It is known as the never-ending trip. I am famous for the vacation Bataan death marches. These are marches that start at the crack of dawn and you do not stop having fun (?) until your head hits the pillow around 9pm that night. At 9pm if you are not asleep because you are not exhausted I feel as though I have failed and will double down on the next day. But this trip was different.
Every year the day after Christmas we head for a state park of the birthday girl’s choice hereafter to be referred to as Maya. This year she had chosen as part of her celebration FDR State Park next to Callaway Gardens and Warm Springs Georgia the home of FDR’s little White House. I have long been a fan of FDR. His story of overcoming polio to become one of our greatest presidents has inspired me for a long time.
We were on the road toward the park. Everything on the surface appeared to be perfect. We were half way there when problems surfaced. Maya, the birthday child, exploded into a scene straight from the Exorcist. It turns out she was not feeling well she said, as I cleaned the vomit from the back of the car. We had pulled over to a country church parking lot not looking for salvation but a place to save Maya and the car. After one more episode outside the car she revealed again she was not feeling good. I concurred as I cleaned the back of the car with some paper towels we had not brought along for an occasion such as this. I asked her if she wanted to go back home she said no and I being the eternal optimist with a vacation Bataan Death March plan sided with her that the march forward must continue. After all everyone in our family had unusually strong immune systems and seldom got sick and when we did it was mild and quick.
The trip to FDR State Park was, to begin with, a visit to the Little White House. It was here I learned how FDR wanted a place where he could work on his healing. At first he was looking for a cure for polio but even beyond that the Little White House was a place where as much as a President can, he sought peace and renewal from the rigors of the presidency. The museum was great and we all enjoyed it so much. My wife, Chris, stated as we left, she did not feel well. I jokingly told her there was no escape from tomorrow’s march.
The park was beautiful and the cabin we stayed in was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). I unloaded the car; Maya strangely went straight to bed. At the crack of dawn the next day I awoke everyone. Chris was not feeling any better; Maya was at least moving. I told them since they were not feeling well we would not do the longer hike today but the shorter hike. Chris smiled thankfully at my sensitivity.
The hike was not long but we all moved at a snail’s pace. I was disappointed but I realized that we would not be able to go to FDR’s favorite picnic spot that was at the park and over looked the valley. He would spend many a slow day looking at the scenery, enjoying the picnic, talking with his friends, and just being at the location. I would have to cram it in tomorrow’s activities. Back at the cabin Maya was beat but was a hair better, Chris collapsed and I knew I would be in charge of the evening meal. Knowing Maya was asleep and could barely move as was the case with her mother I turned to our youngest daughter, Dorothy, for help. She complained of being tired but mustered up the strength to help. I prepared supper as terrifying noises came from the bathroom. Supper was only me and Dorothy; the others visited the table but did not eat much. After supper Dorothy went straight to bed. I guess no one will be able to play the game I brought.
That night a curse visited Dorothy. Maya and Chris were down so it was left to me to nurse her. She was a small girl and I could not figure out how much liquid could come out of both her ends. Tomorrow was another day; I guess I would have to modify my plans to fit the abilities of the rest of the family.
No one came to breakfast but Maya. She was still not a hundred percent but at least seemed to be moving in the right direction. On today’s master plan was a visit to museums in the town of Columbus, thirty miles away. I suggested to Chris she could buck up and we could go. She gave me the “you are one stupid man look.” Dorothy was down for the day and she made it clear if I did not let her rest our marriage would have a sudden end with my death as the cause.
I looked at old faithful adventure girl Maya, and said we would only go to one museum and after all I needed to stop at a grocery store for more medications and other things. She reluctantly agreed. It was about half way through the exhibits that I acknowledged its presence. Or maybe you could say it reached up and slapped me in the face or more precisely punched me in the stomach as I ran for the bathroom.
When I returned I looked Maya in the eyes and said I was sick and we needed to return. I was near comatose state but she gave me the look of a woman of many years shaking her head at my folly. We trudged to the car. I realized that I was not sure if I could drive back to the cabin and Maya was not driving yet. I planned in my head go to the store, get the medication, take some of the medications, buy oranges and flood my body with vitamin C and meds. I might make it. I was so tired I could not even read a map. Maya would have to be my guide.
The only problem was the map was dated and Maya, God bless her soul, was not the ideal map-reader she has become today. Pinching myself, lowering the windows, Maya nudging me when she felt I might fall asleep began. Orange after orange was consumed as the coolness of the juices of the oranges helped momentarily relieve the high temperatures my body was feeling. Oh by the way did I say Maya was reading an outdated map and was not yet great giving instructions and reading a map. Reversal of courses and wrong roads were the schedule for the day. I learned something that day: I am a better parent when I have a fever, can barely talk or move. Not once did I explode at yet another diversion. The trip took an hour longer on the way back.
Once at the cabin I crawled to it and went straight to bed. There was no supper for me that night. The next day was when I scheduled the long hike. At eleven no one had moved from their beds. I was glued to mine. I think they ate lunch. I remember ever so slightly looking up at the ceiling and thinking what a beautiful cabin and I also remember the sunlight hitting my face and thinking what a beautiful day it must be.
The next morning we were scheduled to leave. I could not get out of bed. They trudged around and ate breakfast. Chris asked me if I wanted to eat and said I needed to get up and we needed to load the car for the trip home. I said maybe we could stay an extra day; I was not sure I could walk to the car. In what was an hour later I was still in bed. They all gathered around me and said the car was loaded, all I had to do was make it to the car and sit in it. I sincerely doubted I could make it. Somehow on my fourth attempt to rise up I did.
The long trip home began. I suggested we drive halfway because I did not know if I could sit in the car any longer. They insisted marching forward to our destination. There was a sickness in the air. Suddenly, a realization flooded my body: this was their sweet revenge for all of my vacation Bataan Death marches I had taken them on.
Somehow I survived. The trip in one way was successful. I learned from FDR that retreats are for healing the soul, not notching mileage on your walking stick. Time away was for just being, not scoring yet one more museum in your intellectual scorecard. There have not been anymore vacation Bataan Death Marches since that trip. Why I even let them sleep to 8:30 the last vacation.