My spacious Woodstock hotel room with king-sized bed suddenly shrunk to the size of a small forsaken island as I sat writhing in pain. My abdominal cramps started in the morning and only got worse as the day progressed. I knew I could ask at the front desk or call someone from the writers’ festival and find out where the nearest hospital was and realized I’d have to do so soon if the pain didn’t subside, but although I felt worse than awful, I convinced myself that it wasn’t such an emergency that I had to seek outside help. My family wasn’t so easily convinced. I called home to tell them I wasn’t feeling well and my mother said she was sending someone from the front desk to my room. I made her swear that she wouldn’t and tried to wait it out on my own.
Finally, I succumbed and called her back. “I don’t think it’s an emergency exactly, but I need to come home.”
The three-and-a-half hours between home and my hotel seemed infinite as I waited, but at 10:00 p.m., thirteen hours after my ordeal had started, the cavalry arrived: my 65-year-old mother, who cannot see to drive at night and my faithful brother Mark, number two of my three younger siblings. By the time they pulled up, I was doing better. My pain had somewhat subsided and I had managed to get some liquids in me which seemed to revitalize me a bit, although did little to cure the situation. They packed me up, loaded me in my car and then began the endless journey home. I say endless because my cavalry, while full of heart, lacked something in navigational ability. We probably all should have stayed at the hotel and started fresh in the morning, but my Mom, like me, felt more comfortable dealing with the hospital at home, so we set off into the night in the totally wrong direction!
If I hadn’t been so ill, I probably would have realized sooner that we had gotten on the wrong access ramp, headed south toward New York City instead of north toward Vermont. I also should note that I was distracted by my Mom’s driving. Because she has such poor night vision she had to ride the tail of my brother, watching his taillights like a beacon in the darkness. We were at least a half hour out of our way before I noticed that the names of the cities were wrong and called my brother to inform him we needed to turn around. One hour added to the trip.
Mom and I laughed. Why are we following Mark? We asked. He’s the one who got lost in the hood. We were referring to a time many years ago when my brother was working in New Jersey. He was sent out on an errand, but missed his turn and ended up in the bad part of town. It became a family joke, one that was reiterated several times on this long night. I tried to rest, but we had to make frequent stops for me along the way adding 15 minutes here and there to our travel time. Then we missed another turn, ending up on 1-90. It wasn’t until I spotted the sign to Schenectady that we realized we were lost again and had to turn around. Hour two added to the trip.
Mark’s cellphone didn’t seem to care where it directed him as long as it eventually got him there, so we followed its lead down a series of twisted back roads through Schenectady until we finally ended up in Clifton Park, driving more back roads before finally reconnected with I-87. From here we were okay until it came time to take the exit to Rutland.
“Don’t take the first exit,” I warned my brother who informed me that his phone said otherwise. My brother’s one of those people that if directions on a tube of toothpaste say wash-rinse-and-repeat he does just that. No simple wash-and-rinse for him, he’s by the book. So we followed the book or the phone in this case, and once again ended up off the beaten path. When we finally connected with the right route we were so tired we pulled over at a closed McDonald’s restaurant where a cop stopped to make sure we were okay. When he discovered we were, he went on, but not before my Mom put the car in the wrong gear -- drive instead of reverse -- almost taking us over the bank.
Oh, I almost forgot. Somewhere around Schenectady a series of warning lights came on in my brother’s car. Turns out we weren’t driving with all cylinders and probably shouldn’t have been driving at all. The next morning we called AAA and had them tow the car to the repair shop.
At 5:00 a.m. we saw the lights of home, at least doubling our initial e.t.a. A lot of people joke about my reliance on my G.P.S. and apparent lack of direction, but obviously I come by this honestly, no doubt an inherited trait.
In spite of my exhaustion and what had now become a dull pain, I looked at my weary rescuers, my beautiful mother and kindhearted brother and thought two things: one, how rich I was in family, how lucky to be so loved and two, next time, I think I’ll call the ambulance!