Summer of 2018…
A lightning bolt streaks across the daytime clouds, directly over my head, and the air splits with thunder. I nearly jump out of my skin because of it.
I’m walking thru downtime DC in the midst of a downpour, that I later learn flooded Arlington Cemetery and made national news. The streets are deserted and I am without an umbrella or poncho, and am soaked to my underwear. My feet squelch inside of my sneakers as I slosh thru pop-up streams running down the streets. The water is racing over the tops of my shoes and about my ankles, and I avoid what appear to be deeper streams of water. I try not to think what filth the water might contain. I might as well be swimming in the Potomac, as wet as I am.
But I’ve no choice but to plod on, lightning, thunder, and filthy water be damned. I pray I make it to my car before I’m struck by lightning. Despite the thunder nearly giving me a heart attack, and the sound of rushing water, I can’t hear much else because I had to take my hearing aids out so they wouldn’t get ruined. I’ve got my aids wrapped in plastic, tucked away in one of the pockets of my sodden cargo shorts. I hope no one tries to communicate with me along the way.
What does this have to do with Gracie, right? Well, I had the bright idea to take Gracie along with us on a three day sightseeing tour of our nation’s capital. We had flown to Ohio to first visit with some family, then rented a small SUV for our road trip to DC. Gracie’s sister, Gabby, is growing up and I wanted us to see DC together before she’s on her own. Oh, and it had bee
n thirteen years since the last time I flew with Gracie. At that time I said to myself I’d never fly anywhere again with Gracie, but that’s another story.
The trip there was uneventful. My jaw dropped open when we arrived at the home where we were to stay, in Great Falls, Virginia. The home was massive, and inside was something like you would see in an architectural magazine, or Better Homes and Gardens. I looked up home prices for Great Falls and found out the average home price is just over a million dollars.
After arriving, we checked in with our hostess. The hostess was the owner of the home, and she rented out the bottom half via Airbnb. Although we were initially impressed with the hostess’s home, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be upon closer inspection. The basement was very nice, fully carpeted and fully equipped, and it walked out to the backyard where there was an in-ground pool. But the basement had a musty smell, and the pool was filthy.
Despite the smell and dirty pool, I rationalized reasons to stay at the home, thinking we’re really only there to sleep, since we’re going to be spending our time all over DC. We had purchase bus tour tickets so we could hop off and on at all the places we wanted to see. We were so excited, especially Gabby, who wanted to see the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum above all. I know, morbid, right? But at that time, Gabby was fascinated with the history regarding the Holocaust, WWII, and so on. She likes history, and loves reading historical fiction and about history.
The day after arriving in Great Falls, we wake early, have breakfast, and head to DC. While driving there I look at the sky and don’t like the looks of the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Screw it, we’re going to DC, come hell or high water. First, though, we need to find a parking lot in DC, find our bus, and start our tour. We manage to find a parking lot, and after parking our vehicle, we pile out of the SUV and start walking around DC, looking for one of the buses that we’re supposed to get on. After not having any luck finding a bus, or where one of our bus stops is located, we decided to just trudge on to the Holocaust Museum.
After arriving at the museum, we pay for our admission and begin our tour of the museum. We’re maybe an hour into our tour, and Gracie has a meltdown. The place is packed with people, and there’s so much more to see. Kristine tells me she’s leaving the museum to take Gracie outside and away from the crowd of people. She also tells me to continue our tour of the museum. I hate that the first day of our tour in DC has come to this already. I reluctantly agree, and watch Kristine and Gracie move away from Gabby and I. Thirty minutes later Kristine calls me on my cell and asks me to cut our tour short. She’s outside and the Capitol Police are questioning her, wanting to know if Gracie is okay and if Kristine needs assistance. I tell Gabby we need to go, and now. I bulldoze my way through the crowd, with Gabby close behind me. I hate that Gabby doesn’t get to see more of the museum. To her credit, Gabby says nothing as we find our way outside to where Kristine and Gracie are. For Gabby to say nothing, when I know she’s upset, means she must be seething inside.
Gabby and I finally get to where Kristine and Gracie are, and the skies open up shortly after. We decide to call it a day and head back to the home we’re staying in. Later, in the early evening hours, Kristine and I head upstairs to go to the garage and our vehicle to retrieve some of our belongings. We pass thru the home’s kitchen and run into our hostess, who is drinking
wine from the biggest wine glass I’ve ever seen. We stop for some polite conversation, and to our amazement we learn our hostess has an adult son with severe autism, and that he now lives in a home for people with special needs. We learn she’s divorced, and has at least one other adult child. I look around, and the house feels so empty…
The following day I tell Kristine to go with Gabby to DC, and that I will stay the day with Gracie in the basement of our hostess’s home. I while the day away taking care of Gracie, and when I’m not doing that, I get lost in some piece of fiction I’m reading. The day after that, Kristine and I trade places, and I go into the city with Gabby. Wherever Gabby wants to go, and whatever she wants to see, we do that. We pack as much as can humanly do into one day. At the end of our day together in DC, we stop for dinner in a pizzeria, and Gabby rests her head atop her arms on the table. She’s exhausted, and so am I.
It’s unfortunate Gabby, Kristine, and I weren’t able to see the sights of DC together. But, we made the best of the situation, as well as could be expected. The long, ten hour drive was quiet, scenic, and rather peaceful. I have thought often since then about wanting to take Gabby back to DC, so that she can get the full tour she wanted of the Holocaust Museum.