I recently spent a week in California. Ooh, I hear you thinking, nice gig. Ocean breezes and all. Not quite. I did get to drive up the coast (from LA to Santa Barbara) before it burned up, but I was there getting my first real taste of being a member of the Sandwich Generation. My dad was having surgery; I was there to help him and my mom.
(The most important news--the surgery was successful and went very well. Which is not always a given when the patient is nearly 80. We've been lucky--earlier this fall my husband and I went to help out his mom (almost 90!) after surgery and she had the same results--successful and fully recovered.)
On the plane ride out, I read through my "finished" MS--it's only finished until my agent mentions the revisions I need to make--and discovered a few tweaks and minor scenes I needed to write. One morning I stayed at the hotel for a few hours to finish things up, then took a deep breath and hit SEND. About 14 seconds later, panic set in. And doubt. It sucks, I thought. My agent is going to be disappointed and then scour through our contract to figure out how to drop me as a client. I'll need to find a real job (not one I can do in my PJs).
Around that time, my mom called and I realized I should head over to the hospital, a quick two-block walk away.
And when I arrived, my dad was resting comfortably, so I urged my mom to take a break. I'll hang out here, I said. You go get something to eat. And that's when the characters started showing up. No, not the folks who wander around in my head. These were real flesh and blood folks who gave me lots of material for future characters. The wack-job nutcase in the next room who kept insisting he wasn't the patient, just a stand-in, so the rules didn't apply and no procedures could be done on him. Or the nutcase wack-job across the hall who kept trying to escape his room. So they took his clothes away. He showed them. He wandered around in his boxers. (I swear, it was just a surgery floor, not a section 8 ward or anything). And the sweet stuff. The nurses who showed such kindness and patience. Watching my parents, and the ballet between them, after being married for 56 years.
Here are a few other things I learned:
~security guards don't like it when you walk past them and say, "Hey Buddy" to their guard dogs and hold out your hand for them to sniff (the dogs, not the guards).
~The Tater Tot folks have been keeping something from us. The cafeteria had these amazing tater tot "logs"--even better than the hash browns at McDonald's. (I know. Tater Tots are sorta low-class. I love them anyway. But, I also work in my PJs.) It was very good I didn't discover them until the last day.
~And finally, when I saw Matt Lauer at LAX (he was out there for the fires) I do believe I was much more tickled to see him than he was to see me. I daresay he might not even be aware that he saw me.
It's good to be home.