Yesteday I made an emergency trip to Baltimore.
Saturday morning my mother called me at work. “What does your Sunday schedule look like?” she wanted to know. Her aunt–my grandmother’s ninety year-old sister–was in the hospital in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She had fallen a few days earlier and broken her hip. Someone needed to go to Baltimore, pick up my grandmother, and drive her down to North Carolina–she hadn’t seen her sister in five years, not since my grandfather passed away.
The task fell to me. My mother couldn’t go–my grandmother would have found a dozen excuses not to go had she gone. My father–he might have stood a chance, but he wouldn’t have been up to twelve hours on the road. My sister–she had to work, and as with my mother my grandmother would have found reasons not to go. My other sister–she was on vacation in New Orleans. As for me, if I went she would go for the ride, excuses be damned.
And so I went.
My first thought was to drive up after work on Saturday. Leave the store at seven, leave the house at eight, be to Baltimore at two Sunday morning. But my mother had called my grandmother, told her I was coming, and my grandmother had left a message on my answering machine saying not to come at all, her stomach felt queasy, so I thought that perhaps with a good night’s sleep she would be in a better mood. So, I changed my plans. Rather than arrive in the dead of night, arrive early in the morning, so I went to bed, set the alarm for two, and planned to be out the door at three, putting me in Baltimore at nine.
I stopped for breakfast along the way. Leaving Raleigh at three put me in Richmond at six, and Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House opens at six. I went to college in Richmond–the University of Richmond–and there was an Aunt Sarah’s off Broad Street, not far from campus, maybe three miles, that I liked to frequent when I was a student there. My friends liked the Waffle House, a few blocks down the street, but Aunt Sarah’s said quality, and I sat down to a plate of banana nut pancakes, a pot of coffee, and a side of grits, and had an enjoyable breakfast.
I left Richmond at seven, made it around the Washington beltway, and pulled into my grandmother’s driveway at ten.
She hadn’t packed a bag, so she took some time to do that. I sat down, rested my head. I was tired. Six hours on the road will do that.
We left her house a little short of noon. The drive was nice–overcast and chilly around Batlimore and DC, traffic snarls on the Washington Beltway because of a Redskins game, and smooth sailing from Manassas down to Rocky Mount on I-95. We made two stops–to get gas in Fredericksburg, to stretch my legs at a North Carolina rest area, and pulled into the hospital parking lot at five.
We stayed at the hospital until about seven, then drove back to my house in Raleigh, another hour on the road.
All told, I spent twelve hours driving, give or take on Sunday.
I went to bed at nine, woke up at nine. I’m still tired.
Today I’m driving my grandmother back to the hospital, then we’re coming back to Raleigh.
I think I’m driving my grandmother back to Baltimore tomorrow. I hope so–I’d rather not have to take Wednesday off.