An elderly couple face down death by taking one last, thoroughly unauthorized vacation.
The future holds nothing but shorter, bleaker days for both Ella and John Robina. Ella has refused chemotherapy and radiation treatment for her cancer. John suffers from Alzheimer’s. So, after a lifetime spent worrying about how to keep body and soul and their family together, they sneak out of the Detroit suburb of Madison Heights, bound via Route 66 for Disneyland. Along the way they encounter smiling waitresses, variously helpful gas jockeys, road thieves and a particularly nice man with some obscene tattoos. Ella tosses her wig out the window, lets John order as many roadside hamburgers as he wants, treasures the odd morning moments when he’s lucid, fondly shares memories of their life together with the help of evening slide shows, doses herself with painkillers and dispenses nuggets of dry-eyed wisdom. They proceed in good order through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, phoning their daughter Cindy and their son Kevin from time to time but ignoring the pleas and threats intended to bring them home. John is content to drive for hours without saying anything or knowing where he is, but Ella is clearly a woman on a mission, and long before their Leisure Seeker reaches Anaheim, you’ll know what that mission is. Zadoorian (Second Hand, 2000) asks readers to accept the ending on very much the same terms that Ella accepts her life.
A bittersweet fable of the golden years likely to offer consolation to readers who’ve ever known anyone old, or have plans to get old themselves.