I’d spent a week cleaning and packing, countless hours researching, so when the alarm went off at 5AM, I was READY TO DO THIS. This is quite the feat for someone who is a big fan of inertia, and even with vacation staring me in the face, I’m highly likely to think it’d just be so much easier to stay home. (I think the chance to plan, plan, plan, made it somewhat palatable. Control freak, up in the house!)
Apparently, I was alone in this feeling.
No one else woke up – well, that is a strong phrase because I was the only one awake while the rest of them zombied around after being yanked physically from their beds by yours truly – in a very good mood, and the chaos began there. We could not find Sammy’s shoes for anything. Chris asked me repeatedly if I’d packed them (no) until I finally gave up and dug out another pair I had actually packed before randomly locating the original shoes in the bottom of his laundry hamper. Oh yay, I love starting a long road trip with a jolt of stress.
When we finally got in the car (25 minutes after my intended departure time, see: control freak), Chris turned on the ignition and my eyes immediately went to the tire warning light that was suddenly all bright and red. It was not all bright and red after I got back from gassing up the previous night, so this was a cheeky new development. In fact, the last time the light came on was last year about this time when we were, oh, 500 miles from home and then felt the rear tire flatten itself against the interstate. We spent 3 hours in Podunk’s Walmart that day. Good times.
So Chris aired up the tires as best he could, even though they read the correct pressure, and we decided to hit the road and find a garage down the road to help us (no one was open at 6:40 AM and everything looked and felt fine). Here is where I totally plug the cell-enabled smartphone or tablet (we have the latter), because I was able to find a dealership right off the highway we were traveling that would be open as we passed, so we coasted in for a rescue visit. Thankfully, there really wasn’t anything wrong with the tires, and the mechanic on duty sent us on our way feeling much better. It was in the neighborhood of 8:30 AM.
Approximately 2 hours later, I got a phone call from my mom, who had headed out with my dad and my grandma (she of the 90th birthday golden jubilee last month) toward the same destination a day and a half previously. “Julie, Grandma fell. We were shopping and she just went down. The paramedics are on their way. We don’t know if she broke her hip.” Oh God, oh God, oh God.
They were 500 miles from home. In the exact same Podunk as we were a year ago.
We could do nothing else but keep driving and praying, watching the minutes tick by on the clock until we had more news. No, of course it wouldn’t be bad. My grandma has fallen before, and while it’s never a picnic, it was never seriously serious. She’d be bruised and disoriented, and maybe they’d be set back a day, but they’d go on and have a great story to tell, right? Right?
Just as we pulled into a rest stop for lunch, my cell phone rang. This time, it was bad. Broken hip. Surgery as soon as possible. Trip cancelled for them, but adamant orders for us to continue. But how do we do that?
At that point, we were 3 hours from where they were, and although our travel plans hadn’t included us meeting up on the road this time, plans were quickly amended. We found the hospital without problem (see: Podunk), and then alternated between comforting my grandmother and “discussing” the options for our trip. As much as I hated it, there was nothing we could do, especially with 2 kids running around like cracked out howler monkeys. My mom certainly wasn’t going anywhere, and that meant my dad wouldn’t as well, but it really didn’t serve any purpose to stick around for who knew how long it would be (we’d only just found out the surgery would be 2 mornings later, and recovery could be 1-2 weeks or more). So we decided to go on to our first stop a few hours away, to the new home of Chris’s best friend, and figure out our next move.
Thank heaven for Michael and Amy, who opened their new house to us and who love our kids like family. If we had been stuck in a box motel, I think we would have turned around and gone home. We was able to relax and think and come up with a new course of action, or at least the beginnings of one. We would go on our little side trip to Chicago as planned, then on to stay with our relatives until my cousin’s wedding. After that, who knew? Maybe we’d leave early, maybe not, we’d see.
Visiting my family was our traditional summer vacation almost every year growing up. I’d never made the trip without my parents. Until now.
There’s more to this travelogue, but I’ll skip ahead to the part where I tell you my grandma’s surgery went as perfectly as they could have hoped, and the surgeon actually repaired some torn tendons that likely have been the cause of her chronic leg pain for so many years. On the day we all originally planned to return home from a vacation, we Macgyvered our own medical transport team and brought her back home, or rather a rehab center 2 miles from my house. She’s getting stronger every day, and practically runs circles around me with her walker, and I can’t imagine she’ll be there for a terribly long time. There are lots of decisions to be made, but I think it’s realistic to hope that she’ll be able to return to her own house and get back to her life as it was. Hope, it feels good.
More about this crazy journey later. But seriously, it was the weirdest vacation ever. And that includes the time I set the van on fire.