These past two weeks have been the busiest I’ve had in years; every time I turned around, it seemed as though there was another crisis to resolve or person to say good-bye to. Days were packed with finishing up a freelance story for the Washington Post magazine (to be published in November), closing on my house, trying to decide which house to buy in Tennessee and putting together an offer, agonizing over which textbooks to use for my courses (none of them are QUITE what I want), reserving hotels enroute and a million other things. Veeka’s two uncles dropped by about a week before we left, which was wonderful to have the three Duin children under one roof. For the past two years, whenever Steve was in town, he’d get together with me and Rob; now I’ll be gone so the trio can’t gather like we did. As the days progressed, so did the drumbeat of good-byes. My last few days in town were one drama after another, beginning with the closing for my house. One of the parties – it wasn’t me – raised a stink at the last minute and for a nerve-wracking half hour, it looked like the sale of my house was off. Fortunately all was resolved but it’s not an experience I care to ever repeat. Then there was a mess with the moving company as one of the drivers apparently canceled at the last minute, causing them to bring an emergency replacement up from Florida. The packing AND the moving had to be done in one exhausting 15-hour marathon. I was at the house until after 11 pm and my heart went out to the poor packers and driver who were so tired they could barely walk.
Of course the weather during all this was in the high 90s or low 100s, adding to the general stress. Although my house closed on a Friday, I lingered in town over the weekend as I was slated to appear at an author’s event at a local restaurant Sunday night. When Veeka and I showed up at our friends, the Tiradors, to stay Friday and Saturday night, they were hugely concerned about their daughter Veronica, 6, one of Veeka’s close friends. She’d had surgery to remove some adenoids that morning at a local outpatient clinic. What no one knew at the time is that she was given an overdose of 20 milligrams of morphine. That’s a lot for an adult; and nearly fatal for a child. Turns out that when her parents thought she was sleeping off the effects of the operation that afternoon, her heart apparently stopped and she had some kind of oxygen loss. Her parents could not wake her up; after they rushed her to the hospital, she slipped into a coma. The dad had to return to the house to tend to the rest of their kids who were there. I was at the house late Friday evening when the call came in from the mom who was still at the hospital. She said that Veronica had had a stroke and was in dire straits. I was with her dad when he got the news and it was truly a very dark hour. I called a brother and sister-in-law, one of whom rushed to the hospital and the other came to the house to be with the dad. All this was past midnight.
By Saturday morning, news had hit the local prayer list, so people began to bring in food and pray for this poor little girl. Apparently 7 neurologists had met at one point to try to figure out how to handle her case. An MRI that came in on Saturday had some optimistic reports; although there were areas of great concern, there was not the widespread brain damage we all feared. By Sunday, the Tirador house had become Grand Central with food convoys and tons of incoming phone calls. Most of what I did was help keep the kitchen clean and house picked up from the reams of visitors. Veeka and I visited St. Andrew’s that morning to say good-bye, then visited Veronica at Children’s Hospital pediatric ICU that afternoon. (CH was not the clinic that did the original damage; it’s the place to which the parents took her) Veronica was conscious but in great pain. It was heart-breaking to see this vivacious little girl with whom Veeka often played over at our house now crying from her hospital bed. As I write this two days later, she has been moved out of ICU, but she’s not out of the woods by a long shot.
Sunday night, I was one of four authors at a booksigning at Busboys & Poets, a local restaurant that specializes in such events, after which I picked up the kitty from the cat sitter and we headed out of town that night under a near full moon to be with friends living near Woodstock, Va. After a morning relaxing in their pool, we headed south to Wytheville, where we drove up Walker mountain and its less-than-impressive country store and viewpoint. Today we drove into Tennessee, where we spent time with the Hamblins, the family I profiled for the Wall St. Journal. Both parents handle serpents in church and their oldest child, Payton, has a crush on Veeka! And she likes him too. The parents and I were joking about becoming in-laws 20 years hence. Must say I didn’t have a boyfriend when I was 7! It was pleasant just to sit and talk and not worry about taking notes. They live in La Follette; after saying good-bye to them, we drove back south into Knoxville where we’re staying at the spiffiest Best Western I’ve ever seen while watching the US womens gymnastic team win a gold medal.