Monday, October 02, 2006

You don't have to go to the Fair to ride a roller-coaster

What a week.

It started last Tuesday, and there's no need rehashing what happened that day. It proceeded through Thursday, and went ruthlessly into Friday, when I was scrambling to help bring new systems on-line.

I got home on Friday with a lot of positive energy, though, and mowed the back yard, edged, bagged the clippings, vacuumed the upstairs, and helped Amanda pack our cars with yard-sale stuff. It was a pretty good night, and we had a nice evening.

Saturday was a bit hectic. She got up early for the yard sale, which was at her mom's house. We got Alastair up, got him ready, and she headed off. I followed, knowing that I'd be running out to a MINI drive immediately after helping set up for the yard sale.

We got to her mom's house late, I raced to empty the car and find places for things, and kissed her goodbye. I got to the MINI meeting place (Barnes & Noble @ Short Pump) right on time, and Christian, Tony, and I headed west.

Our destination was Route 56, which is wicked curvy between Vesuvius and Tyro. Click for a map. The problems were two-fold: 1. The weather was bad out there (rain, low temperatures: bad for our cars' setups) 2. I wasn't as excited about the drive as I had been.

It hadn't been too long before the drive that Amanda's family rescheduled their yard sale for the same day, and I had been hoping to help out with the sale. It wasn't tremendously fair that Amanda would need to look after the boy while dealing with hagglers.

So I was less than thrilled on the drive out, and made up for it by driving way too fast. We made it from Richmond to Afton in exactly 1 hour (down to the minute), and then hit slow-moving traffic on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had forgotten that I'd have to go almost 30 miles on the Parkway before hitting Rte 56, so I was getting really tense.

Then, when we did turn on to 56, a very slow SUV was right in front of us. We suffered behind the guy for about a mile before pulling over for a potty break. For about the next 4 or 5 miles, we saw no traffic, and took some very wet turns at some very dangerous speeds. Several times I stopped to make sure Christian was still behind me (completely stock car--even tires--and no track experience), and a few times I had to slow way down because of gravel on the road. We turned around before getting to the bottom of the mountain, where speeds increase and turns get even sharper, and headed back. When I hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, I lost my cool and drove as fast as I could to get home. I made the trip back from Afton in just under an hour and got to the yard sale just in time to help pack up.

Amanda and I took Alastair home, put him down for his nap, and got packing for our trip to Norfolk, VA, for my company's cruise on the Spirit of Norfolk (a 3-hour booze cruise).

We hit the road at about 4:30pm and made it to the parking garage in Norfolk at 6:43pm. After about an hour of standing around, we got on the ship and set off. It was a really good time. We had listened to some good music on the way down, were relaxed, we were drinking tasty drinks, and the food was good.

We enjoyed looking at the naval vessels (I more than Amanda) from the observation deck, and we spent a good amount of time hanging out with Lewis and his girlfriend Faith (and his friends Dave & John).

When it was over, we got back in the car and headed back to Williamsburg, where we had reservations right next door to the outlet mall (score!). We stayed up late, watched Dane Cook's comedy routine, and went to sleep around 2am.

The next morning, we had a wonderfully relaxing time laying around and being lazy. We wandered out, did some shopping (super cute outfit for Alastair's first Christmas), had lunch with Shana, did some more shopping, and then got gut-punched.

Leigh (Amanda's mom) called and said she'd gotten a cryptic message from the chaplain at MCV. No word on why he was calling, but she immediately assumed that we had been injured. Since we hadn't she tried to track down her mom, who just moved to Richmond a couple of weeks ago.

It turns out her mom Birchie had been in a serious car accident at around 11am, shortly after leaving Leigh's house. Birchie had put Alastair down for his nap around 10am, had some coffee, and headed out to drop some stuff off at GoodWill. On her return, she ran the red light at Parham & Broad (there's speculation that an aneurysm might have caused this: Birchie was a tremendously conscientious driver). She was broad-sided, her car spun several times, and wound up in the median.

We know she was conscious when she arrived at MCV, because Leigh's number is unlisted, and the chaplain wouldn't have had any way of getting the number without being told.

Of course, we were in Williamsburg when the details were just starting to come together, so Leigh couldn't go to her mother's side (she was watching Alastair at her house). We made a beeline back to Richmond, picked him up, and she raced down to the hospital.

For the next 3 hours, we got a stream of phone calls asking about her health, updating us on minor details, and everything seemed ok. There were reports of a broken hip, possible head trauma, and tests being performed.

Amanda's dad was driving in from Utah, too, so we were relaying information to him has we got it (Leigh's cell phone was off since she was in the hospital, so he couldn't get in touch with her).

Then around 9:30 we got a call that she was going to be removed from life support. Whoa, what? Removed from life support? None of the information we'd received up to that point even indicated she was really badly injured! I called my dad and asked him to come over and sit with Alastair so that we could go to the hospital.

We met Amanda's father at his house and took him down to the hospital. When we got there, everyone was milling around out front. Evidently the doctors weren't ready to extubate her: they wanted to run a test to see the extent of the brain damage before letting her go.

So we went home. All jacked up on coffee and adrenaline and nerves. Sleep came slowly and fitfully, and this morning Leigh called us to say that Birchie had passed away some time between 4 and 4:30 in the morning. She never stabilized enough for the test.

Funeral arrangements are being made now, and we'll be heading back to Grundy some time this week.

It's been a hell of a week. Please keep Amanda and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

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