Montana, Day 1: From the Carolinas to Big Sky Country

I peered out the window just beyond my new friend Ed at the awe-inspiring mountains that encircle Bozeman International airport.  An absolutely perfect, stunningly clear day displayed the beauty of the snow-capped mountains as if created just for us.  The past week had left us stunned, senses-dull and wondering if we’d ever see this moment. Dana’s dad had undergone a scalp removal and skin graft (taken from his abdomen) in order to remove his melanoma;  Our big, beautiful, goofy, lovable friend, trail-guide (and yes, retriever/ St. Bernard mix), Scooby had undergone a series of daily seizures culminating in one that lasted over an hour forcing us to say goodbye to the best dog ever; and My mom experienced an eschemic stroke which brought her to the hospital by ambulance and destroyed her short term memory, caused hallucinations and rendered her speech 70% gibberish. We hadn’t slept much in over a week and up until 12 hours ago weren’t sure whether we wouldn’t end up cancelling this trip of a lifetime after all.  But at the last moment Mom had haled and improved pretty dramatically, Dana’s dad had shown continued improvement and though we were still devastated by the loss of our Scooby, we excitedly packed and re-packed last night missing yet another nights sleep.

“Two things pierce the human heart, beauty and affliction.” -Simone Weil

Terminal to plane to terminal to plane to terminal to plane to terminal since 4:30 am. Dazed and stunned by pain and beauty…here we were.  Wheels touched runway and the pilot locked down the brakes.  Our bodies strained against the seatbelts and I asked Ed,”  I wonder if he’ll pull a Starsky and Hutch at the end of the runway?” We laughed, said our goodbyes and filed like cattle out of the puddle-jumper into the handsome, lodge-like terminal. Dana and I stared out the window at the mountains, still wondering at the idea of it all.  Were we really here? Surrealistic is the only word that captures the moment…and it’s insufficient. We wandered into the gift shop and after what must have been a half-hour, it occurred to one of us that we hadn’t picked up our luggage.  We scurried down the escalator and found our bags had either been tossed or fallen off the conveyor.  At least they were here.  We picked up our Subaru Outback from Hertz, loaded in our luggage and set off toward the city of Bozeman to find a hotel for the night.  We’d planned to camp the first night but I realized we desperately needed a little comfort from a Holiday Inn.  We found one, surrounded by majestic mountains, showered and headed to the restaurant for dinner.  Moments before my Black and Bleu Sirloin Salad arrived my internal organs seemed to dissolve in my gut.  My body had had enough.  The weeks of stress, sleep deprivation and a day of airport food had caused my digestive system to revolt. I stomached a few bites then raced back to the hotel room while Dana finished her Four-cheese Penne. Bedtime early tonight.

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