I’m sure we’ve all had our share of bad family reunions. I thought I’d tell you about mine.
The day started innocently enough. And well, I might add. Earlier in the year, my mom had just been told she was in remission from the cancer that was trying to claim her life. Ecstatic that she finally could kick the hospital habit for a while, she went in for one final check up. And fell and broke her hip. I’ll save that story for another time, so long story short, my dad and I had just gotten her out of the nursing home. It had been rough on her to say the least, but she adored her family reunions. And there was no way she was going to miss this one.
After many discussions with my dad about whether or not we should caravan with the rest of the family members, I finally won. Bright and early Friday morning, we packed Mom and her wheelchair in the car and headed for my uncle’s house to meet up with everybody else. We were determined that we would leave on time. Ten A.M. sharp. No exceptions!
I’m sure you can figure how that turned out. If not, let’s just say that 11:30a found me and my Engineer Cousin removing the rear seat of the rented – yes, rented – 15 passenger van so we could put this insanely huge cooler back there instead. Having grown up with these people all our lives, we’d ceased to ask why when weird things were done. Like filling this cooler with four cans of soda and nothing else. We could’ve at least fit a small child in it, too. But she ran away. Oh well.
Slowly, but surely, the family trickled in and we were ready to leave by 12:15p. So much for our 10a departure. The bizarre thing, as we were pulling off from my uncle’s, another aunt and uncle finally drove up and joined the three car procession. With everybody present, I just knew it was time to get on the highway. My mistake.
My uncle is beyond frugal. So we ended up driving across the city to fill up with cheap gas. Of course after this grueling 15 minute trek, people naturally had get out and stretch their legs. I really hoped that wouldn’t be par for the course. We had at least a six hour drive ahead of us.
Finally, tanks have been filled, legs have been stretched and bladders are empty. We’re ready to get on the highway. A mere two and half hours late. Sort of. We had one more stop to make. We had to go to my Mechanic Cousin’s house to get his tools. Just in case. Like I said, we’ve learned not to ask.
Finally on our way, my Lawyer Cousin took the lead in the 15 passenger van. I drove my parents’ car behind him. My Super Late Uncle was third, while my Big Cousin brought up the rear. Things were just peachy. For a whole hour and half.
Being from Los Angeles, Lawyer Cousin and I easily navigated the thick – for them – Cincinnati traffic without incident. We were a while down the road before we realized we were no longer four, but two. Lawyer Cousin waved me on to find a place to stop while he hung back to find the others.
I found a Burger King and called back to let them know where we were. It took forever for them to catch us. But we were occupied with getting Mom out of the car and to the bathroom. Thank God one of the servers had training as a nurse. Let’s just say I suck at caretaking and that’s putting it mildly.
We’d just gotten Mom settled with her food when the rest of the caravan began trickling in. We commandeered the back half of the restaurant to eat and that’s when we found out that Big Cousin was rear ended in Cincinnati. The damage wasn’t that severe, but we could tell they were all a little shaken. They decided to continue on the trip.
While all of us were sitting in the nice air conditioned restaurant, my Skinny Uncle decided to stay outside and walk around in the 100 degree heat. It probably wouldn’t have been suck a big deal if he were under 80, but…None of us really paid any attention to him as we were concerned with the whole getting rear ended thing.
At long last, we packed everyone up and got back on the highway, Again, Lawyer Cousin took the lead, Super Late Uncle was second, Big Cousin third and I brought up the rear. Mechanic Cousin was driving for Big Cousin to give him a rest after the accident.
We had about two hours of peace before the adventure began again. Some kind of fluid hit my windshield shortly before Big Cousin’s car started smoking. I called Engineer Cousin in Lawyer Cousin’s van because I didn’t have any phone numbers for anyone else. He had Lawyer Cousin call Mechanic Cousin to find out what was going on.
Through this dubious game of phone, I was assured that the smoke was nothing to worry about. I relayed back to Mechanic Cousin that a lot of fluid had hit my windshield. Still, he didn’t want to stop. The car stopped smoking for a bit and I figured all was well. Until something fell off the bottom of Big Cousin’s car. Something else stayed attached, but was dragging along the road.
Engineer Cousin called me to say that we were stopping so Mechanic Cousin could take a look. When I saw him slowing along the side of the road, I relayed back to him that the nearing exit would probably be a safer place to stop. Mechanic Cousin swerved back on the road and took the next exit. The four of us pulled into the gas station to wait for Mechanic Cousin to fix the problem. Good thing we’d stopped for his tools, huh?
We’d all assumed that the accident had something to do with our current predicament. Of course that wasn’t the case. Having just worked on the car, Mechanic Cousin decided to test the air conditioner. Hence the fluid and the smoke.
Mechanic Cousin got under the hood and determined the problem. Apparently he’s a freaking genius when it comes to cars. Even with all of us standing over him, he was able to make some complex calculations on the fly to figure out how to repair it. The problem – yes, another one – he didn’t have the part. He and Lawyer Cousin took Super Late Uncle’s SUV to find an Autozone to get what he needed.
The rest of us were just left there to cool our heels – not the easiest thing to do when it’s still over 90 degrees – at the gas station. We made the best of it. Mom and Skinny Uncle got a chance to talk and catch up. I hung with Engineer Cousin as always and others broke up in their usual groups.
We were all getting a little restless since it seemed that the Autozone Excursion was taking forever. Then we heard my mom scream Skinny Uncle’s name. All of us raced over to see what happened and were stunned to see him lying motionless on the ground.
I ran in the gas station to get some ice while everyone else knelt around him trying to revive him. On the fly, I demanded that the attendant call 9-
It took almost all of us to keep him still on the ground. In his confusion, he fought to get up. I’m talking kicks and punches. We relented and let him sit up, but no farther. That’s when we saw the huge knot on the back of his head. It was a little bloody and we determined that when he passed out, his head hit the raised curb causing the knot and the scrapes.
Shortly after we’d gotten him calmed and assured we weren’t trying to hurt him, the ambulance arrived. To the wrong gas station. They parked at the gas station across the wide four lane highway and looked around confused. I couldn’t cross, but I went to the edge of the road and waved my little heart out to get their attention. My Teacher Cousin and High School Cousin joined me and we finally got them to the right place.
They tended to Skinny Uncle and got him strapped to the stretcher, but left him on the ground instead of loading him in the ambulance. Always on top of things, Engineer Cousin found out that the ambulance was broken and we had to wait for a second ambulance. Par for the course, right?
The second ambulance arrived and loaded Skinny Uncle inside. We generously offered Mechanic Cousin’s services before scrambling after the ambulance on its way to the hospital. We left a couple cousins behind to fill in Lawyer Cousin and Mechanic Cousin when they returned and pretty much left them on their own otherwise.
It took several hours and the errant cousins had managed to fix the car and get to the hospital before they told us anything about Skinny Uncle. Lawyer Cousin took charge when the doctor came out to talk to us. The doctor was mostly concerned that Skinny Uncle didn’t know where he was. Lawyer Cousin pointed out that we didn’t either. The doctor relented. Still, he kept Skinny Uncle in the hospital while we continued on to the Family Reunion.
Being obsessed with maps as I am, I stopped at the Hospital Information desk with Engineer Cousin to figure out how to get back on our route. It was really simple. I took the lead. Except, before we even got out of the parking lot, Lawyer Cousin decided to take another route without telling anyone else. We thought he was getting something from the hospital and would catch up.
After he still hadn’t caught us, the three other of our cars pulled into the parking lot of a police station to wait. We were convinced he’d be along at any moment. Engineer Cousin was now riding with me and we called Lawyer Cousin to see where he was. He didn’t answer the phone. We called Teacher Cousin who we knew was in the back of the van. She did answer, but couldn’t tell us where they were.
Engineer Cousin had my Tablet PC which had the route. He located where we were and from Teacher Cousin’s descriptions, we figured out that they’d passed us on a parallel fork in the road awhile back. So after waiting around for about 45 minutes we told them we’d just meet them in Tennessee.
We got another hour or so down the road before Lawyer Cousin called to tell us that they weren’t sure which way to turn. They would just wait there for us since I was the only one in all these vehicles to have a mapped route. Sure enough we met up with them and headed on in to Clarksville without further incident.
Needless to say all of our nerves were raw and I ended up in a shouting match with my dad when he insisted on taking another route to the hotel instead of following the map. Engineer Cousin had a blast dragging the map around showing me exactly how far out of the way we went. It was amusing even in my anger.
Finally, after only 12 hours to complete a 6 hour trip, we pulled up to the hotel only to find that they’d given most of our rooms away because there was a soccer tournament in town and we didn’t check in by 4p. I tried to tune most of that drama out because after such a stressful day, all I wanted to do was swim. Of course, the pool closed at 10p and we arrived at 10:02p.
I dimly remember the racist accusations leveled at the hotel proprietor when he refused to find us rooms. Usually, I don’t think like that, but since the guy called the police on Lawyer Cousin after we’d proved we’d already paid for the rooms, I’m thinking there might’ve been some merit to the accusation.
Kinda forgot mention…Lawyer Cousin is also a Judge here in L.A. He naturally handled the police and sent them on their way with them firmly on our side. Even though we had a room, my dad started making noises about not staying in such a racist establishment. I put my foot down on that one. I was going to sleep and I was going to sleep soon. Knowing full well that there were no more hotel rooms in the city, I told him that we’d move tomorrow. Finally, he relented.
My cousins et al had no choice, but to find some place else. Which they did around two the next morning. True to my word, I called around to find us another place to stay. As expected, I didn’t find anything. Mom chimed in that we were already settled so we should just stay put. And we did.
The rest of the weekend really didn’t get much better. Still, I’m happy to report it didn’t get much worse. Moved by Skinny Uncle’s unscheduled stop in the hospital, we voted to have the next reunion in a year instead of two. Though personally, I can’t see myself ever trying this kind of nonsense ever again. On the way out, we picked up Skinny Uncle and headed home. Thus putting an end to the worse Family Reunion Ever.