Let’s start with the basics: My grandmother was pretty dang cool. A woman who divorced back when my dad was a little kid and set out as a single mom back when you didn’t run across too many single moms. She was a strong woman, and I’m sure that I probably inherited much of my stubbornness and self-sufficiency from her.
But she had quirks. (Fodder for me, as a storyteller, though, so thanks grandma). Her house, when she passed away, was a rat’s nest of things that she’d saved for no apparent reason, and others that she’d clearly saved for sentimental value. The packratty-ness was a major quirk. Also on that list was her odd habit of taking pictures when traveling of parking lots. “Why yes, that’s the parking lot where the bus pulled in in Lucerne.”
Um, really, Grandma?
Her biggest quirk wasn’t even really a quirk—it was her love of traveling, and she passed that love off to me. We have different views over what the point is, though. Me, I like to soak up the destinations. Grandma attacks travel like a checklist. Must see this, this, this and this. Take pictures, get back on the bus.
How determined she was to see The Things That Must Be Seen became painfully obvious to me when I was thirteen and she took me to Scandinavia. Before we left on the trip, I’d gotten my very first pair of contact lenses—the hard kind. The doc was a little concerned because I wasn’t through the break-in period, but the trip was planned, and I was going.
So off I went. Me, at least 50 years younger than everyone else in that Eastern Star travel travel group.
The trip was, overall, a blast. But in Copenhagen, I woke up to stabbing, horrible pain in my eyes. I could barely walk, couldn’t see, and any light made me want to keel over and writhe on the floor in the fetal position. I’ve since given birth and had emergency surgery for a ruptured small intestine. This pain was right up there.
But it was a travel day. So one of the women lent me their cane and big sunglasses (the kind that would fit over my glasses) and off to the airport we went. The pain faded a bit now that most of the light was blocked, but I was basically blind, and tears were streaming down my face the entire time, not from the pain, but just from my eyes trying to heal themselves. I looked a mess, felt like a mess, and was not a happy camper.
It was also early morning, so I was darn tired.
We arrived in Stockholm about 10 am. I think my loving, adoring grandmother is going to take care of me now that we’re settled and not forced to travel with the group.
The bus is scheduled to leave at 11 to take the group to see where they hand out the Nobel Prize. And that place happens to be on Grandma’s list.
Um, hello? Remember me, your blind, thirteen year old granddaughter?
Off she goes, leaving me not in our room, but in the lobby.
This is before cell phones or the internet, so calling my mom back in Texas wasn’t an option (not that she could have done anything). So I go to the concierge and ask him if there’s some place I can go. He suggests the hospital, and tells me how to get there. Why he doesn’t put me in a taxi, I don’t remember, but I walk. Near-blind. Several blocks. To the hospital. In a town where I cannot read or talk to anyone.
I find the hospital (somehow I find a back door—don’t ask me how) and I end up talking to a guy who was probably an intern. But he didn’t speak English well and I didn’t speak Swedish at all. Somehow, he manages to communicate that I’m at the wrong hospital. The one I need is alllllllll the way across town.
Dejected, I go back to the hotel.
I’m sitting on the ledge of a lobby fountain when I see our Tour Guide. Turns out, she’d passed the group off to a local guide for the Nobel trip.
She sees me, rushes over, and I tell her my sob story, complete with sobbing.
The guide, whose name I’ve forgotten, goes away, then comes back with an eye doctor in tow. Turns out there was a conference for eye doctors In That Very Hotel! He takes a look, tells me I’ve severely scratched both corneas, gives me a prescription and eyepatches and sends me to sleep.
Eye doctors. Swarming. The. Hotel.
But I was happy to be treated. I’m asleep when Grandma returns. Her reaction to my adventure: She knew I’d manage just fine.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, grandma.
The next day, we’re off to Finland.
So I’ve been to Stockholm. I just didn’t see it.