When I worked in the Executive Office, we would get the occasional complaint letter about the “vacation from hell.” Thankfully, these were very occasional, but the writers took some kind of perverse delight in comparing their vacation to the Griswold family. Just for the record: to date, I’ve never been involved with carrying a deceased family member in a yard chair attached to the roof of a car, I've never visited the house of mud, and none of my cousins are named “Eddie” (although I did go to high school with a former wife of Randy Quaid). More importantly, I’ve never taken a major amusement park hostage with a BB pistol.
However, I did recently complete a somewhat hellish vacation in one of the most Eden-like locations in North America, Oregon. My wife, Tina, and I shared our Southwest flight from Dallas to Portland with my work colleague, Brad Hawkins. After we went our separate ways in the Portland Airport, Brad would joke that he was the “last to see me undamaged.” The day after arrival, we headed for two nights on the Oregon Coast at Rockaway Beach. Dining on fresh crab, cheese from the nearby Tillamook Creamery, and fresh fish at Mo’s Restaurant, my last “undamaged” days were an idyllic interlude before fate took a sharp hand. We even visited the Tillamook Air Museum which is sited on the old Tillamook Naval Air Station. The museum is housed in the remaining wooden airship hangar (the second hangar burned down some years ago) which housed the blimps that patrolled the ocean off the Pacific Northwest during World War II.
The day we left Rockaway Beach, we were headed for Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. We stopped en route at Fort Stevens which is now a state park. The fort used to house gun turrets which protected the Columbia from attackers starting with the Civil War until the end of World War II, and walking through the grounds is like going back 80 or 90 years in time. Our hotel in Astoria was right on the Columbia River, and a big cruise ship had stopped in town and was docked adjacent to the hotel. We could see the ship was preparing to leave port, so we walked down to the dock and saw it off. On the way back to the hotel, we were strolling across an empty field and I tripped on my right foot. After two awkward stumbles, I did a nose dive into the ground right onto my left shoulder. (My graceful actions could have secured a starring role on "America’s Funniest Whale Videos.") In the hopes that my arm was just sprained, I gutted through the next couple of days assisted by ice packs and extra-strength over the counter pain relievers. (Not to mention a few, blood-curdling yells, when Tina pulled the wrong way on my arm.)
When I got home to Texas, I found out what I had damaged. The humerus bone in my left arm was broken in three places. I had surgery to place a metal plate over the broken part of the bone to get it to grow back together, and I have been sidelined for the past two months. During my "hurtful" hiatas, I celebrated little successes, like being able to put on a T-shirt by myself, or the day when I could tie my own shoes. One of the happiest days was when I could take off my sling, and recently, I have been able to lie on my side again.
Throughout it all, there have been plenty of heroes in my life. Tina has waited on me, hand and foot, and I am so grateful for her love and concern. My surgeon, Dr. Ward, has helped put the shattered bone back into working condition. Years ago, Colleen Barrett put together the Internal Customer Care (ICC) Team to track and assist folks like me with medical conditions, and my thanks to her and to Gary Kelly for his continued support of ICC. ICC Teammembers Cynthia and Linda kept in touch with me, and I received a lot of "we are thinking of you gifts." Finally my thanks go to my Communications Coworkers for their support, funny notes, and care. After some intensive therapy, Dr. Ward says my arm should be back to normal in a month, but the prognosis for my mental state remains "twisted."