Chautauqua Lake, the Beach Boys, and Aunt Sis by Valerie J. Patterson

           So, Steve and I thought we’d get away for a few days to one of our favorite spots.  It was time for our annual wedding anniversary trip, but Steve had informed me sometime in June that we would not be taking a full vacation in August, but that we would take a full vacation sometime this fall.  I was okay with that so long as we still went away to celebrate our anniversary.

            We left bright and early last Thursday morning, headed toward New York and the Finger Lakes Region.  Plans included a comedy show on the beach featuring three well-known comics Thursday evening.  We checked-in to our hotel, got settled in, and went for a bite to eat.  I was looking forward to a seat on the beach and comedians evoking fits of laughter.  I was ready to relax, unwind, and enjoy the cool breeze off the water.  I was even hoping for a glass of wine to be in that mix.

            It rained.

           Nope, that’s mild.

       The sky unleashed torrential downpours that were relentless.  Somehow, Steve managed to salvage the evening with a drive and a light, intimate dinner in our hotel.

            Friday—our anniversary—dawned, well, drearily.  We slept late, which felt so very good.  I never sleep in.  Ever.  I long to sleep in, but my internal clock wakes me and my mind runs to all manner of subjects that can’t be put off.  We had a very leisurely breakfast then drove to the Chautauqua Institute and did some sightseeing.  The grounds of the institution are so peaceful and serene.  There were hand-laid brick streets lined with huge, aged trees that shielded walkers from the sun, which did eventually shine bright and hot.  There were lush, colorful gardens, and a huge, inviting water fountain in the center of the grounds where children cast in coins while making wishes.  I don’t believe in wishes, but I believe in prayers, and as I cast in my coins one at a time, I said quick, little prayers.  There were artisans selling exquisite wares, their tents lining both sides of the streets circling the center of the grounds.  Steve and I sat on a park bench savoring chocolate candies and sipping cold water.  I was completely at peace right there.  My surroundings invigorated my creativity and I smiled thinking about working on a book right there on the park bench.

            Then, Steve produced two tickets to a Beach Boys concert to be held in the amphitheater at the Institution.  It’s a small, intimate venue seating about 4,500 people, and we had excellent seats.  There were three of the original Beach Boys performing with four newer members.  Mike Love still flirts relentlessly with women of all ages.  The band is still full of fun energy.  And Hawaiian shirts were everywhere!  The concert was incredible and I sang along, laughed, cheered, whistled, and clapped until my palms hurt.  The night air was crisp and cool, a breeze filtering in between warm spectators to prevent clinging heat from settling around a person.  Every age was represented, and all had a good time if one could use the hollers and applause as a gauge.

            After the concert, we leisurely walked the grounds hand-in-hand as we talked about the concert.  We grabbed a very late, light dinner and headed back to our hotel.  It was the perfect way to spend our anniversary.

            Saturday, it all came crashing down when the shrill ring of my cell phone broke the morning silence.  My Aunt Sis—you might remember her as the aunt with Alzheimer’s who I moved to my hometown—had fallen that morning at breakfast and an ambulance was called to transport her to the hospital.  The nurse told me they suspected she’d broken her ankle.  I was instantly awake, and all that ran through my mind was that this couldn’t be happening because I was too far away to do anything about it.  Calm crept into my mind and I phoned my father-in-law and asked him to meet the ambulance at the hospital, stay with my aunt, and keep her calm until Steve and I got there.  She has a fear of hospitals because once there, she does not remember where she is or why.  I made the arrangements, packed our luggage, and we were dressed, checked out, and on the highway 45 minutes after the initial phone call.  I think that has to be some sort of record!

            About three-quarters of the way home, my father-in-law called to say the ankle was not broken, but was severely sprained and she would need a walker to get around.  He was taking her home once she was discharged.  He’d not only managed to keep her calm, but she kept him in smiles as she joked with him while they waited.  When I got to the assisted living residence, she was walking around with a friend of the family, and had forgotten the fall all together.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief, spent some time with her, and then went home to unpack.  Two mornings later on Monday, August 12th, I received another phone call, this one telling me my aunt had experienced some sort of seizure and was now unresponsive.  An ambulance was on its way to the residence.  Thankfully, I was less than a mile away as opposed to 4 hours, and when I arrived the paramedics were getting ready to load her into the ambulance.  Aunt Sis was alert enough to look at me, smile, and say, “Don’t cry.”

            I followed the ambulance as best I could to the hospital, but lost it as it sped off down the interstate.  Aunt Sis was already in triage when I arrived.  She was very disoriented and confused.  All she could tell them was that her first name was Kay, and she was born in June.  The doctor—after examination—informed me he suspected she’d actually had a stroke as he found no evidence of a seizure, and he was ordering a cat scan of the brain along with several other tests.  Within an hour and a half, her mind had cleared and not only could she tell them her full name, my name and relationship, but also the name of her last pet.  At the end of the day, diagnosis was a seizure not a stroke and she was released into my care.  We stopped to have lunch with my sister, Janis and her daughter, Rebekah, then we headed back home to the residence.

            When I left, she was surrounded by staff and residents alike, all welcoming her back.  When I called that evening, she was sleeping comfortably.  The following day, we shared a bowl of popcorn and watched TV.  Her sense of humor was on in full force, and she was having a better than “good” memory day.  She still has some testing that her primary care physician has ordered, and we have some doctor’s appointments to go to today, but I am very thankful that she is once again safe and secure and I am close by.

            Yes, we abruptly ended our trip, but I had seen the Beach Boys in person, had been surrounded by incredible beauty, had celebrated our anniversary together, and my aunt was thankfully not sporting a new cast on her right foot or walking that long road of recovery from a stoke.  Most of all, prayers were said and prayers were definitely answered.  Does it get any better than that?

                Until next time, may you find peace in your surroundings, love in the faces you gaze upon, and that your prayers have been answered.

15 responses to “Chautauqua Lake, the Beach Boys, and Aunt Sis by Valerie J. Patterson

  1. So, so glad you got the time away, even if it was cut short. You know I’ve been mired in the same sort of worry/stable/worry again/stable again thing with my Mom. I have spent a lot of time in my mind these past few days reliving three weeks ago, when I was on vacation in Leavenworth with 8 of my family’s women. It bolsters us for the harder times, eh? And I’ll just apologize now for the huff of laughter I let out over the torrential rain during the comedy show. Sorry. In retrospect, I hope it seems funny to you, too. I LOVE the Beach Boys. We go quite often to see them when they come to the Washington State Fair.
    And a quick side note – Mom came home from the hospital on Monday, but went back in on Wednesday. Only for an overnight and mostly because of too much fluid…due to the IV fluids they gave her over the weekend to combat the dehydration. Gees, this is becoming a delicate balance. But she’s home and happy and hopefully now just needs to regain her strength.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Couple of things, Laurie…very glad to hear your mom is back home again and is on the mend. I’m sorry you’ve had the same up and down. We think of our parents and elder relatives as the strong ones who kept us safe for the vast part of our lives. When the tables get turned, it sure narrows our focus and reality hits home that it is our turn to do the caring and protecting…and worrying.

      I’ll forgive that burst of laughter over the rain if you’ll forgive my shock every time I read you went to Leavenworth! It startles me each time because my mind immediately goes to the Federal Penitentiary in Kansas!! On your initial post, I was baffled as to why anyone would want to vacation at Leavenworth!! 😛

      One last thing…the specialist I took Aunt Sis to see yesterday informed us the hospital had misread her x-rays and she in fact had a broken foot. They put her in a cast immediately, which she then took apart last night!! SMH

  2. This will be an anniversary you’ll savor in your memory collection Valerie. It validates the important and good things in life.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      It sure does, Lavada. Every once in a while I need to be reminded to slow down and savor the good things I have in life.

      BTW, just a note, found out at the specialist yesterday that Aunt Sis did in fact have a broken foot. Thankfully they gave her an air cast that she can walk on because she won’t sit still!! 😛

  3. Ms. Valerie, you live life well. Thank you for sharing and inspiring>

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Jose! Your post here makes me smile. I appreciate that you stopped by to read and comment.

      God is good, isn’t He? He surrounds us with beauty, we just sometimes miss the forest for the trees! And He is always faithful to hear and answer our prayers!

      You’re a blessing, Jose! So is Pastor Chris!

  4. I think anniversaries are most important to celebrate. Lots of prayers for Aunt Sis it is hard when someone’s health is so up & down.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Vicki! Thank you for coming by. I appreciate you and your time! Thank you, too for the prayers for Aunt Sis. Found out yesterday at the orthopaedic specialist that she did in fact break her foot. Hospital misread the x-rays. Thankfully, they put her in a cast immediately.

  5. One anniversary you will certainly remember. I saw the Beach Boys way back in the 60s when they came to London and were brilliant – they’ve always been a favourite of mine. Aunt Sis is a lucky lady to have so many caring people around her and you are lucky lady to have a husband who planned such a lovely weekend, even if it didn’t quite go to plan. 🙂

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Yay! Another Beach Boys fan. They’re such a fun group and you can’t help but smile when listening to their music.

      Poor Aunt Sis! It seems the hospital misread her x-rays and she spent the past 7 days walking on a broken foot! The orthopaedic specialist we saw yesterday put her in a cast immediately, and one she can walk on! The residence where she lives is the best I’ve ever seen. I know that when I go home in the evenings that she is being well cared for!

      I am most definitely blessed by Steve. I ask him all the time what I did to deserve him! 😛

  6. Such a lovely, inspirational post, Valerie. I’m so pleased you and Steve managed to celebrate your anniversary, and very pleased to hear your aunt is doing okay now. She is very lucky to have such a caring niece. How rotten for her to have been walking around on a broken foot all that time. She’s certainly been through the mill, poor love.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Tricia! Thank you for reading, and for your kind words. My aunt is recovering. At first the cast caused her a lot of pain due to the immense swelling in her foot. She kept dismantling the cast and I would find pieces of it stashed beneath her pillow. I am always thankful for the care she receives at the residence. They love her and I am in their debt!

  7. I’m glad you got a bit of fun in before your aunt’s fall. Sounds like you had a nice time til then and I love that your father in law was able to assist until you could get there. He sounds like good people.

    I heard that the Beach Boys concert tour is great- someone else I know saw them as well. They are a favorite of mine.

    Hope your aunt continues to mend – it seems she’s in a good place with people who care for her.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Jillian! Thank you! Aunt Sis is adjusting to having the cast on her foot. She’s walking better, which is what I hoped would happen. She is a true social butterfly and loves to visit the other “neighborhoods” in the residence. I was worried the cast would slow her down too much, but it hasn’t!

      As for my father-in-law…he is a priceless gem! He is always there to lend a hand when help is needed. He has no idea how much it meant to me to have him step in when I was too far away to be there.

      The Beach Boys give a great show. If you’re able to, catch them when they’re in town! 😛

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