Being away from home for a long period of time can be challenging – living out of a suitcase with limited outfits gets old by week two. Sleeping with a bed and pillow that’s not your own can lead to restless nights and backaches. Also, when you fly, and choose (out of extreme frugality) to get by without a rental car, it’s a bit constraining. Being away from home without your full wardrobe, your own bed and pillow, a car, and then getting sick, is problematic. Being away from home without your full wardrobe, your own bed and pillow, a car, then getting sick, and being a mama’s helper beginning at week three of your stay is like entering the Twilight Zone. I could picture Rod Serling plain as day, and hear the well known theme song playing somewhere in the background, “Do-do-do-do, Do-do-do-do!” I didn’t see any other signs of life for weeks. I thought that perhaps civilization as we know it had come to an end, and I was stuck in Minnesota. I was kicking myself, wishing that I had had a little advance warning. I would have traveled south, like to Hawaii, or some nice, warm tropical place like that. I could have easily snagged a ticket on a Sun Country flight, right there from the Twin Cities airport!
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating just a little. I did make it to Mass most of the Sundays I was up there. Just that one Sunday during the illness, when I was delirious with dizziness, getting off the couch rarely, and staggering around like an inebriated bag lady when I did (and, most definitely looking like I hadn’t seen a shower or comb for weeks!). I had lost my voice at that point, too, so the whole package added up to someone you’d definitely avoid if you saw me coming your way. And, since I’m being honest, I did get released for good behavior a couple of times (after I had recovered and taken a shower), to visit the other grandparent’s house for a nice meal. But other than that, it was a little house in Hopkins for most of my T-Zone incarceration. The prisoner’s uniform was stretch pants, a pajama shirt, and a fleece housecoat. It was actually quite comfortable. When I finally regained my appetite, there was nothing to complain about regarding the victuals, either, so I guess it could have been worse. But, still, I etched little tally marks into the basement walls to keep track of the days, and began to write a memoir of my life, just in case I never escaped.
In situations like this, time loses it’s usual directional flow. It’s impossible to keep track of where one is, in relation to a clock or calendar. Time has the ability to slow to a crawl…”Will I ever get out of here? How long have I been laying on this couch?!” One lost afternoon can feel like 3 or 4 days. On the other hand, time will suddenly speed up. “Is today Tuesday? What?! It’s Saturday already?” and, occasionally, it staggers back and forth, like me, when I was attempting to ambulate. I definitely experienced all three of these muddled time travel patterns. However, the days did manage to slip by, and suddenly, I found myself at a Thanksgiving celebration. I was certain that I had left my home-sweet-home the day after Halloween, planning to return there in two weeks, so I was astonished to look around the table at people who weren’t (for the most part) related to me, but were still passing me the turkey, cranberry jello mold, and mashed potatoes & gravy. How is it Thanksgiving already??!! And who are these people? (“Do-do-do-do, Do-do-do-do!”)
The good news is, at this point, I was beginning to be more cognizant of the ticking of the clock, and the passage of one day to the next. My prison guard began to speak of a possible release date coming up soon, if I did well in my exit interview. I tried so hard to be good, do all of my jobs perfectly, and be kind to the other inmates (strangely enough, a few of them were extremely young). One day, I was told to pack my bags and follow the guard. We exited the building and came out into the cool, clear sunshine. I was driven to an airport and dropped off there, and, following the instructions I’d been given, I ended up at the Cincinnati airport, where my husband was waiting to pick me up.
So now, here I am, back at home, like that whole experience never happened. I have been journaling to sort through my memories of the incident. When I try talking to people about it, they look at me like I’m crazy, and try to change the subject. But I have, in my possession, secret photographs, so I know that I’m not crazy. I want to go back to that place someday and try to find those young inmates. They were really adorable, and they liked to call me Mimi. And their mom seemed like a nice lady, too. There was that kind guard, too, who transported me to the Thanksgiving dinner, and then dropped me off at the airport. I wouldn’t mind tracking all of them down, hanging out with them again. Someday….someday, I will return and solve the mystery of that four lost weeks of my life, but for now….I’m quite content to enjoy (for a generous stretch of time) a varied wardrobe, a car sitting in the driveway waiting to take me anywhere I want to go, and night after night of restful sleep in my amazingly comfortable bed. Nighty-night!