“To be in hell is to drift; to be in heaven is to steer.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
“Can I use your phone?” I shook with adrenalin and almost dropped the phone as he passed it over the counter.
“My tire fell off.”
“Your tire fell off?! What do you mean, your tire fell off? Where is it?”
“I have no idea. I got out of my car and there was no tire. It’s gone. There’s no sign of it anywhere!”
There had been 4 cars behind me and no oncoming traffic. But noone had stopped to help. Maybe they were as stunned and perplexed as I was? It would have been nice for one of them to tell me which way my tire had gone since it had probably bounced right past them!
I started laughing. Then he started to laugh. In an hour Patrick and I were best buds. He even offered me a banana. I asked if that was because he thought I was upset or because they needed to be eaten by the end of the night? They weren’t very pretty.
No answer from my mom. I knew she’d never pick up for a Hess gas station number. But I dialed again.
“Let me get this straight. You were driving? How fast? What kind of car is it? Where is your CAR?!”
“The car was shaking so I slowed to 40. Then it collapsed left (I did a dip and drop with my left shoulder and he sort of followed along to try to understand) and I slid to the side of the road. It’s a Suburban. I left it down the road about 50 yards.”
“Amazing!” He gave me a huge grin like he really didn’t know if I was telling the truth.
“How did your tire fall off?!! And don’t you have a cellphone?”
I KNEW someone would say that.
“You see why you need one, Betsy?” Actually, God knew I hated them so He deposited me near a gas station.
Rewind 5 hours
“Hey, Dad! How’re you feeling?”
“I want to go home!”
Me, too. I’d told everyone that I’d be back within the hour. No one had said it was serious, so I figured I’d come, calm and reassure, visit and leave.
The Emergency Room was packed, and the nurses and doctors would have left him for hours if I hadn’t shown up.
“Good, you’re here,” heavy sigh of relief. ” Do you think you can get him to give us some blood?”
“NO!!” came the voice from behind the curtain.
“Sure! Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll hold your hand.” But you’d better hurry, I said with my eyes, because the shock and awe only lasts for a minute and then you and your needles will have to find another playground.
“Hey! I have that same scarf!” The line of doctors and nurses behind her checked it out.
“Where did you get yours?”
“The gift shop down the hall. I LOVE it!” smiled the nurse.
“I got mine for Christmas.”
“I want to go home! Please somebody help me!” Dad. He’s cute. Really. I love his ways.
I settled in and we found a routine. He got some food and started the story-telling. I’m a sucker for a good story. I just wished I’d brought my notebook and pencil. I started annoying him, repeating names and places to help me remember them to add to my family history research.
I dismissed myself for a minute when he got rolled to cubicle #2. I had to check in with the family at home.
But I had no cellphone, so it was off to the foyer of the ER to politely beg to use theirs.
I saw her giggle as she listened in from behind the front desk.
“Please don’t drill a hole! It’s cheaper to replace a screen than a door. Just cut the screen and climb in from outside.”
I really needed to get home.
“Dad, I gotta go. I’ll be back. Listen, Just breath when you feel scared. You’re not forgotten. It’s busy here. Lots of people are sick. You’re getting a room upstairs in a few hours. Try to sleep.”
The doctor rushes in, “Mr. Carlson, you’re very sick. Do you have DNR orders in place?” He was confused. “What do you want us to do if you stop breathing?”
He started to cry. “Spread my ashes over the Spokane River. That’s where Butch and Sundance’s are scattered, you know.”
Everyone thought he was sad about dying. Nope. He just loves a good Western, and is stuck on emulating Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to the death!
I kissed him on the forehead and asked the nurse to give him something to help him sleep, promising I’d be back soon.
My mom arrived on her white horse at the Hess gas station and I held my finger up to her through the glass of the front door.
“One minute,” I mouthed.
“Bye, Patrick! Nice to meet you!” I shook his hand. We’d had so much fun talking and laughing that I think everyone thought we were friends.
“Bye!” the other employees called.
My mom brought me home to leave the keys and directions to the car. I don’t think anyone understood the significance of what had happened. I was in and out in two minutes.
“Guess what happened, Dad? My tire fell off while I was driving home!”
“Where is it?”
“In the woods somewhere. It’s dark out. We’ll look for it tomorrow.” He was drugged up and asked to be moved back “over there,” the other side of the room, which made no sense at all, so I knew I was good to go, gave him another kiss on the forehead, told him I loved him, and made my way back to the ER foyer.
“Cathy?! What are YOU doing here?!”
“HAHA! Yeah, I came straight from work at the Loony Bin.”
Stilled dressed in her scrubs, she gave me a hug and said, “Long time no see!. This is my mom,” she pointed to the woman in the wheelchair beside her.
I hit her in the arm. I’m sure she’d missed that.
“We’re opening on Thursdays again! You’d better be there!” Cathy and I had become friends at the Family History Center and she’d been MIA since her mother moved in with her in December.
We both knew that life was orchestrating our paths, and for a while it was going to be hit or miss as we tended to our families.
“So what do we want to see in your driveway?” my mom asked after we passed the spot where my car had sat an hour earlier.
“Even if it has no tire, I’d like to see my car sitting there,” I said even though we both couldn’t figure out how a car with no tire could get there so quickly.
But there it was, tire and all.
“You know what this means, Mom, don’t you?”
“In a few minutes one of us is going to wake up and say, darn! That was such a good dream!”
I reluctantly kissed her goodbye and made my way inside, knowing that there would never be a way to share what fun I’d had.