Note: this is probably the longest blog post I’ve ever written. Forgive the typos and tense-shifting, I’m not proofreading.
By now, you’ve probably read why I went east. The reason wasn’t fun, but I was looking forward to it. However, Ash was going with me on the flight, and as you know, when Ash flies anywhere, things just go wrong. Not only was this trip not an exception, it might have set the standard for all future shitty trips.
This is as comprehensive a list as I could remember of what went wrong. I’m leaving off minor things like the food we ordered not coming out right (which happened a few times during the trip) or the muggy weather. This is everything else, broken down by day.
We heard the bad news and booked a flight. Landen had less than 24 hours notice, but he handled it like a champion. While not totally packed, we were pretty good that night. Our flight left Friday at 10:40, enough time for me to get an hour or two of work in.
After a little more packing (but not everything), I head to the office to work. Landen comes in a few minutes later saying, “Mommy needs your help.” I go to her and she says “Call 9-1-1.” Duncan had been choking and vomiting and crying for about 20 seconds by this point. I call them and the responders show up almost immediately. This is a little over 3 hours before our flight. By the time they arrived, whatever he’d swallowed made it past and he was okay, though shaken up. Ash had found an envelope with some coins and he had a penny in his hand. We assumed it was a coin, but we weren’t sure.
Because we weren’t sure, they recommended going to the ER to get an X-Ray, make sure it wasn’t a) anything sharp or b) a quarter. Ash says she still needs to pack, but I tell her to take Duncan to the ER and I will get Landen ready and we’ll go. At worst, Landen and I would still make the trip, but Ash and Duncan might not. Turns out they did make it (after security, we were there about 45 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off – our flight was actually late anyway, but we didn’t know that at the time.)
But in my haste to pack, which I wasn’t ready for, I left some stuff at home: Landen’s blankie and stuffed monkey Buddy, Duncan’s birth certificate, and some berries. Most of these would actually be irrelevant, but not all. In the process of packing, my back gave out. It would continue to get worse every day of the trip.
The flights were fine, and the airline didn’t ask for Duncan’s birth certificate at all, so we dodged a bullet there. Actually, somehow (and I’m still not 100% sure of how this happened), Landen managed to flush his underwear down the airplane toilet, and for the rest of the trip, every time he went to the bathroom he was deathly afraid of losing his underwear.
This was a day where we were just going to take it easy. For the most part we did. We even managed to sneak away and see some friends so they could meet the boys. Landen and Nathaniel (Aaron’s son) got along great and played with cars and trains until they were well-past bedtime. It was this night that I broke my diet. I will have more about that in Part 3 of this journey.
Because of the last-minute nature of this trip, we didn’t work out many logistics. Thankfully, Tracy and Jerry were AWESOME and flexible and extremely accommodating. They let us use their car to drive to CT for the wake and burial, for which we were extremely grateful, and they even watched Landen for two days while we did it. The drive up was rather uneventful, though we later heard we just missed a mega accident that forced Aaron and Julia to turn around and not make it. That might have been the one bit of luck that actually found its way to us.
A second thing we didn’t have planned was where we were going to sleep while in CT. Worst came to worst, we’d get a hotel. But Jaymar had given me the # of a buddy of his. I never got ahold of him, but while at the viewing, Jay and Jen hooked us up with this lovely couple (very good family friends of Jen’s) who volunteered to put us – total strangers – up for the night. They even gave us their GPS to find their place. They simply said “punch in HOME and you’re good to go.” Maybe things WERE looking up.
After the very painful viewing, Jay and Jen invited anyone who wanted to to come out for dinner and drinks and just some camaraderie. During dinner Duncan started getting fussy, so we made new plans. Ash would take the car to get Duncan back to Gail and Kevin’s (the very nice couple). I would hang with Jay, have a drink or two, and mooch a ride from somewhere back to their place. Great.
About twenty minutes later, I get a call. Ash says there’s a problem. She’d already been driving 20 minutes and the next direction on the GPS was to follow that road for 25 miles. Knowing something was wrong, she pulled over. Just then, she notices the AC in the car stopped. And the hood started smoking. GET OUT OF THE CAR! She pulled Duncan to safety, but now she had two problems. She was lost despite having a GPS and her car was leaking fluids in a not-at-all-good way. The next twenty minutes are spent in a mad game of Operator. Ash can’t reach Gail. She calls Triple A. Gail’s daughter (who happens to be at the bar – one of Jen’s close friends) is trying to reach Kevin, her dad, who is both a firefighter and a mechanic (convenient!) Finally, we make new plans. Kevin and Gail will take two cars to pick Ash up (she is probably 40 minutes from their house). Gail will drive Ash and Duncan back to their house, Kevin will wait for AAA to tow the car back to a VW dealership in the same town as the burial the next day.
We found out what happened with the GPS too – they have a summer home in Vermont, and they still had that address set at “home”, and Ash who is not from the area, didn’t realize it until too late. Yeah, that actually happened.
Meanwhile, at the bar, I decide to order one more very stiff drink, knock it back quickly, and head out with Gail and Kevin’s two kids and Jen’s sister to get back. I finally do make it back (before Ash) and at last we all arrive at Gail and Kevin’s house. The car was towed to the dealership, we hoped it wouldn’t be bad, and we tried to sleep. Nobody really succeeded, though. Duncan barely slept and Ash hardly slept because the only way Duncan would sleep is if they shared their (single) bed. I had a tough time sleeping because of my back.
MONDAY - After Gail made breakfast (seriously, they went ABOVE AND BEYOND the call of duty for complete strangers) and we finally determined that our car would be looked at that day, we went to the burial. After the burial and before lunch, Kevin took us to the dealership, where they told us they had no news. Ash told them that we’d need to rent a car soon and we needed to know as soon as possible. They said they’d try.
After lunch, at Jay and Jen’s insistence, we headed back to their house for a few hours. This was to buy us time so hopefully we would get news of the car. We DID get a call saying it was a hose or belt, and that it wasn’t too big a deal, but they were going to replace it and run it a while to make sure nothing else had gone. Best case scenario (ha!!) Ash would be on her way with Duncan that night – Landen was getting very antsy without us by then – and she would drop me off at my boss’ place in south CT to stay with him.
They called back to say that the water pump had also gone and that would take a long time. Kevin agreed that that was a definite possibility given what he saw, and there’s NO WAY it would get done (they told us this news at 2). We begged and pleaded and explained our situation, and he said he’d try, but no promises. Ash gave up and just ordered a rental car. She and Duncan left and I was to wait for the car. Either I would be staying with Jay and Jen (which I had wanted to avoid – to give them their space) or I would have a car and would drive down to my boss’ house.
Jay and some friends decide he needs a walk, so we take a 2-3 mile walk at a nearby park. It was nice when we got there. With about 1/2 mile left, the winds pick up and the sky darkens. Suddenly, THROUGH THE WOODS we see a storm moving in. Someone’s phone rings – it’s a relative saying that the area is basically getting hurricane conditions. The skies open up. DOWNPOUR. Hail, lightning directly overhead. We assumed it was Gavin who had just found the weather control console and REALLY liked pushing the red button. Over and over again. We get back to the car drenched but okay. Just before the walk I had gotten confirmation that the maintenance crew busted their ass and the car was ready. Following a change into dry clothes, Jay and I have dinner and he drops me off to get it.
I bid farewell to my friend, pack up, and head to south CT. I meet my boss there and explain what has happened so far. I needed two drinks in me to even get it all out.
My company asked me to come in for one day during the trip to meet some new employees. Also, Ken, the original boss, was celebrating his last day with the company at his upper west side home that night, so it just made sense. But now we had a problem. Ash was supposed to drop off her rental car in NJ, then wouldn’t have a way to get her, Landen, Duncan, two car seats, and a stroller into NYC, and Tracy wouldn’t be able to drive her because it was Knox’ first day of daycare. I was in the city with Tracy’s now-fixed car, but had no way of getting to Jersey. After many many many phone calls and planning, Ash changes her location to drop-off the car to a Hertz in NYC, not far from Ken’s, and that’s that.
However, at work, I spent an hour fighting with my computer, as it isn’t working properly. The IT team does a fix that works for about twenty minutes. Bear in mind, I hadn’t worked much of the last few days because of Gavin’s funeral, so I’m very far behind and need every minute I can get (particularly because the office was closing early for the party and 4th of July). Another hour passes and I give up and go to another computer. THAT one isn’t working properly either. We end up having a 2 hour conference call, further reducing the time I have to get stuff done. Add to that my cell phone stopped placing calls while in the city. I was not a happy camper.
Finally Ash comes in with the boys a little late and we start to head over in 90+ degree heat. We divert our trip a bit so we can hit the subway (Landen was promised a train ride). He had a great time on the trains, though they were too loud for his liking. The party itself was quite enjoyable, and I think I ate more red meat than I had in the past two years combined. Scrumptious.
By the time we finally made it back to West Milford, it was after 9. I had to lay down immediately because my back (remember that?) was in so much pain that basically utilizing the muscles hurt so so much. I had a glass of wine and went to bed, hoping it would be better in the morning.
Fourth of July. And my back was worse than ever. I took two ibuprofen in the morning just to make it through the morning. After some pictures and last-minute packing, we head out to the airport about 1.5 hours early. When we check in, the guy asks us for Duncan’s birth certificate. We don’t have it. He says he can’t go on the flight. Ash and I don’t quite realize right away that he’s totally serious. He asks again and we tell him we really don’t have it – it’s in Reno. Ash points out that he has no teeth, can’t talk, and can’t stand. The guy replies: “I know old people that don’t have any teeth. I need proof of his date of birth. It’s on our website.” He tells us to have it faxed. By the time someone were to go to our house and get it and fax it over, we would have missed the flight. Ash breaks down while I try to get the hospital on the phone. (The Doctor’s office is closed, mind you, because it’s a holiday).
After two calls and speaking to 4 people, Ash gets this unpleasant woman who won’t help us – it’s against company policy to give out that information. Finally, the Southwest guy asks to speak to her. He runs around in circles for more than five minutes. The hospital wants authorization – we’re right here! We give it! – and then says that won’t work, they aren’t allowed to give that out. Finally, the Southwest guy says “Just say yes or no. Was Duncan born on 10/12/11? And she keeps fighting him, though at one point she says “yes, but I can’t fax you anything.” After more than five minutes of fighting (we’d probably been in line 25 minutes at this point), the guy instructs me to just hang up on her. He is willing to accept that very unofficial acknowledgment of his date of birth. He (fortunately) ushers us to the front of the security line and we make it through with about 15 minutes before our flight boards.
The flights themselves were okay – Duncan wouldn’t sleep unless he was being nursed, so Ash basically fed him for four hours. Landen did great on all the flights, but he’s still a 3-year-old and that’s draining.
At our layover, my back hurt now so much that I laid on the floor to try to fix it. And when I tried to get up, I couldn’t. I tried three times and I literally couldn’t use my back muscles to help me up. Ash brings more ibuprofen and I suck them down. We instruct Granny to meet us at the Reno airport with something stronger. It is probably the most (prolonged) pain I’ve ever been in.
The rest of the trip went without too much hassle and we made it home.
The results? My back is better now. Duncan DID swallow a penny (it came out during the wake), and all our hosts rocked our socks. We were able to be there for Jay and Jen, a few friends got to meet our kids, I got to have a send-off for the one-time boss who basically enabled me to move across country and marry Ashley… it wasn’t all bad.
But most of it sucked.