I'm on vacation. To keep you entertained, or at least occupied, I'm sending you to various garden spots visited by myself and my boys in my unpublished and no doubt unpublishable 2009 memoir, "The Quest for Pie."
“Well that was an experience,” Kent said, as we reached the van. No one replied.
Yellowstone must have a doctor somewhere. I checked the map to find the medical office — marked by a Swiss cross — and while I was at it, double-checked the trailhead we had parked at. I had picked the wrong parking lot. The trailhead we had wanted was … 13 miles away.
Our visit to the Yellowstone clinic is a brief lesson in why the nation’s medical system costs so much. I figured something had bitten Ross and his eye was swollen shut in reaction to it. Give him a Benadryl and wait. That seemed a reasonable assessment of the situation. But a parent has fears — you might say that fear and parenthood are twins. “Becoming a parent,” I used to say, when Ross was a baby, “is the sudden realization that your whole world can choke to death on a penny.”
As soon as I considered skipping the doctor — avoid the paperwork, the cost and the hassle — the phrase, “If only he had seen a doctor immediately, the eye could have been saved,” flashed in my mind like a neon sign switching on. And once a phrase like that forms, deliberation is over and your decision has been made.
Ross sat in the waiting room of the small clinic, quietly reading a book with his one good eye. My heart swelled with love to see that. I went over the paperwork with the nurse, who assured me, incorrectly, that my insurance would cover this.
A doctor examined Ross — looks like a buffalo mite bite, he said. Give him a Benadryl and it should go away in a few days. That’ll be $267.
Ross’s swollen eye in one sense came as a relief. There was no way we were hiking up the Hell River Canyon with him like that. Or that’s at least what we told ourselves. We might have felt that even if his eye was fine, but either way, it wasn’t a topic of discussion. The thing to do was to proceed to Grand Teton National Park — practically next door. I phoned Edie, she got on line and found a reasonable motel — the Virginian.
We were in the parking lot of the clinic, about to leave, when I realized there was something I had to do. I asked the boys if they wanted to go with me — they did not. So while they slumped in the car, I padded back to the geyser. It was now or never, and I couldn’t face living the rest of my life sheepishly explaining to people that, why yes, I had been to Yellowstone, but no, I had never seen Old Faithful erupt, not between my backcountry campsite fiasco and the buffalo mite incident.
I sat on a metal bench for about 20 minutes, waiting, eavesdropping on a black clad Goth gal — maybe 17 — complaining bitterly to her parents. About everything. At least my boys aren’t like that. Yet.
Eventually Old Faithful went from a smoking plume to a sputtering fountain that gushed, oh, 50 feet into the air against a cloudy, strangely winterish sky. It sounded like a leaky radiator. The geyser didn’t jet so much as vomit into the air, a wet heaving splat. Having viewed the profoundly underwhelming sight, I returned to the car, and we all bade a heartfelt farewell to Yellowstone National Park.