When luck runs out

My wife, the Commander Supreme, did some of her best logistical planning for this trip.

Early on the morning of Tuesday, June 21, we would fly from Richmond into one of the New York City airports. From there, we flew west to San Francisco. Two nights in San Francisco, then three nights in Santa Rosa, and ending with three nights in Monterey.

The main focus of the trip was the wedding of the Commander’s niece, Ashley, to her fiancé, Rob.

On the afternoon of Monday, June 20 in office of the Commander’s doctor, those plans disappeared—she tested positive for COVID-19. She thought a bad sinus infection had invaded her head.

The Commander was crushed. Deep inside, so was I.

I’ll give my wife credit. There was no nuclear meltdown with household items being destroyed. No unladylike verbal lashing out, and no emotional sobbing session.

No, she took the virus confirmation note from the doctor, and rapidly made all of the proper contacts to cancel the reservations that had been made. This included notifying the airline, and the company who carried our trip insurance.

The Commander did all of this while feeling lousy from the virus, and knowing the toughest communication was next—telling her sister, her mother, and our children that we weren’t coming for the wedding.

On Monday afternoon, I ran an errand for her to pick up an over the counter recommendation from the doctor to help with the sinus drainage and headache. Once home, I put together dinner, but the Commander had no appetite.

I stayed home on Tuesday. At various points during the day, we looked at each other and said things like—departing New York, out over America, landed in San Francisco, checked into the hotel, starting to explore.

Late in the afternoon, we followed the flight schedules of Lauren and her family, and our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, as they boarded planes toward San Francisco.

On Wednesday, I went to work at Trinity. I worked outside on the grounds around the Memorial Garden. Later in the week, we had two interment services in the garden.

Also, on Wednesday, the pain of not being in San Francisco became more real. Our daughters started sending us photos and text messages of their movements through the city.

We saw happy faces, blue skies, and sites where we had visited on our first trip to San Francisco in the summer of 1980. Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, a fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge, a great park for the grand kids named after Joe DiMaggio, and of course—a streetcar ride.

For the grandkids, the San Francisco visit became even more exciting as their three cousins from Texas arrived. I hoped the hotel could withstand the energy of these five priceless children.

At some point on Thursday, the families left San Francisco and headed for Santa Rosa the site of the wedding.

Thursday evening was the rehearsal dinner, and Friday afternoon at 4 was the wedding. The wedding was being held at the B. R. Cohn Winery. For forty-five years, Mr. Cohn managed the Doobie Brothers.

More photos trickled in from Thursday and early Friday. Late in the afternoon on Friday, we started to receive some pre-wedding photos of the bride and others getting ready for the main event.

As we saw these photos, our minds were thinking—we are supposed to be in some of these pictures. But, our unwanted intruder nixed that.

After dinner on Friday, photos and videos started pinging our phones. These posts were all about the wedding, and after we went to sleep more video arrived.

On Saturday morning, we watched new video footage of toasts from the bride’s sister, Rachel, our daughter, Elizabeth, and Ashley’s father, Art. Their words were a real tribute to the newlyweds, Ashley and Rob. I know those heartfelt words moistened eyes at the post wedding dinner and here in Richmond too.

As Saturday morning progressed, the Commander received some phone call updates about the wedding. Some family members were heading back east on Saturday, others were departing on Sunday.

Besides the successful wedding, we had some good news in Richmond. Both the Commander and I were starting to feel better. That’s correct, both of us, I tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday morning.

On Thursday and Friday, I felt like a person caught in a confrontation between a bad head cold and flu symptoms. Chills, aches and pains, and a nose dripping like a leaky faucet were annoying me.

For two plus years, COVID-19 and its variants have created lots of challenges around the world. Despite having all of the required vaccines and being careful, our luck ran out.

Yes, the timing was rotten. We missed the opportunity to support Ashley and Rob as they start a new chapter in their book of life.

But this is what I must remember—luck in this situation was still with us.

Here’s why—taking all of the vaccines and our own good health made our unwanted encounter with COVID-19 bearable. That might not have been the case for us early in this pandemic. We might not have been so lucky as I think about people who did not survive their encounter with COVID-19.

Unless California burns to cinders, shakes into a pile of rubble, or mudslides into the Pacific, we’ll work to reschedule this trip.

Alcatraz, the Anchor Steam Brewery, the Charles Schulz Museum, the 17 Mile Scenic Drive, and the Monterey Aquarium are ready for our return.

But for now, this becomes a story for the future.

At a family gathering around a dinner table long after we are gone, this question will come up—do you remember when that COVID-19 virus kept Nana and Papa from going to Ashley and Rob’s wedding in California?

And someone will speak up, and say—yes, I remember that cruel afternoon when Nana told us.

But, you know there is another part of this story that is often overlooked in family history. Uncle Andrew was scheduled to attend the wedding too.

And there will be a pause, and everyone will look toward Uncle Andrew, and his wife, Kathryn.

After a few more seconds of silence, he’ll explain that COVID-19 intruded on his family many days before the trip. Andrew and Kathryn and their two daughters became sick.

In sharing more, he will state, “the challenge for our family was that the virus lingered too long. It did not exit quickly. The stubbornness of the virus forced me to rethink my travel plans. In order to help care for my family and to manage my work schedule, I opted not to attend. Yes, this was an aggravating decision, but under the circumstances—the right one.”

At the top of the stairs just outside our bedroom, our empty suitcases have quietly sat for days. I guess these suitcases felt some disappointment too.

From June 21- 29, they would be out of a hot attic.

But, then they would enter the unstable world of being roughly stacked into the cargo bays of large jets. Then frantically heaved onto the baggage handling system at the San Francisco airport. They would exit the conveyor system worn and weary just like the passengers who picked them up. With hardly a chance to gather themselves, their owners briskly grab their handles and find their way out of the terminal headed toward an unknown hotel destination.

Who knows maybe those suitcases didn’t feel the disappointment like we did.

Maybe, they felt lucky to be resting quietly at the top of the stairs.

I guess I’ll have to ask the suitcases about this before our next trip.

And, by now, you are thinking— Bill must be losing what is left of his mind. Conversing with suitcases is surely a sign of mental instability.

I think your observation is correct.

So, I’ll close with this.

Ashley and Rob, I hope your marriage has lots of stability, including a pinch of luck when luck is needed.

Empty suitcases Photo by Bill Pike

2 thoughts on “When luck runs out”

    1. Dan, thanks for your reading time. We’ll work through it. Sadly, the bride and groom now have COVID, and so does Elizabeth back home now in Raleigh. Best of luck this week and into the weekend. Be safe, Bill


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