Tag Archives: Beach Boys

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.