrior.
"I'm grateful for (prayers)," she said. "Just keep them coming, because while you're praying for others, you can pray for yourself."
She continued: "You can feel them. There's no getting away from it. Sometimes in the morning before I have devotions, I'm apt to be down and weepy, but all I have to say is, 'Lord, I need peace,' and I can almost feel that within seconds. It just makes you live in the now and know that you don't hold the future."
Would you like a home-cooked meal delivered or a special gift sent, just because? Nobody does it better.
Elizabeth knows that already. On our way home from the airport last week, the third-grader opened up her backpack and pulled out her two favorite Christmas ornaments. One was a miniature policeman (a reminder of my late father, Gunnard "Kinky" Kindberg, and his law enforcement career) and the other was a snowman with wings.
Both were gifts from the woman the grandkids know affectionately as "Nanni."
On multiple occasions during the last 24 months, Mom has traveled to Buffalo with a "care package" in the backseat of the car. Contained in the boxes were baked goods she made that were intended for her doctors, nurses and radiation technicians at Roswell.
The first time she made the special delivery, I was surprised. Privately, I thought, "Shouldn't Mom be the beneficiary of such kindness?" After all, she was the one receiving treatment. Then I snapped out of it and realized that, well, that's what Carol Kindberg does.
"Like I always say, 'The Lord is one step ahead,' because He sure did supply the right caregivers," Mom explained. "I've been blessed from the get-go. It gives you all the confidence in the world that they are doing the best for you."
Since our road trip to the airport last week, I've listened to the audio recording between Mom and me - more than two hours in length - several times. I intend to pass it along to Lisa and Gary.
I dare say they won't receive a better gift.
Merry Christmas, Mom.
We love you.