Thursday, December 13, 2012



A week ago my parents called me and asked how I was ever going to get on my plane to DC.
“When’s your flight again?”
“Eight a.m., but I have to get there ninety minutes ahead to check Cleo in.”

“So you’ll have Cleo, and then you’ll have all your bags?” Cleo is my new dog.

“Yup,” I said cheerfully, although I had already been fretting over this little piece of logistics for some time. I blame it on Lyme disease that I never manage to travel light. Besides all my clothes, which I have trouble cutting back on, I’ve got a smallish suitcase crammed with my thirty bottles of supplements and prescriptions. I have my six daily pill boxes which I pack into my carry-on the night before. I have thirty-six hours worth of heparin needles in case my bags are lost or I get stuck somewhere overnight. Same for my thrice-daily cholestyramine, carefully doled out into Ziplocs. I’ve got my no-gluten, no-sugar, no-preservatives, no-additives, organic breakfast and lunch. And normal junk: book, laptop, iPod, cell phone.

It adds up to two immensely heavy suitcases, a backpack, a shoulder bag, and a laptop case. A turtle is streamlined in comparison. An elephant would beat me to the check-in line.

And now I had this extra air-travel appendage: Cleopatra.

Experts agree: Cleo is awesome. They also agree she is an integral part of my Lyme recovery. This last few months herxing on the Samento-Banderol-Teasel protocol, it has made all the difference in the world to have her sleeping next to me, chasing her tail in the morning, forcing me out of the tiny apartment for walks and runs.

“Cleo is the best decision you’ve made in a while,” The Poet tells me a couple times a week.

And yet when leaving for a three month visit to my parents she is one more thing to manage at the airport.

“Who is going to drive you there?” my dad asked.

“I’m taking a cab.”

“Will the cab be big enough? Does the dog crate fit in a cab? Will it block the rear window?” he asked. “What are you going to do once you’re at the airport with all your bags and the dog and the crate?”

“Oh, well, there’ll be people around. The cabdriver will help,” I said. “I’ll give him a big tip.”

“He can’t get you to check-in,” my dad said. My dad was also of the opinion that there would be no roller-carts handy, curbside check-in might not exist at all, and there certainly would be some regulation against checking a dog curbside, not to mention a suspiciously heavy suitcase crammed with Vitamin C powder, turmeric capsules, and syringes. He said I needed to send a box or several boxes ahead of time with all my pill bottles and things, so I would have all my hands free to handle Cleo.

I didn’t send the box, but I did buy a super sporty, hiking-style backpack with a laptop compartment, forty-seven pockets, and bungee-cord lacing on the front. (Somehow I still ended up with three carry-ons.) I called the cab ahead and told them about all the boulder-ish suitcases and the dog and the crate. I told them to come at six.

And I worried. More than about checking in, I worried about getting up at 5 a.m. to walk Cleo, do my own morning medical insanity, and get all my boulders down the stairs and out the door for the cab all while feeling like hell on my Lyme meds.

Miraculously, I felt decent getting out of bed at 5. By 6, Cleo and I were out in the front yard throwing and chasing a ball, our mountain of stuff stacked by the driveway. And not only does curbside check-in exist, but the tall white guy working curbside at SeaTac airport is my new hero.

After the cabby pulled up to the terminal and heaved all my stuff from the cab to a spot that was an equally impossible distance from the cart stand and the curbside check-in stand, then wished me a Merry Christmas, I just stood there, stranded and with an extremely energetic dog on leash. If moved to far from my bags to get help, security would surely swoop down on my stuff and destroy it in seconds. Cleo was running and hopping in as many directions as her leash would allow, all the while giving out little nervous barks. It crossed my mind that my dad was right. It was impossible. And then the curbside guy dashed over to me and told me not to move. He went to-and-fro with suitcases and I.D. and even ferried my credit card over to the stand and brought the receipts and the check-dog forms and back for me to sign while I stayed with Cleo and her crate.

Easy peasy lemon-squeezy.

So now I am in flight to three months with my parents, which I’ve been longing for, sometimes maniacally, over the past few weeks. The Lyme meds are doing their job, which means my body cycles out of symptom hell several times a day. I am deliberately taking as high a dose as I can stand, because I’ve been treating this illness long enough. It’s time to kick it at no matter what price of present-day discomfort. But being in the house I grew up in, with my mom and other family around, is a kind of support not even Cleo and The Poet in Seattle can approximate.

DC here I come.



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