In 2020 I went on a couple of trips to a place I never, ever wanted to go, and never thought I would need to go-The Mayo Clinic. But in August of 2020, after hospitalizations and months of issues from nerve damage, heart issues, and declining health, my family finally convinced me to take the journey to Rochester, Minnesota. While many people offered to accompany me on the trip, it ultimately ended up being a “reunion vacation” with my old roommates/parents Mike Sr. and Mo Money. Although I must say I almost backed out of the trip all together when my Dad tried to pull a fast one on me and my Mom THE NIGHT BEFORE by suggesting we take his car instead of the Honda Mini van. My dad received two responses to this suggestion. My Mom responded first with just a simple “Mmmm No, Sweetie.” Since my Mom is the boss, my dad and I both knew that was the final answer, we would not be taking his Chevy Impala. But, since I am a “smart ass,” (as my parents have so affectionately called me from a young age) I couldn’t help but add my two cents to his suggestion. I first asked my Dad if he even remembered how to back his car out of the garage it had been so long since he had driven it (He hardly ever drives it as he does not like to get it dirty). I then said that there was no way I was riding all the way to Minnesota in the back of his old geezer car, there just was not enough cupholders.
I was honestly appalled at my Dad’s suggestion. It was like he didn’t know me or my Mom at all. Didn’t he know the Chevy Impala only had 8 cupholders? Did he not remember how many cupholders my Mom and I take up with with all our drinks and items? My Mom with her coffee, yogurt, possible McDonald’s oatmeal and water and me with my Dunkin Coffee, two waters, Propel, Diet Coke and Gatorade? Did he block out all the family road trips we took? Thinking back… probably.
The morning finally came to leave for the Clinic and I was taking my sweet time as I was in no rush to get out the door seeing as I wasn’t really looking forward to going there in the first place , but my Dad was very much rushing me out the door. He was also making comments about how I was packing too much and that we would be running out of space in the Mini Van. (Yeah right like that would happen in our HONDA mini van which comfortably seats 8 and has plenty of leg space and cargo room). My sister Jane asked if I wanted to borrow her nail file for the trip but I was sure to decline her offer, saying very loudly so my Dad could hear me from where he was in the other part of the house, that there wasn’t enough space in the van for me to bring it. My Dad and I were really starting the trip out on a good note. After a lot of running around the three of us were finally in the van ready to pull out of the driveway. Two of my sisters had come home from the North Side of the City to say goodbye and wish us well before our big trip so they were waiting on the porch ready to see us off. Just as my Dad was about to put the car in reverse my mom thought that that exact moment would be a great time to show my Dad a cute video our oldest sister had sent of her kids the night before that “she was so busy rushing around packing” she didn’t get the chance to show him. “Hold on Mo, I can’t really see it right now… I need my glasses.” My Dad said as she shoved the phone in his face. With that he put the car in park (still in the driveway), got his glasses out and the two of them watched this video, while me, my two sisters on the porch, and probably the rest of the block LISTENED to the video since my Mom’s phone is hooked up to her car and they had it blasting through the mini van speakers. “WOW!” I yelled from the back seat so they could hear me over the sound of my niece and nephew coming out of the Mini Van speakers. “I AM SO GLAD I RUSHED TO GET IN THE CAR FOR THIS FIVE HOUR ROAD TRIP JUST TO SPEND AN EXTRA 4 MINUTES LISTENING TO AUDIO OF A VIDEO PARKED IN OUR VERY OWN DRIVEWAY!” After we gave the whole neighborhood a free concert of screaming kids, we were FINALLY on the road.
The car ride there was an interesting one to say the least. We were on the road less than an hour before my Dad needed to stop for a McDonald’s Diet Coke. A little while later my Mom asked if she could “Lean her chair back a little.” Before I could answer she nearly broke my nose with her headrest she pushed her seat back so far and so quickly. I was so badly pinned beneath her seat, I almost couldn’t get out my phone to take the below Snap Chat to send to my siblings.
Then later the two of them took out some booklet with some weird squiggly lines all over it and started studying it. I asked what it was and they said it was an “Atlas”-Some collection of maps they used to use back in the 80s. I then asked my parents if they knew what year it was. It was a legit question though as my dad drove so slow, I started to question what year it was myself. Was time backwards? Were we moving in slow motion? I watched as car after semi-truck after snail passed us on the road. “Hey Dad!” I called up from the back. “Are you trying to add more ailments to my already long list of medical conditions before we get to the Mayo Clinic?” “No. Why?” He asked sounding confused” “Then why are you making the rest of our ears bleed with this awful talk radio you’re listening to? When can I put my Spotify road trip playlist on?” My Mom laughed. I waited until the point in my Dad’s rant when he called me a “Millennial Snowflake who doesn’t know the front door from the back” and then I smiled and put my headphones in. I had my dose of entertainment so I was set for at least the next few hours.
After a few more hours my Dad got off at a rest stop for us to have lunch. He made a beeline for the first McDonald’s he saw as he and my Mom LOVE McDonald’s. They asked what I wanted but I wasn’t too hungry and I also don’t love McDonald’s as much as they do so I said I would just get a snack at the gas station. They did not like that answer so they forced me to eat somewhere, after a lot of back and forth, I don’t even remember how we ended up going here, but we ended up going through the drive through at Culver’s. Now, lots of people have regrets in their life. Going through this Culver’s with my parents may forever be my biggest regret in life because of the the amount of questions it somehow sparked. My parents were firing questions at me left and right. For some reason they acted like they had never heard of Culver’s. They also must have thought I was a cofounder of Culver’s or something with all the questions they were asking me:
(In line in the Drive-through)
Mom: Kathleen, Did you say this place is know for their fries?
Me: No, I never said that
Dad: Now, Kathleen, Is this a burger place?
Me: Yeah, you can get a burger.
Mom: So Kathleen, you said this place has good fries?
Me: Mom, you literally just asked me that. I never said anything about their fries.
Dad: No fries for me! I don’t care if they have good fries I don’t want any fries.
Me: I never said anything about their fries
Dad: Kathleen, what do people order here?
Me: Dad, the menu is right there. Get a burger if you want.
Dad: Well how big are their burgers? And I do NOT want fries.
Me: Oh, well, let me go get my measuring tape I always carry around in my pocket and measure a burger patty for you! I don’t know Dad! Just order something!
Mom: Oh shoot Mike, Honey this is a Pepsi products place.
Me: Just go to McDonalds! I didn’t even suggest going here I am not even hungry!
After many more questions and complaints, we finally had our food. Since indoor dining at Culver’s was closed due to COVID restrictions and already spending that extra 4 minutes in the car watching that video of their grandkids, my parents thought it would be a good idea to eat our lunch on a picnic table outside the Culver’s. This was my own personal Hell as it was windy and there is nothing I hate more than having to be outside on a windy day let alone eat outside. Our lunch was not very enjoyable-Napkins blowing every where, debris from a nearby tree getting in my pop, there was a bee by us, we were steps away from a highway so it was loud. The only one who seemed happy was my Dad and that was because he was watching semi trucks go by on the highway while eating the fries he said he didn’t want. Finally we all had enough and finished our lunch in the car. “So how did you guys like your first meal at Culver’s?” I asked as we continued our drive. They both kind of looked at me and scoffed as if I had just asked them the dumbest question in the world. “Um, we’ve eaten at Culver’s before, Kathleen.” My Mom said with a little chuckle. “Yeah, don’t you know there’s just one a few block’s away from our house?” My Dad said. Apparently they were the new Culver’s experts, and I was ok with that.
We made one more stop at my Mom’s old college so she could relive her glory days a bit and then we FINALLY arrived at the hotel. When we got to the lobby to check in I noticed they offered free coffee WITH flavored creamer-always a sign of a high end hotel. Mike Sr. knows how to treat his girls-only the finest Marriott’s for us! The hotel receptionist gave us our two rooms (side by side) and we took the elevator up to our floor. I was pretty pumped to have my own room but just as I was walking in my room yelling to my parents “Peace out! See you in the morning.” I noticed my mom was following me in and not my Dad. “Oh whoa, Mom, you’re at the wrong room, silly!” I said “Dad, you better keep an eye on this one she’s walking in to other people’s rooms!” Probably not a joke you should make in the hallway of a hotel when other people can hear you, but I went for it. “Haha, no Sweetie,” My Mom said. “Dad and I thought I could stay with you!” “Yeah you girls have fun!” My Dad said as he started walking towards his room. “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, hold on. Are you guys having marital problems or something? Wait you are still married…right?” I said. (Another joke in hotel hallway) “I do not remember discussing this. If this is something where you want to show moral support by not leaving me alone, I can assure you, I am good being alone. Second, I think the rules of marriage state that you pretty much have to share a hotel room when you travel together. I think it’s in the vows: ‘To love and share hotel rooms together for as long as you both shall live’ thus I should have my own room not Dad. Ok, well good chat! But I think I should hit the hay so I’m going to head to my room now bye!” “No, no, no!” My Dad replied. “I need my own room because I get up so early and Mom sleeps so late so we thought it would be best if you two share. Plus I have work calls this week I need to take.” “But I am up very late.” I responded, “Plus, Dad, do you not remember that I am a business woman that went on TWO business trips where I stayed in my own room? I have grown accustomed to this corporate lifestyle I cannot go back to sharing now.” Both being business people, my Dad and I negotiated for a while but ultimately I let him have his own room and my Mom and I shared.
The next morning We had to be up bright and early to be at the Clinic for lots of doctors appointments, procedures and tests. My Dad had to work and my new roommate conveniently had to go back to our hotel after getting a migraine so I was there by myself. I thought my roommate was going to be cool but I guess not. At the end of the day they gave me a COVID test which I’m pretty sure they used a wire coat hanger to shove up my nose, to my brain and down my throat. They were so “Thorough” that I got a nosebleed from it. So, there I was, looking like a huge dork with my head tilted back, bloody tissues everywhere, trying to pitch my nose, keep my mask on and call my Dad to come pick me up all at the same time. When we got back to the hotel that evening my mom was still laying down with a migraine so my dad and I decided to go for a walk around a nearby lake that we heard about (Once my nosebleed stopped). You may be thinking in your head, ‘Oh what a nice father/daughter activity!’ Well it was NOT! My Dad kept saying I wasn’t walking fast enough even though I was practically running, and he kept making loud inappropriate comments about everyone and everything on the crowded lakefront trail but claimed he was whispering. On about the 100th time he told me I was walking too slow I finally had enough and responded “MAYBE I AM WALKING SLOW BECAUSE I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO THINK WE’RE TOGETHER WITH ALL THE INNAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS YOU’RE MAKING!!” I then told him to just go ahead and keep on fast walking back to the hotel but he wouldn’t because he said he ‘didn’t want people on the path thinking he left his little 8th grade daughter alone.’ That is the last walk we took together that trip.
When we got back my Mom was up so we discussed where to go to dinner. I made numerous suggestions that people had recommended to me and my Mom kept saying “Sounds tasty but let’s save that for another night” because she basically had her mind already set on Panera so we ended up going to Panera. After dinner my Dad wanted to stop at the grocery store for the second time in less than 24 hours to get more yogurt. “How many yogurts are you downing in that room of yours, Dad?” I asked as we were in the all too familiar yogurt aisle yet again.
On This Mayo journey I discovered that my parents really love two things: Chain restaurants and yogurt. We made so many stops for my Dad to get yogurt I think he cleaned out the state of Minnesota of it. The United Dairy Farmers had to have an emergency meeting after the consumption of yogurt on that trip. My parents also kept pushing their love of yogurt on me, encouraging me to get some yogurt as well. I finally caved and picked the least tasting yogurt-like yogurt that I could find.
The next couple of days were filled with more tests, procedures, doctors and yogurt of course. On our last day we got back to the hotel late from the Clinic and I said I wanted to get outside and go for a walk after being poked and prodded in a hospital bed all day. My mom said she would join me and then asked if it was ok if she invited dad… I said no, because of our walking experience the last time but she must have thought I was kidding because she texted him anyway. After receiving the text he came over to our room and announced that ‘if we were going to walk slow he didn’t want to go because he needed to walk fast’ which then led into my Dad and I getting into a fast/slow walking argument. My Mom, AKA THE POT STIRRER who started this whole thing in the first place, then acted like she was the peace maker, and decided my Dad would go on his walk alone and “the girls” would go on their walk. But she also wanted to have a “Happy Hour” drink after our walks but before our dinner reservations so then it was decided that we would all meet back in “the girls room” for a drink before our reservations. All three of us agreed to the boss’ plan and headed out on our separate walks like one big dysfunctional family. When we got back my Mom and I were waiting for my Dad to have our drink but he wasn’t answering any of our texts, calls or knocks on his door. Finally, about ten minutes before we had to leave for dinner he came into our room all ready to go to dinner and told us that he already had his drink in his room by himself because he (and his is a direct quote) “Didn’t know when we’d be coming back from our SLOW walk” so he just went ahead and had his drink. I asked if he made any effort to text, call, or respond to our texts/calls or even knock on our hotel room door that was right next to his to try and find out when we’d be back to which he simply said “No.”
After my Mom and I chugged our beers we’d been waiting to drink with my Dad we headed to dinner. I knew immediately that I was going to need another beer when I saw the QR codes on the tables. Why was God punishing me so much? Had I not suffered enough? I honestly didn’t think I had the energy to explain QR codes to the Baby Boomers. Somehow I gathered the last of my strength to show them how to access the menu:
Dad: Hells bells! I forgot my glasses again!
Mom: Here Mike, Honey you can borrow mine.
Dad: Oh Hell! The print is so small you can hardly read the damn thing!
Mom: Oops! Kathleen, sweetie I accidently x’ed out of my menu on my phone. Can you pull it up again?
Dad: I had a big lunch so I don’t want anything big!
Mom: I don’t either because with us leaving tomorrow, I don’t think we’ll be able to take any leftovers home! Oh whoops! Kathleen I lost the menu on my phone again!
Once we moved past the ordeal of getting the menu we had a nice dinner. We discussed what the doctors had said and different test results. My Mom talked about how impressed she was with the doctors we met with and my Dad talked a lot about how much he really enjoyed having his one hotel room. He went into great detail about how neat and tidy he kept his room all week compared to ours and how he was so glad he did not have to share with us and all our ‘foo-foo girl products’ all over the room. After dinner we obviously made a stop at the railroad tracks so my Dad could check those out, then we headed back to our hotel to get some rest before our drive back home the next morning.
While I wish I could say that was our last trip the the Mayo Clinic, we did have to go back. But luckily the following trip gave my Mom the opportunity to hit up the Olive Garden she’d had her eye on since the moment we arrived on that first trip. Bottomless breadsticks? Totally worth another trip to Mayo.
Lots of people go to the Mayo Clinic to “find answers” to their medical misfortune. But sometimes those answers aren’t always the the ones you’d hope to find. This was unfortunately what happened in our case. But we got our answers nonetheless. The best solution now is to take those answers and move forward with them. And I am ok with that because what I’ve learned on this journey is that I have the most supportive family and friends a person could ask for. The past year has been a crazy one, but I will forever be grateful to everyone we helped me and will continue to help me along the way.