Before our first grandchild was born in 2011, I thought arriving to see her one week after her birth would be fine. How would I know? I had never had a grandchild before. And then she was born, and it was such a bummer not being there with her and everyone when she first arrived in this world. Our son brought their computer to the hospital the next day and Skyped me in, so I could be part of it. Ailie and my first photo together was someone holding Ailie next to the open computer with me in it! 21st Century grandparenting.
This time, our daughter-in-law had a scheduled C-section, which actually made planning easier for us, given that we live 1340 miles away. Dan called us on the afternoon of Friday, June 6, 2014 and asked us what we thought they had. I told him all along I thought it was a boy, and he told me I was right; they had a boy! Elliott David was born that morning at 10:01am. This was very exciting for me, as prior to Ailie, I had been wrong on guessing the gender of any baby 100% of the time! This included all four of our own kids, along with anyone else who’d had a baby… ever. So I guess in a way I was always accurate. “Wanna know what the sex of the baby is? Ask Lori! And then whatever she says, go with the other one.” With my two grandkids, I’ve been right 100% of the time! (and who doesn’t like it when they’re right?!)
Our flight was leaving Friday evening, so we had decided we wouldn’t go to the hospital until Saturday morning, knowing that Dan and Cara had had a long day and would need to rest. Once again, it was tough to know he was here and we weren’t there with him!
We arrived in Minnesota at 8:15pm, 30 minutes early. That’s when things got complicated, mostly because we were excited we had arrived early so maybe we could go to the hospital to meet Elliott that night. Dan said, “Yeah, come tonight! We’ll be awake.” Only we didn’t remember how far apart (distance-wise) everything in the Twin Cities is…
We waited outside for our ride to arrive. We texted Hannah (our daughter we were going to be staying with), asking, “If we got a ride to your house, could we borrow one of your cars to go to the hospital?” They weren’t home, and both cars were in use. So we texted our son at the hospital: “If we were brought to the hospital, could Cara’s parents (who were also in town from out of state and staying at their house) bring us back to your house so we can pick up the car we’re borrowing for the week and then go to the hospital?” Only Ailie was tired, so they were leaving the hospital and heading home to put her to bed. Dan asked: could we be brought directly to his house to pick up the car and then drive to the hospital from there?
So that’s what we did. Except that of all the options, Dan’s house is the furthest away from the airport, so by the time we got there it was 10pm. And we were still 20 minutes from the hospital, and that’s with no traffic and assuming that the car you’re driving works.
We borrowed the same car I had borrowed when I was there in April. Dan has a work truck from his company, so the car we would be driving hadn’t been used for a while. When I was there last, the check engine light went on the first day I drove it and the windshield wipers didn’t work. I had the motor for the windshield wipers replaced… only then the wipers wouldn’t shut off. Or they would shut off when they felt like it. And sometimes I couldn’t get the shifter to work; I had to finesse it, which was scary at times. Sometimes double-clutching worked, other times it didn’t. The situation was less than ideal, but it worked overall and it saved us a rental car fee for April.
Back to the night of Elliott’s birth: we got the car key and headed toward the hospital. Because I had driven the car, I was the one driving now. I noticed the windshield wipers weren’t working at all, but luckily it wasn’t raining at the time, so that wasn’t a big deal. As we were driving, I was having more and more problems shifting. Even double-clutching wasn’t working. It wasn’t so much as finessing the shifter as forcing it into place. It felt like it was just… off. Usually, when you shift a manual you make an H motion for the first four gears. This time, it felt like it was close to the H but not exactly, and it wasn’t easy to feel where it was supposed to go.
To top it off, Mark could see I was having difficulty and was offering unsolicited, unhelpful, unwanted, and unwelcomed (albeit well-intentioned!) advice, advice from someone who had never driven the car before, advice like: “Try finessing it,” or “Double clutch it, that should work!” I told him I tried them both, and while they worked in April, they weren’t working this time…
Finally, we were ½ mile away from our new grandson. We could see the hospital! We were going to finally get to meet Elliott after being halfway across the country when he was born, flying 1340 miles to reach him, maneuvering a complicated airport pickup, driving all over the Twin Cities while figuring out how to get the car we were borrowing, and then having car difficulties, but now we were almost there!
I was stopped at a red light in the left-turn lane at a busy intersection of a four-lane highway. When the light turned green, I went to put it into first; it wouldn’t go. I tried second; nothin’. Third? Nope. Back to first. Nada. Second? Not that, either. The next thing I knew, the shifter was like a wooden spoon in water instead of cookie batter. There was nothing holding it in place. Not only did it not make an H motion, it was like putty in my hands. Cars behind us started honking. I couldn’t find the hazard lights. It started to drizzle. I started to panic. “I got nothin’! Whado I do??!!”
Mark found the emergency lights and put them on, then he waved for the cars behind us to go around us; he said he was going to get out and see where he might be able to push the car to get it out of the left-turn lane. He got out and ran across the highway to investigate. In the meantime, I’m moving the shifter around in an O motion, trying to figure out how I broke it.
He got back to my window and said, “When it’s clear, I’ll push you to the right side of the road. Make sure to wait until it’s clear.” Remember, we were in the left-turn lane of a four lane. The speed limit had to be at least 50mph, so cars were flying past when the light was green.
After a short wait, the coast was clear. I cranked the wheel to the right and Mark started pushing. We crossed both lanes of the highway and got over to the shoulder. Mark got back in the car and called Dan. “We can see the hospital, but the shifter went on the car. Should we call a tow truck and have it towed to your house? Or what do you want us do?”
Dan said, “Oh, that happened again?” Meaning it had happened to him before, too. Whew! It wasn’t operator error! “Pull the plastic casing off the middle console. You’ve probably got a screw that came loose. You should be able to screw the linkage back in place and then the shifter will work.”
Mark hung up. The screw was still in place, so we looked for the nut. Couldn’t find it. Mark saw how the linkage worked, so he said, “Lor, can you shift it if I hold it like this?” I could. “Okay, just shift carefully and I’m going to hold the linkage in place while you shift. We only have a little ways to go… we should be able to make it there.”
So that’s what we did, Mark moving his hand away from us when I shifted to first, holding the linkage in place; Mark moving his hand toward us when I shifted to second; Mark moving his hand back away from us and over to the right when I shifted to third. Slow and steady got us to the parking lot of the hospital.
By this time, the only entrance open to the public was the Emergency Room door. Dan met us there, since it was so late. By this time is was 10:45pm. We signed in and headed to the birthing center, where we got to meet Elliott and talk with Cara.
We probably got a better visit with Cara than anyone else did that day, because she was feeling better by then. She had not felt well during the day, and didn’t remember all the earlier visits. She looked great! And Elliott was such a little peanut… so sleepy and content. He looked like his sister only with dark hair. We could see both his parents in him as well, and yet he had his own look, too. We stayed long enough to get a picture of him with Grandma and then let him and his parents go to sleep for the night. So we saw him within 13 hours of his birth. Now THIS was more like it!
Dan walked us down to the car and helped us get it back in drivable shape. He and Mark found the nut; it had rolled under the carpet. They put the linkage back together so Mark wouldn’t have to hold the screw in place while I shifted. Dan shared with us that just after he had bought the car the same thing had happened to him; the shifter had gone and he didn’t know why. When he took the plastic casing off the console he found that the linkage had been taped in place. TAPED!
It was also starting to sprinkle, so I asked him if the windshield wipers were working at all. He said, “Yeah… they work. Only I can’t get them to shut off, there must be something wrong with the electrical. So I pull the fuse out when it’s clear and I put it back in when it’s raining. Here’s how you do that…”
Good night, little Elliott, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. We’re happy we got to meet you on your birthday, which is also your Great-Grandma and Grandpa’s anniversary (my mom and dad’s) and your Great-Great Grandpa’s birthday (my mom’s dad). We look forward to getting to know you better and watch you grow and interact with your sister. Neither distance nor airport pick-up complications nor car woes could keep us away from meeting you on the day you were born!