Sunday, August 5, 2012

What I did during my Stomach Vacation

I think I did forget.  I completely forgot how much fun it is to travel solo.  Last Saturday I drove to meet my kids and my family at my brother's estate deep in the North Cascades.  I stopped where I wanted, when I wanted, for how long I wanted.  I visited Grand Coulee damn and thought about all those Shanghai'd Coulee's buried within the monolithic monument to Western Power turned headstone for lives lost without a blink in the face of progress.  I visited the Winthrop Museum and stopped at Washington Pass to pose in front of the Liberty Bell and exchange photo ops with the friendliest toothless bikers.  There was a roadside shack for organic apricots and coffee and a hand-made sun hat.  And no one complained about their back, how much they hate road trips, why we couldn't have taken a more direct route, how they just want to get there, no more stops, etc. 

My least favorite things about road trips as a kid, the moment I dreaded, that colored the whole trip with a tinge of agony, was when the car would finally stop and we would be there.  I hated that moment, the loss of motion, marking the final death of this adventure, this life moving through infinite possibilities and spontaneity.  I have long fantasized about becoming a long haul truck driver or train engineer, but am pretty sure the reality, and loss of my family, plus deadlines and schedules would all be a harsh reality.

Huck opted to not go with me.  I was kind of ticked.  He tried to change his mind at the last minute, but work obligations wouldn't flex.  In the end, I loved my solo trip.  It'd been too long.

But now I don't mind the stop at the end quite so much.  And there was a party at my brothers and we hiked to the still cold river, fat yet with too much winter snow stored on her hips.  And we feasted on roadkill venison and coyote.  And the zucchini from my garden and the cherry salsa I just canned. And there was the mesquite gluten-free raspberry pie which made my tongue swell, but I didn't break out in hives! And the next morning, without electricity, running water, bathrooms, etc, I tried to wash up the kids for some family gatherings.

I see my extensive extended families about once every other year.  And this was the year.  Every year, my mothers says, "This might be the last time you can see your surviving grandparents!"  And about 1/2 the time the guilt trip works.  But occasionally I wonder who among my relatives would ever drive 14 hours round trip to visit me.  It doesn't make sense 'cuz it's just me in Spokane and they're mostly still assorted in proximity to the Dutch "ghetto" of Lynden.  But if it did make sense, would they?

Breakfast was a thick coffee and a duck egg.  And my sister and my kids piled in the "new" Prius.  And that's when the fun began.

 WARNING: this story gets ugly from here on out!

Ten minutes south of Bellingham, I felt the first wave.  I'd pick up some slippery elm bark tablets at the co-op in Bellingham to settle my stomach, I figured.  But at the exit ramp my body began to seriously question it's existence and I began crying, like it was vomit, the nausea so intense I had to get something, anything out, and fast.  Tears apparently were the first thing to spew. Crossing the parking lot, I thought I was going to the herb section.  But when I opened my mouth to ask where that was, the word that came out was not "medicinal herbs" but "bathroom" and then I knew.  And I sprinted.  And I rattled the doors in the restroom and I collapsed in the only open one and my hour and a half on the floor of a public restroom began.

A woman asked me if I was okay.  And I thought about that.  I thought, I don't want anyone seeing me, helping me.  And then I thought, "Who the hell am I kidding?  Everyone blows it out both ends some times."  So I unlocked the door for her.  And this effing saint of a STRANGER held my hair, put cold compresses on my neck and forehead and brought me water. I've never experienced that before. It was transformative. When she told me she had to get back to work, I imagined her still there. I lost track of time.  I struggled to stay conscious.  I sweat like my pores were puking.  I was definitely not okay.  I was wearing white pants on the tile floor of a public restroom. Thank god the bathroom was so clean, the pants remained pristine.

My sister, meanwhile was caring for the kids, feeding them, and after an hour encouraged me to get professional help.  She basically had to carry me to the car as I kept collapsing. I was scolding myself: get up off the floor, lazy bones!  Pull yourself together!  But none of it worked.  My body was unresponsive to anything I said or desired. And when she held my hand as I attempted to instruct her how to drive my push-button car, I realized that, yes, this wasn't just any old thing going on here.

The doctor gave me an injection.  And gawked at my unlikely list of food-offenders: roadkill venison and coyote! mesquite pie! Turns out it was a severe allergic reaction to duck eggs. 

And I missed one family gathering.  I made it to the other, but instead of filling a plate with jello salad and hot dogs, I curled up in the guest bed with a bucket.

So I drove 14 hours to make it for 5 sickly minutes to half the family.

I hit the graves on the way out of town. The kids and I meandered back across the state, riding horses, camping, visiting museums (which they didn't hate as much as they thought and we all creeped out at the history doctor's office!).  We even tried a 2 mile hike but I was still a little weak for even that, so it involved a lot of stopping and laying down.

So by comparison, last night's evacuations felt easy and simple.  Uncle Barry served the ritual, habitual pre-"green flash"sunset Pisco Sours (an intense Chilean beverage as he spends half his time in Chile) on the rooftop here in San Diego.  And I wasn't quite ready for that apparently.  But it wasn't anaphylaxis and for that I was so grateful.  Some day, some weekend, my stomach will hold, right? Some day soon, I will not be afraid of food, right?

1 comment:

  1. Sarahjoy, only you could take a very unattractive incident and turn it into a beautiful bit of prose. I am genuinely jealous of your writing talent. I hope you're feeling better.

    I got pneumonia again, but we are getting better at recognizing the symptoms early on. We got it early this time and I am on antibiotics but was never really at risk of being hospitalized.

    On the 29th we leave for our first vacation in over four years. We are driving first of all to Las Vegas so I can fulfill a promise to a now passed on friend and then we go to Southern California to visit friends and family and do a few touristy things.

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