I woke up today to a voicemail from my dad announcing that he'd scratched himself on his dresser during the night and that by dawn, he was suffering excruciating pain in his neck and left arm. He was going to the ER, and would I please not come by.
I haven't seen him in about 10 years.
I was flabbergasted. And now that I write this, I wonder if he wasn't having a heart attack. Those are the key symptoms, from what I understand. But I don't know, even now, 12 hours later, because my dad and his wife (my stepmom) Peggy have steadfastly refused to use the technology, including cell phones, that allows families to stay connected wherever they are. They've both been dying for a long, long time, as fast as they can. It's not easy, when your people regularly live well into their 90s, to surreptitiously kill yourself at age 81. You have to work pretty hard at it.
So tonight, instead of staying at my Dad's house in Elmira, New York, as I'd planned, I'm at this interesting and perfect little place called the Lighthouse Inn, which is on the Seneca Indian Reservation in upstate New York, off I-90 East and just across the Cattaraugus River. I'd looked for an Airbnb earlier, but couldn't sense what the best course for the day was. I was distracted from my usual laser-sharp clarity. So I just started driving, and here I am.
To back up a bit, this morning I'd been dealing with family phone calls and so forth when my charming Chinese host, Harlin (whose real name is Chen), had come home for lunch from his doctoral work at the gorgeously forested nearby Case Western Reserve University. He needed to prepare my room for the next person, who would arrive shortly. (Hey friends with extra rooms, this young man is earning $57/night on Airbnb to help with his school expenses. Word.). He insisted on helping me carry my things down to the Mini, after which he waved profusely and said goodbye constantly, walking backward, until he disappeared around the corner of his building. His last words, which I heard because he left his head just hanging around the building's brick corner, were, "OK, goodbye! Thank you so much! Good luck in your travels!" OMG, what a doll. He'll probably win a Nobel someday. I hope so.
From Harlin's, feeling tired, a bit beleaguered, and generally dumbfounded, I somehow made my way to a local cafe called the Algebra Teahouse. I'm not clear on the origins of the name, but the place spoke to me and I abandoned my Google map search for "breakfast places near me" when I saw this old building on its brick-cobblestoned side street.
Inside, I talked to the terrific young cook and general all-around person, Cora, who wanted to know more about my travels. I gave her my card, as she wanted to follow along on this blog. She remembered traveling around the country with her dad, and seeing horses on the beach in Virginia. She said she was excited for me.
I spent a lovely while on a chaise longue at this place, looking up places to stay for the night, drinking coffee, and enjoying a fantastic, exotic-spiced cucumber salad and feta omelette. A breeze occasionally blew through the window next to me, and clouds accumulated greyly as an old, rattly train line passed at the bottom of the garden every 30 minutes or so.
I finally tore myself away from the cafe and followed the treacherous Google lady's instructions back out to I-90, where it rained again for hours. I'd set my destination as my mom's house in Gorham, Maine, about 11 hours away. I'm ready to be home. Or at least the beginnings of home.