My plan was to take a mini-vacation. An extended weekend to visit my mother (and her side of the family) in a state that was about halfway between hers and mine. I had worked the Mondays after Christmas and New Year’s Day, as well as MLK Day so I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking time off. (My employer / friend doesn’t require this of me, but it’s my own warped sense of responsibility that had me “storing up” the days in anticipation of the time off.)
I looked forward to relaxing, spending time with my family, and wandering around the farm where my mother grew up. I was bringing my camera to photograph my Granny’s abandoned house, the donkeys in my aunts care, and whatever else caught my eye in the valley. As there are very few hills at all in Florida, and most of those are man made, going back to the hills of Tennessee is always a treat.
It is about a 9 or 10 hour drive depending not only on traffic, but the frequency and duration of any stops along the way. I had been on the final leg of the trip, about 30 minutes or so from my aunt’s house when Mom called to ask how far away I would be. After a slightly confusing phone call where she had been trying to keep from upsetting me while I was driving and was intentionally being cryptic, she finally blurted out that my aunt was in the hospital and could I pick her up there?
It seems my aunt, who has been having puzzling health problems for awhile, was taken by ambulance where she spent the next several days. She was briefly released and then readmitted later that evening the day before I was to leave.
The majority of my time was spent either in the hospital waiting room, my aunt’s hospital room(s), or running miscellaneous errands related to picking up people, lunches or other items to make the wait more comfortable. There was also another side trip to drive another relative to an outpatient procedure from which they would be unable to drive home due to the medication that was to be administered.
It was really the first time I have stepped foot inside a hospital since my husband’s stay last year and I found myself trying not to dwell on the similarities – the ambulance ride, the CCU, or the way my aunt gave me a slow, dramatic wink. Instead, I tried to distract myself with the differences.
It would have been too easy to become overwhelmed with flashbacks and simply crumble under their weight. As it was, the visit was the first time I had seen most of my family since my husband’s death, and there were friends of the family I ran into who hadn’t known. There was even an encounter with a stranger, who remarked on a piece of jewelry and said “someone must love you a lot!” to which I simply responded with a smile, a nod, and a tight “thank you”, afraid to completely lose it if I said more. Those moments are tough. Really tough. But they are getting easier.
I was able to take the camera out for a short photo shoot on Saturday, and tried to enjoy the brisk air. “Brisk” was the word
I used to convince myself it wasn’t just plain cold. I left on a day that peaked in the mid-70s, to arrive on the front end of a cold front that caused frost and even snow flurries during my stay, which thankfully didn’t accumulate. I was forced to layer up since I don’t own a winter coat, and I used every pair of socks I own while I was there. [Seriously, I don’t have enough to last a week, simply because I don’t need them every day. Just another “fun fact” about me…]
I was able to see most of the relatives I had planned to, and even managed to get some reading done between the waiting room and the time before bed. In between playing the radio and talking to myself, I was also able to finish an entire audio book while driving. So, even though it wasn’t exactly the way I had intended, some of my plans were seen through.
Sunday morning, I stopped by the hospital as I was headed out of town, where my aunt
quietly spoke into my ear saying “this is not the visit I had planned for you.” I pulled back and smiled, telling her not to worry, that we were simply being spontaneous. And I reminded her that we had gotten to dance (referring to a kind of backwards shuffle I did, allowing her to lean on me for support, as she walked to the bathroom during her brief hiatus at home), saying how special that memory would be.
Plans may change, even the best laid ones, (my life plans certainly have), but you can always find some glimmer of hope, some small tidbit of joy and goodness, if only you look for it. I choose to find them where I can.
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