Kate was excited. Tomorrow, she would see Mister again! It had been almost two weeks (far too long) and Kate knew that both she and Mister had been suffering from various forms of exhaustion and bad sleep. Of course, she would be sad to leave Louise and her family, but it would be a momentary sadness that would pass as she got nearer to the airport. And she was hopeful that Teddy would sleep well this last night--he had eaten lots at dinner, played hard, and gone to bed easily. With this auspicious beginning to the evening, Kate and Louise lingered after all the guys had gone to bed...talking and playing Taboo and pretending it was any old night. It was quite late when they finally went to bed. (Which, in their married motherhood, meant around 11PM. In college, they would have had another 3 or 4 hours to party!)
After Louise said goodnight, events took a turn for the worse. Before Kate had even finished brushing her teeth, an evil, milk-crazed fiend took over her son's body and loudly demanded to be fed...and again...and again. 2AM, 4AM, and 6AM, Kate tried in vain to pacify the creature, but even in between feedings, there was little peace. He grumbled and whined and sometimes sang to himself in that loathsome, toneless way typical of such fiends. In the middle of the night, Kate sought refuge in the living room couch, which ordinarily was quite comfortable...but under the circumstances, even its soft embrace could not block out the complains issuing from the bedroom and lure her into sleep. Eventually, she went back to bed and at last fell asleep...about fifteen minutes before a rather-too-cheerful Teddy re-inhabited his body and decided it was time to get up. Kate bought herself an extra fifteen minutes by scratching her finger on the side of the pack-n-play netting, dozing while Teddy tried to touch his finger to hers. But eventually she forced herself to sit up with a groan. At least, she thought, I don't have to leave till this afternoon. I'll have to be sure to get a nap when Teddy sleeps.
But the morning was full of organizing and packing and Kate felt compelled to continue working through nap time to be sure to be ready to go when the time came. She had so many mental checklists, she knew she wouldn't fall asleep even if she did lie down. Items floated in her brain--Make sure I have ALL Teddy's bottles...get our stroller out of the van...camera?...water bottle?...did I leave anything in the bathroom?
By the time she said a tearful goodbye to Louise and Company, it was nearing the hottest part of the day. Kate got in the car, rolled the windows down, and set her ice water between her knees for easy access and the cooling effect. She felt terrible, but tried to tell herself otherwise...Considering just how badly I slept, she thought, I feel AMAZING! Of course, she admitted, that's not saying much...BUT who cares anyway? I'm on my way to see Mister. And that brought a smile. As she drove and her water warmed up and her throat began to feel scratchy, she fixed Mister's arrival at the airport in her mind, and hung on to the image of him walking out the doors.
She passed mile markers and landmarks that she remembered from her drive North. The little town where she had stopped for gas and a bathroom, the exit to Cheyenne, the Colorado border, the huge dirt-bike park... at each site, her throat hurt worse, and she felt more and more tired. Should she stop for a break? But Teddy was peacefully sleeping in the back, and she felt in no condition to deal with a screaming baby if he awoke and for some reason didn't want to get back in the car for another hour. She approached Denver and the turnoff to the airport...the gas was getting low, but there should be enough to get to the airport, pick up Mister, and back to a gas station. She didn't know if the flight was early or late, but if it was on time, she would be arriving the ideal 10-15 minutes later to pick him up without worrying about waiting. The approach was slow, and Mister's airline was at the very end of the line. She pulled over and called his phone. It was off. Bad, bad, bad....She waited nervously, knowing that sooner or later, an airport policeman would come tell her to move along.
She made the long round once...twice...it was 45 minutes later and the gas looked really empty now. On her third drive round the airport, Kate fretted about the gas. Would they run out before they got to a gas station? And then a sudden thought struck her: I forgot the stroller! I can't BELIEVE I forgot the stroller! How COULD I have left it in their van?! Gaaaaah.... She could have burst into tears right then and there. Everything was going so horribly wrong.
Driving slowly, to take up as much time as she could, she gradually made her way back to the pick-up spot. She sat for a moment, called to check on Mister's progress, and then got out to make Teddy a bottle--ever a good stalling technique. Kate was just dumping the formula into the bottle when a lady in an officer's uniform walked over. Kate felt like screaming, but decided in favor of a more mature response--ignoring her.
"What are you doing?" asked the officer, in a tone that assumed a pregnant lady making a bottle of formula was clearly up to no good.
"Making my baby some formula."
"You can't just park here."
"If you're not picking someone up, you have to leave." The officer was practically trying to corral Kate back into the driver's seat.
"I am picking someone up."
"Well, where are they?"
And a beautiful, deep, resonant voice piped up from the other side of the car. A voice that practically said, in fearsome and awe-inspiring tones, 'Leave my wife alone!' Mister opened the door, set his bags in the backseat with Teddy, and strode to Kate's side. "I'm right here," he said to the officer. Kate clung to him for a moment and whimpered into his shirt. "Come on, Dear," he said after a kiss, "Let's get out of here."
Kate and Mister did, in fact, make it to a gas station on the remaining fumes in the tank. And there, Mister ate heartily of the pulled pork and baked beans that Kate had brought in her cooler bag. He relieved Kate of the driver's wheel and drove back to the Springs. Kate felt terrible. "I'm so sorry," she sighed as they drove out of Denver, "I wanted to be excited and cheerful for you, and instead I'm an absolute wreck!" Mister murmured something encouraging about it being a long day for everyone and sleep helping her outlook. But by the time they pulled into the driveway at the Miller's, Kate knew it wasn't just exhaustion. And the next morning confirmed it. She had a terrible, awful, raging cold.