This past weekend, my husband and I flew to New Orleans for a conference he was attending. I spent the first full day with my family doing what we do best: eating and talking about eating.
Oh, Lawd, as we say down there. For my friends, I left a Facebook food diary in my dining wake—pictures of fried oysters wading in a light pool of remoulade, a wedge of iceberg lettuce and crumbled blue cheese on the side; po boys with flaky bread crust and premium deli meats and cheeses showing a swath of creole mustard; jumbo prawn flecked with seasoning, its meat the heavy steak of all shrimp, and fresh enough to taste gulf waters; and even a lone chocolate turtle from MacKenzie’s—the fudgy frosting swirled on a pecan sandy-style cookie. Unfortunately, my husband experienced a limited amount of fine cuisine between commitments at his conference; the morning of his second day, he found himself re-living my little son’s recent flu experience. Any joyful consumption from Friday was retched all day Saturday. As he shook under the covers and murmured in delirium, I cancelled plans: tea at Windsor Court, dinner at Antoine’s, the tour of the D-Day Museum. The hotel sent me extra pillows and blankets, a can of air freshener, and a stack of menus for restaurants that deliver. Instead of wine, I poured my husband Gatorade. In place of white napkins on his lap, he received cool, wet cloths for his forehead.
Sunday, my parents delivered us to the airport. We promised that we would be fine. My husband was better, albeit slow. Little did we know that we would board a plane without an operable toilet, have that flight cancelled while we sat waiting for take off, wait in line in the terminal another hour or more, and then get rescheduled to come home after my children’s bedtime. With time to kill, my dad and sister rolled by the airport for a second chance to party with us (my bourbon was great--my husband savored ice chips instead.) By afternoon, my spouse was looking more and more like death—his energy completely depleted. On the walkway to the first flight, I found him kneeling and bent over. Within minutes of tucking him into his seat, I requested an electric cart to shuttle us to our connecting flight. Flight attendants brought us ice and sick bags and we tucked his coat around him like a blanket. Men on either side of us leaned over to offer help—alcohol wipes, medicine, et cetera.
Our connecting airport was big and we had scant minutes between flights. We pushed our way through a crowd to flag down the cart that had been sent for us. My husband curled up (if any man 6’1” can really bend his frame to that description) around a pile of luggage. The driver took one look at my panicked face and started yelling at people to back away from the cart so we could turn around and head to the escalators and trains. There was no one waiting on the other concourse for us, so we walked, or should I say lurched, toting our luggage and seeking out garbage cans for emergency vomitoriums just in case. We were the last ones on the flight, it having been held for us. The attendant on our small jet watched my husband heave into the plastic bags she had given him and asked if I wanted the EMTs to meet us on the ground, but I said just a wheelchair would suffice. For the two hours of that flight, my beloved slept fitfully and unable to talk. From my seat further back on the narrow plane, I could see his shoulders shake.
We made it home, but barely. Two days later, my husband is still not fully recovered, and I am exhausted. There will be other trips home, other meals. I was lucky to have Friday with my sister as we explored the places where we grew up--our last childhood home is now a grass lot, thanks to Katrina. I enjoyed my dad’s cooking and my mom’s doting. I had squeezed in a brunch with an old friend and her daughter. Running to the pharmacy on Saturday, I even bumped into the end of a small Mardi Gras parade—a reminder of what once used to be considered normal.
With hope, everyone's health will be recovered soon and a good summer visit to New Orleans will make up for this last one. More NOLA-inspired blogs will follow soon.