My pal, my confidant and my sounding board Kris went and got all married this past weekend and my family was lucky enough to be invited to the very small, very awesome wedding. Dave spent two days making his balls to the basket homemade meat lasagna for the wedding dinner, which is second on the list of favorite things I love to put in my mouth.
24 hours passed and that sauce cooked down into a paste of perfection while I watched Dave make his own pasta dough and roll out sheets on our hand-me-down dining room table built for too bad. Our place smelled like a Russian bathhouse that served Sloppy Joes and hang jobs and that alone made my smile a few yards wider.
On Friday afternoon we over-packed the car and drove up into the mountains to our favorite little town where Kris and Sven’s wedding was to take place. This gem of cabin craziness is a place we have vacation many, many times with our friends Francois and Kate, two love lumps that introduced us to this paradise more than ten years ago.
After a crazy four hours in horrendous traffic we arrived at the rehearsal dinner at the local Mexican joint and toasted the bride and groom and giggled over bottled beer and old photos of the groom as the front man for Rammstein’s taller cousin.
We then drove out to the rental house where we were staying and where the ceremony would take place the next day. As Dave put Otto to bed a few of us helped set the table and hide the rental owner’s knick-knack collection that one might find at a funeral home fire sale. Why do people who own rental vacation homes feel the need to boldly decorate using only dusty, plastic flower arrangements and gold leaf candle holders found at the bottom of the blow out sale bin at Tuesday Morning? Riddle me that, homeowner!
By midnight everyone was done for the night and we crawled into the lower bunk bed while Otto slept above us. At two a.m. Dave and I awoke to a sound no human should ever make or hear. It was as if Harvey Fierstein ate Brenda Vaccaro and then farted out Tara Reid while trying to tune a sitar made out of chalkboard fragments and fingernails clippings.
My usually beautiful sounding Otto coughed and cried and cackled as we both jumped up and held him while checking his vitals and his breathing and praying to the gods of OH SHIT that we knew where the closest hospital was. As Dave listened to Otto’s chest and checked to see if he had any blockages I Googled local hospitals only to find the nearest one forty-five minutes down the mountain in the middle of meth country. While GOOGLE gave us exact directions YELP gave us a low down on what the hospital was like.
“DO NOT GO TO THIS HOSITAL AT ALL COSTS!”
“FILTHY CONDITIONS, IGNORED FOR 13 HOURS. ALMOST DIED.”
“THEY LET ME PASS A GALLSTONE WITHOUT PAIN MEDICATION. BLACKED OUT NAKED.”
“HELP, I’M STILL TRAPPED UNDER A GUERNEY WEARING NOTHING BUT A DIRTY BACKLESS HOSPITAL GOWN AND THE GLUE I HUFFED FOR BREAKFAST!”
"GREAT CHINESE/ARMENIAN TACO STAND NEXT DOOR!"
Knowing that the area in question was home to more meth labs, dog-fighters and spray paint sniffers than most areas of California we wanted to avoid the local emergency room at all costs. Since Otto seemed to do better sitting up and didn’t have a fever we knew that he didn’t need an ambulance. But my motherly gut, the one filled with enchilada sauce and a ball of scared told me we needed to get him down the mountain and close to help if anything changed.
In less than five minutes we had the car packed and were racing down the mountain like fugitives fleeing from those dirty pigs. I drove the car because I get motion sickness in a broken hot tub and every other moving vehicle and I was as sober as a saint and fueled on fear. As I tried not to think of the worst-case scenario Otto continued to cough like a seal, weep like a willow and break my heart. Suddenly on the fifteenth, hairpin turn he began barfing into a CVS bag Dave found under the seat and continued until all manner of Mexican was out of his system. Then, as if on cue, he fell fast asleep peaceful and calm and exhausted.
Every few minutes I asked Dave to feel his chest until finally we were half way into our two and half hour drive and all seemed all right. Dave fell asleep holding Otto’s hand while I did my best to stay awake by slapping myself in the face, swigging lukewarm iced tea and listening to upbeat 80’s music that I knew had been written by a handful of one-hit wonders while on badly dressed cocaine binges.
It was the longest drive of my life. Every signpost seemed to say the same thing and solidify the fact that I was driving like mad but getting nowhere. All along the freeway towns sat up asleep in my eye line and mini-malls refused to admit defeat. With all the lights that dotted our path I knew we were back in uncivilized civilization and hospitals were near if necessary.
By 4:30 a.m. the landmarks were starting to sing a familiar song and my heart relaxed a bit knowing we were minutes from everything we knew. In a panic I took the wrong exit off the freeway but wound my way down side streets into the home stretch, a term I never saw as endearing or calming until then. I pulled the car up, unloaded the bags, ran upstairs and made up the sofa bed in Otto’s room and took a real breath for the first time in five hours. He was still asleep when Dave laid him down in his bed and I fell down next to him. His breathing was better, his cough had quieted a bit and we all collapsed into quiet.
(He would be diagnosed with The Croup the next morning and be healthy by Tuesday but how was I to know that in the dead of night on the top of Mount Far Away?)
Lying on that old, ripped pullout bed we cannot seem to get rid of I was sad that we would miss the wedding and bummed that Otto would miss out on his ring bearer duties. But I knew we had done the right thing for Otto as well as Kris. Who wants a barfing, coughing sicko and a frantic mother at their destination AWESOME wedding? And who wants to make the wrong decision in case the worst happened?
I was still awake staring at Otto’s chest going up and down when suddenly someone seemed to give me permission to think about something other than Otto’s well being and my paralyzing fear. I began to drift into a foggy sleep smelling like old Jack in the Box wrappers and terror and as exhaustion enveloped my withered brain I wondered why we still lived in the same apartment where Dave proposed all those years ago. Is it sentimentality? Is it mental-molasses? Is it laziness or is it just habit?
And then I remembered that six blocks away stands one of the best hospitals in the country, the same hospital where celebrities overdose, Boob Jobs R’ Us has its own wing and where little, wonderful Otto was born.
I think we’ll stick around this hood until he’s eighteen. Then I can move to the mountains and not worry so much.