Ashton was up in the nurse’s tower. I parked on that side of the hospital and carried our bags up to his room.
I will be honest, I do not remember a whole lot about that first day. I remember that Ashton’s roommate was a 74 yr old man who was in excellent shape and sharp as a tack. I remember that the room had a large picture window that looked at Mt Ranier.
The nurse assigned to us was a ...jubilant young man. Jubilant is the only word that even comes close to describing his character. He was a little scruffy, and had a personality that was barely contained in his small frame. He was a mountain climber and he and his wife worked in the hospital. We met his wife later, and, while he was definitely the more outgoing of the two, she was very sweet and open. I loved how they seemed to be so perfectly at ease with each other.
I got a phone call later that day from a woman named Jennifer Carlson. She is a friend of my sister in law (also named Jennifer). She said that she had something for me and could she drop by the hospital. I met her in the lobby and she said “This is from Jennifer (my sil)” and she gave me a big hug that went on for a long time. I was so grateful for that hug!
She also brought me a gift bag FILLED with all sorts of treasures, a few of which would prove vital to my wellbeing in the days to come. There were magazines, games, pens and paper, snacks, and drinks. I was delighted with all of that, and especially touched that a woman who did not know me, but lived in the area and knew my sil, would spend that much time and money to take care of me.
She asked me if I had had supper (this was about 9 pm). I said no. She asked me if I had been eating much. I hemmed a bit. Frankly I had been too busy and too anxious to eat much. She offered to take me to supper, but it was late, so I declined. She gently urged me to let her get me some food, but honestly I was too anxious to eat. I realized later that every bit of my anxiety was manifesting in what I would eat. I could be perfectly calm as the doctor would give a report or caution, but would panic trying to decide if I should have an orange juice or a coke.
We said our goodbyes, she told me to contact her if I needed anything, and gave me a hug and left.
I also remember that no one said anything to me about visiting hours, either me staying late or me coming in early. We figured that they knew it might be our last night and were not going to push the issue. However, Ash suggested that I go back to the room that night for a few hours to try to sleep.
This is where the night gets a little weird. It was dusk when I was leaving, but the sun sets very late that time of year. Earlier that day I had seen a man and a woman in an elevator. We made eye contact, said hello, and then went on our way.
However, later that night I saw the same man again. He seemed to be paying attention to me as I was leaving to go back to the room. He walked ahead but also seemed to be trying to keep tabs of where I was at the same time. It really made me nervous, but also made me defensive and slightly angry. I can be a fighter when I need to be.
So I ducked behind my car on the passenger’s side and watched him. He got into his car, but then did not leave. I was tired of feeling “stalked”, so I got into my car and drove deliberately by his car to get a license plate number. I was not sure that he was up to no good, but I wanted his license anyway. I drove into another adjacent parking lot and waited to see if he would follow. I pulled in where I could see him coming if he did, and I called Ashton. I told Ashton what was going on, though I hated that I was giving him stress the night before his surgery! I just did not know what else to do. We waited for several minutes, but the guy never came by.
Ash was calming and said to just go to the hotel, park in the front, and not open my door to anyone. I figured that by the time I got to the hotel, I would know if the guy was following me.
I drove off base, watching for his car. It was a several minute drive to the hotel, and I never saw his car, though by this time it was dark. I decided to take an earlier exit, thinking it would get me to my hotel more quickly. It didn’t. I ended up getting lost. This did NOT help my skittish nerves any at all.
I knew the direction of my hotel (it was right off the highway) and knew that I was probably less than a mile from it…I just could not seem to get there from where I was. I slowly picked my way through residential streets when suddenly I saw a deer in the road. It just appeared so quickly! I was not going fast, but it was wholly unexpected. Not too long after that, I saw a cat that looked just like my cat sitting in a driveway.
Seriously, I wondered if I was losing the road in a mental sense, not just literally at that point. The stress of the past week (both happy stress from the frantic getting ready for the tea party and then the life or death stress of Ash), very little sleep, almost no food, dehydration, and the stranger in the parking lot was certainly a lot for me to handle. I thought if I saw one more odd thing (like any other animals that looked like my pets!), that I would say that I had mentally reached the end of my rope.
However, thank the Lord, there was nothing more odd that night. I finally found my hotel, circled the parking lot looking for that man’s car, then quickly went into the hotel. I told the front desk lady (not Mercy this time) not to give my name or room number out, that I had seen a stranger. She assured me that they never give that information out. I went into my room and called Ashton. I took a super quick shower (I always feel vulnerable in the shower because I cannot hear anything) then got into bed. I set my alarm for a few hours later and fell into a deep sleep.
Thinking more rationally now, I have two more plausible theories about that stranger in the parking lot. The first is “Coincidence. He was not waiting for me, was not hesitating for me. Had his own things going on and I just misread the situation.”
The second is that I had been wearing my headcovering, and he had a large cross hanging in his car. I wonder if he was just curious and wanting to talk to me, as I got the idea from seeing him earlier in the day that he was a gregarious type of fellow.