Hurricane Sandy hit the very day that my parents were scheduled to return from Taiwan into JFK. My mother called from Taiwan that night, but for a whole week afterward, I had no idea what their status was. They don’t have a smart phone, and while my father emails regularly from home (and even, briefly, joined Facebook, quitting after he realized how “boring” and “stupid” it was), I doubted he’d be able to figure out how to email from abroad. So I waited.
Finally, the night I wrote that Survivor Guilt post, my mother called. They had returned the night before at midnight to a house with no power, and that day still had no power. Then my mother said, “We had a bad trip.”
“What happened?” I asked, expecting her to talk about the nightmare of flying into JFK so soon after Hurricane Sandy. But that wasn’t it.
“Your dad broke his leg!” she said.
“Oh no! What happened?”
My mother explained: on their second day in Taiwan, my father tripped and fell. This has happened before. While he walks three miles a day, I think that when he’s someplace unfamiliar, he has a tendency to trip easily. On a different China trip, he fell but only got a little scraped up. At my grandmother’s funeral, he tripped over a curb and got some abrasions on his face. This time he fractured a pubis bone. A fracture, not a break, but my mother didn’t make this clear.
The fall and injury happened two weeks earlier, but my father insisted my mother not tell my brother and me, for fear we would worry over nothing. So when I talked to my mom that night she called from Taiwan, they had already been holed up in the hotel for six days. (Luckily at least my parents had a problem-free week in China first.)
“He can’t move!” she said. “And we have no power.” Luckily they had a friend nearby with power so at least my mom could drive there and charge their phones. But no power also meant no running water or heat. “And it was so cold last night.”
“Oh, no,” I kept saying. I pictured my father flat and immobile on the couch, as he would have to remain for six to eight weeks. “I think you should go to the emergency room! He should be in the hospital!” An ambulance could come get him, I thought, and he’d at least be in a place with power and where he could be taken care of, without the whole burden being on my mom.
“We went to the emergency room in Taiwan,” Mom said. “The doctor said all we can do is wait six to eight weeks.”
Painfully, slowly, I got it out of my mother that my father’s regular doctor would be calling him the next day and would advise him about what to do. My mother kept saying “the doctor,” referring to the doctor both in Taiwan and his regular doctor, making no distinction.
She also told me not to worry (imagine that! the Queen Mother of Worrying), but I couldn’t help but be worried sick. What I was most anxious about was that they had no power. I wanted to do something but there was nothing I could do. So I tweeted. I tweeted at my parents’ electric company that “my elderly parents still have no power or running water,” and their road and the cross street. I searched on Twitter for the name of my parents’ town, and saw that some people had power and some didn’t.
I went to bed around two, but couldn’t turn off my brain. If only they had power, I kept thinking. Then my dad’s injury wouldn’t be so hard so deal with. Then, If only my dad weren’t injured, then the power outage would be nothing. They could go to a friend’s house to shower and hang out. But they couldn’t. The image of my dad trapped and immobile in the cold and darkness kept replaying in my head.
I finally fell asleep around 3, and was up again at 7. The first thing I did was check my email, and lo and behold, there was an email from my dad. They had gotten their power back just that morning, and he very calmly gave the details of his injury. He had a fracture not a break, and it was his right pubis bone. He had spoken with his regular doctor, who confirmed that all he could do was rest right now and let the fracture heal naturally. In six to eight weeks, he should make a follow up X-ray appointment and an appointment to see the doc.
Holy shit, I felt so much better after that.
Of course I wanted to fly out to New Jersey right away, but I didn’t know how feasible that would be in the aftermath of Sandy. Finally, I decided a week should suffice, and found a reasonable flight.
But then came word of an impending nor’easter. I sort of ignored the warnings, and hoped that it would pass the east coast, or wouldn’t be so bad. But two days before my flight, my dad asked me to postpone my trip. The idea of my dealing with bad weather was too stressful for him. So I canceled my flight (again luckily in time for a full refund).
Then I found another flight for the week after, which flew into Newark rather than JFK (which was my original flight’s destination), and was even slightly cheaper. Hooray!
Then I got a cold. No biggie. But when I talked to my mom on Tuesday, she tried to convince me to change my flight again. I really didn’t want to. This would be just getting ridiculous now. Then it turned out I’d have to call to change. Forget it. I can survive a flight with a silly cold. Leave it to my mom to stress me out over nothing.
Anyway, so I arrived last night with surprisingly no problems. In fact my flight was kinda great. It helped that I forked over $60 to upgrade to “economy plus.” The only regular seats left by the time I checked in were middle seats, or an aisle in the very last row. An aisle seat with more leg room was worth it to me. Gonna do it again on my way back.
My cold also didn’t bother me. I had a cough, but I was more worried about grossing out the people around me. I read, worked on my novel, and watched Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was so very good but so very sad. We landed 10 minutes early. I had a 20 minute wait for the train, but at least there were trains going to my town. And an express no less!
It’s been good to see my dad in person. While his mobility is pretty limited, he sounds and looks like his regular self. He can stand for short periods of time, but can’t walk much yet. And my parents are bickering as usual.