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.


Allan M. Huss said...

Nonsense, Charlene. I found many years ago that a first class bulkhead seat will accommodate a long leg cast, even if you're 5'10". Cash a few points and miles, and book yourself and your partner into a resort somewhere warm. You will still be sitting in a chair, but the sun on your face will make everything just a bit better, and someone else will clean up. And you can return in time for the knee-replacement.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Thanks for your enthusiastic encouragement. If our combined circumstances allowed for such a pleasure (and believe me, they currently don't--and I am a COWGIRL who used to ride in BARREL RACES, and I've owned two motorcycles and bungee jumped and I don't go down[okay, STAY down ;>)] easily), we would certainly take your fabulous advice. In fact, I've banked it for a future date. When we're both once again able to move about without pain and/or extreme hassles, that's just what we're gonna do! And as we kick back, feet buried in the sand, I'll once again say, "THANKS, ALLAN, for cheering us on!"