But we'll get to that in a minute. First of all, it's important to know that everyone is all right. My father had a heart attack Sunday -- or, rather, my father realized he had a heart attack Sunday. He actually had the attack last Thursday, in the middle of a county land auction.
Apparently, it went something like this:
Auctioneer: "Do I hear 350?"
Dad: (wordlessly raises number, while noticing crushing pain in chest and arm)Auctioneer: "I've got 350. Do I hear 375? 375?"
Dad: (disoriented, wordlessly raises number again)
Auctioneer: "Uh, Mark ... You've already got it for 350, but I can go higher if you'd like."
And then Dad stayed to bid on two more parcels, after which he headed home over the mountains to look after his granddaughter for a few days. Then drove her back across the state to her own home. Then back across the state to his own home. My parents live in a small town -- population 1,477 -- in West Virginia, and my mother doesn't drive. By the time Dad decided to drive himself the hour to the hospital, three days after the attack, the heart damage was so bad that they immediately rushed him to Roanoke. Which, of course, left my mother stranded and sleeping in a car in West Virginia.
I didn't know any of this when I got up for work Monday morning. I only knew that my mother had left a brief message for my sister saying she and my father were heading for the hospital "as a precaution." I also knew I had the beginnings of a head cold and that if I did, my kids probably did, as well. By ten, I'd had one kid puking and one seizing. By twelve-thirty, I'd sent both home. Meanwhile, a third was running a mild fever and my mother still wasn't answering her cell phone. Plus my cold medicine was making me dizzy and I was feeling a little out of sorts.
Ten till one, my mother answered, with the news that my father was in a Roanoke hospital and mom was still stranded in West Virginia, waiting for a ride. Turning down my immediate offer to head in that direction, Mom swore she had a ride on the way.
I was running a fever when I left school that afternoon, and had the beginnings of a migraine. I went to sleep early and woke the next morning to toss the dogs into the fenced yard, grab a couple of changes of clothes, and head for the mountains to see my father.
My mother didn't want me to make the trip, but I didn't tell her. She found out anyway by calling the school and discovering her daughter playing hooky. I was halfway there by then and came on, even though the Google Map's promise of 4 hours turned out to be wrong by two. My partner was experiencing a severe sort of anxiety about driving on the Interestate, and every time we went up a mountain, my sinus pressure increased till I started seeing spots. So, we weren't exactly the safest of drivers.
We made it as evening came on, and surprised my dad -- in retrospect, probably not something you want to do to a heart attack patient. But he seemed thrilled to see us. My mother had also made it to the hospital, driven there by her sister. Apparently, in addition to turning down my offer of a ride, she'd also turned down an offer from my 13-year-old autistic niece to "come pick her up if she needed a ride." I'm not sure whether my niece was planning to come on her scooter or her bicycle, but it couldn't have been good, either way. At any rate, we all sat around for a while, listening to my dad crack jokes about his heart monitor. He was surprisingly jovial for someone who had just walked around for four days after a heart attack. When we headed for the motel that night, everyone felt a lot better, now that we were together.
The next morning, I woke with a fever, and so much congestion that I couldn't talk. If I did manage to force my voice past the blockage in my throat, it came out sounding like a kazoo. I daffy-ducked my way through the morning before heading home. By this point, I was completely unable to drive, a fact which caused my partner's anxiety to raise markedly. I called the school and let them know I would not be back this week. We took it slow and grabbed a $30 motel room halfway home.
Fortunately, our pepto-bismol-colored motel room happened to be directly across from a haunted seafood restaurant, so the evening was not a total loss.
That brings us to this morning -- I still sound like a kazoo, and I'm about to embark on the rest of my road trip -- but Dad made it home from the hospital safe and my partner is feeling a lot better about driving this morning, so I guess we're doing all right. Plus, who would have thought a 30-dollar, pepto-bismol-colored room would have free wireless?