Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Loooooong Layover

It was the best of times that -- bada-bing, bada-BANG! -- became the worst of times. Yes, it was the whirling dervish of a traveling schedule that instantly slam-dunked me into a two-month, unconquerable layover.
On January 3rd, my husband and I made the 300 mile Geezermobile "holiday trip" home from Minnesota. In a few days I would return to MN alone to "hide" and work on the copyedited version of my upcoming novel. Two weeks after that I would return to IL for a local speaking engagement. Not quite two weeks after that, we would both fly to Miami, cruise-ship our way to exotic places in the Eastern Caribbean (first REAL vacation in years), then drive five hours to The Villages to visit friends. I would appear at the local Barnes and Noble for a presentation and book signing. (Okay, mostly vacation.) Then we would drive the five hours back to Miami and fly home, where I would gear up to fly to MI for another speaking engagement, then. . . .

Oh, the places we didn't and won't go. Oh, the long-distance friends we won't see. Oh, the genuine GROUNDING and grumbling of it all!

You see, within five hours of that holiday trip home, everything changed. After unpacking the car, his brother invited us over for a post-holiday visit. While sitting on his brother's couch (SITTING ON HIS COUCH!), something inexplicable and diabolical happened (bada-bing) to my husband's knee. When he went to get up, he couldn't walk. He had to borrow an old set of crutches to help get him to the car.

But, no problem: he'd rest the knee, ice it, heating-pad it and fa-la-la-la-la, he'd be well. The only thing wrong with that plan was that it didn't work and so he continued to gimp.

January 7th, I took The Traveling Trip I Won't Soon Forget, which I initiated when I stepped onto our basement floor--not. As it turns out (bada-...), I stepped into thin air due to the fact there was one more stair, and I broke my leg (...BANG!). (And I thought my last airplane landing was jarring!)

Fast forward two days from my splat: I'm wearing a cast (crutches, "no weight on that complex fracture" AND I've fallen again!) and my husband phones Orthopedic Man since he's still gimping. His news: knee replacement, which is now scheduled for 2/13.

No return to MN. No cruise. (We had balcony cabins!) No book signing. No business trips more than 10 miles away. Lots of anti-inflammatories, doctor appointments (preparing for surgery and broken-leg follow-up) and Tiger Balm. Hey, when you're 61, fluffy and suddenly traveling on crutches, LOTS of things ache!

By hook, crook, hobble, cane or walker, I'm planning on making my 3/15 and 3/17 speaking engagements. But aside from my one local wheelchair podium experience and George's upcoming brief hospital/rehab stays, from 1/3 until 3/15 we were, are and will be grounded. With each other. Mostly on the same floor of our small home. (Could I hear a group groan, please, especially from those of you who are in relationships accustomed to ongoing bouts of apartness?)

I've had plenty of chair time to fantasize about how wonderful my writing time alone (always heaven) would have been, how romantic our vacation flights and cruise (thank goodness I bought travel insurance) would be, how many throngs of people would show up for my book signing--how it would feel to once again go to the bathroom without having to start heading that way 15 minutes before I know I need to go.

I've had plenty of time to forget what it's really like out there on the road much of the time: flight delays, rough seas, sparse appearance turnout. Yes, plenty of time to sit with my leg elevated above my heart (for the first THREE DAYS after the break--and at 61, that is no small acrobatic trick), watch mindless television, absorb the pain on my husband's face when he walks--eat the brownies and fruit and chocolate and fabulous casseroles and food dishes friends have brought to our home, thereby expanding my ever-expanding expanse--plenty of time to long for those traveling inconveniences that feel like the world's biggest drag when I'm road weary and caught up in them.

And so on this dreary day from my recliner in the western suburbs of Chicago, as I longingly stare out the window at the jet streams--leg up, surrounded by every convenience we've been able (okay, not actually WE but everyone else) to drag within my arm's reach--I say to those of you who might be grumbling your way through the airport, or collapsing in your hotel room at the end of a day full of early-morning wake-up calls and exhausting meetings, or gallavanting from one interstate highway to the next: the grass is always greener on the other side of the lounge chair. As exhausted as you might be, I'm stunned to find myself ENVIOUS!

Somewhere between the polarized conditions of running the concourse and being grounded, feeling frazzled and living glazed over, being ambulatory or broken, able to run the Road Warrior Race or only able to daydream about it, is The Truth, which, I've concluded, is that ALL of life is better with a little bit of chocolate and sympathy.

I feel your pain (yes, I can still remember the exhausting frustration of it; I reread all my Traveling Laughs just to refresh myself) and I hope you feel mine.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Traveling Along with Forrest Gump

Third day of 2007. Near the Wisconsin Dells. On the road for 2.5 hours. Half-way home. I am the sole passenger in my husband’s '01 Buick LeSabre which is traveling along at a steady 72 mph.

“Old is as old does,” I suddenly hear Forrest Gump say, referring to senior citizens and leisure travel. On a good day, I would refute his statement. “Speak for yourself, Forrest.” But on this medium day, with the sun warming the right side of my face as it streams through the tinted windows, I’ll simply take half an issue with Forrest’s travel interruptus since I am, after all, really assessing myself right now, and I’m kinda tired. (Still recuperating from staying awake on the couch till 11:25 PM New Year’s Eve, plus I got that whole warm sun thing going.) I’ll therefore only briefly tackle my debate with Forrest before I nod off or my laptop runs out of battery. And like I said, it is only the third day of a New Year. We all have things to do, people to meet, places to travel—which brings me back to the Geezermobile.

You’re reading the words of someone who, as a senior in high school, owned a 1957 powder blue and white, two-door, Chevy hard-top. Even the kids in my 1963 graduating class at Wheaton High School (“Orange-and-black, fight, fight! Gooooooo, TIGERS!”) recognized the supreme worthiness of that way cool piece of machinery. After all these years, my heart still skips a beat at the mere memory of it. (Or did I forget to take my blood pressure medicine—again?) So as I sit here this first week of the new year in a geezer beige LeSabre (okay, "dark Bronzemist, metallic" beige—big whoop—but the man used to own a Buick WILDCAT!) while reflecting on years past and contemplating the ever decreasing years left before me, I know for a fact that I did not “travel along” in that ’57 Chevy. I cruised, preened and bombed around in it. Head thrown back and windows wide open, I put my foot in it, vroom-vroomed, hammered down, did a quarter-mile with style. I barreled along, squealed to a stop, and like a cougar on the low prowl, I sleekly slid into a stall at the A&W, goosed it a couple times then just sat there to be one with (and to be seen in) that beauty. But nay, nary once did I ever simply “travel along.”

You’re reading the words of someone who recognizes the sound of a Harley, who sports a tattoo (although I think it used to be a half-inch higher on my ankle before my skin got all loose), who used to be able to eat spicy food without taking reflux medication and who loved diving down that first hill on wooden roller coasters—back before my neck started going out. And why does my neck go out? Because years ago the vehicle I was in (somewhere on the cool-o-meter between a '57 Chevy and the Geezermobile), which was sitting at a complete stop, was rear ended by a speeding car—twice, six years apart. (Thank goodness that didn’t happen while I was in my ’57 Chevy. At least it had the decency to simply blow its own engine!)

But you’re also reading the words of someone whose need for speed has morphed into a fine appreciation for the glide ride and decent miles per gallon. Someone whose back says thank you to the lower lumbar adjustment and whose mode of transportation gets more use out of cruise control than the tachometer (which I forget I have) in my mid-size SUV, which is at least painted a mysterious black rather than geezer beige, and which sports a sun roof and six-changer CD.

Shut up, Forrest.

But Forrest, before I nod off I will give you this much about “Old is as old does.” Traveling along in a Geezermobile—especially with a lovable geezer who is only slightly older than my Geezerette self—isn’t all that bad. Why, we wild things might even stop at a Cracker Barrel before today’s journey is over just to prove we still can.

Seriously, Forrest, shut up. I’m taking a nap now before my bladder reminds me that it’s time for a pit stop involving no V-8 engines, no checker flags and no victory laps. You’ve made your point. Now run, Forrest, run. Far away from my leisurely, senior citizen’s traveling-along brain.

DISCLAIMER: To all who own a Buick LeSabre, nothing personal. It is a good car. It gets good gas mileage. It has swell pickup. It offers a nice ride. It's been Very Dependable. You've made a good choice. It is not a '57 Chevy and I am not a young babe. Amen.