In last week's column, I promised you tales of our latest travels, as we had intended to take off on our Galva-by-way-of-Florida homecoming journey bright and early Monday morning. But a whole series of events got in the way of our planned departure, resulting in a Tuesday column-writing session in Carolina instead of somewhere on the road.
It all started on Friday, the day we probably would have spent cleaning house, doing laundry and starting to pack the car in anticipation of a Monday departure. Instead, five-year-old grandson Cyrus, who attends St. Anne's Day School, wanted us, along with his mom and brother, John, to go with him on a field trip to see a fellow named Charles Pettee, who was presenting a community wide pre-K music concert called "Catch the Bluegrass Bug."
Now, that in itself would seem like my kind of thing, as I've performed in front of young crowds myself from time to time and certainly share the "bug" when it comes to bluegrass and other folk music. I expected maybe a few dozen carefully chaperoned kids sitting on a gym floor in front of an earnest, engaging banjo picker, so was surprised when we walked into a packed auditorium containing no less than 500 crazed urchins, with only about three adults who were actually paying attention to them and what they were doing. From past experience, I can tell you that the average pre-K student has both the attention span and energy level of a sand flea, so I wondered if old Chuck would be up to the task.
Not so much.
Instead of immediately involving the little ones in a happy sing-along or some such interactive activity, he proceeded to sit and sing. Now, he wasn't a bad picker, or singer, either, but nothing he could do matched the bubbling intensity of the little-kid frenzy that faced him.
Or rather, didn't face him, as most of the 500 kids (except poor Cyrus and John, who were stuck with us and had to stay in their seats) ran wild through the hall in a veritable mosh pit of pushing, shoving, laughing, crying, dancing, hopping, screaming and other activities near and dear to the heart of the average two, three and four-year-old.
We all have our roles in life. Mine, as far as kids and grandkids are concerned, has sometimes been as the tough guy who demands certain behaviors in certain situations and isn't above making those demands known. In fact, grandson John calls me "grumpa" in an unintentional, but spot-on portrayal of the difficult old man I sometimes am.
I wasn't going to let the wild crowd of kids get to me, though, feeling that as long as our kids were well behaved, all was good. It was a little more difficult for my partner in crime, who recently retired from a long career that included large groups of unruly children seeking firm direction.
I could hear the enamel flaking off her gritting teeth as a three-year-old bully clotheslined a running younger buddy and dragged him back into the fray by the hood of his sweatshirt.
She: Did you see that?
Me: Easy, killer.
Her hands clenched as child after child ran up and down the aisle, playing a never-ending game of "let's see how soon somebody can get hurt" in full view of their parents and teachers.
Me: Steady, girl.
She was stunned when one young lad began to probe the insides of an electrical outlet as his mom happily videotaped it all.
She: That's shocking.
Me: That's for sure.
She was speechless and I was just glad we had gotten through the ordeal without physical or mental harm as we made our escape at the end of the performance.
Saturday was an even bigger day, as we celebrated the third birthday of young John with a pirate-themed party at our house and beach. It was about then that we realized that putting on a big birthday bash would again leave little time for the chores and errands required to leave town for an extended period, meaning we'd probably need to stay an extra day.
So our Monday ETD became Tuesday.
It was a sensational birthday party, with grandma's cooking and mom and dad's innovative party games making it fun and memorable for both Johnny and his beachful of playmates.
All was on schedule, with Sunday earmarked for cleaning up from the party and generally winding down, while Monday would include packing the car and doing some of those last-minute things that every journey requires.
Then, I stepped out into the street in front of an oncoming Mack Truck.
Or at least that's what it felt like.
Chills, fever. coughs and congestion, along with a distinct touch of nausea and other intestinal delights, plus the kind of body aches that come after, say, a fall down an elevator shaft.
I had the flu.
After the fact, I heard that it's been making the rounds in the area, especially in the elementary schools, with both kids and adults alike being felled by a couple of different strains that seem to take either an intestinal or upper respiratory direction.
I managed to get both.
For awhile, I thought I was going to die.
Then I was afraid I wouldn't.
I'm feeling better now, so we're probably going to make it our of here on Wednesday morning, which is fine, since we seldom adhere to a schedule anyway.
But, where did it come from? What was the source of this virulent virus that felled North Carolina's grumpiest old man? Then I remembered.
500 running, panting, sweating kids in a closed auditorium. And me.
Remember the "Bluegrass Bug?"
The bug got me.