Rash Conclusions

When I was maybe three years old, I had a penchant for caterpillars. I loved to let them crawl all over my hands (even though they caused my skin to peel) and would fill mayonnaise jars with sticks and grass, load them with my insect friends and, with my mom’s help, punch holes in the top so they could breathe. Within a day or two, they always died. So much for the budding entomologist.

photoBut my old fascination with the insect world was rekindled this past Sunday, when Em and I went to a botanical garden to see a display of live caterpillars. These were astonishing creatures, some as tiny and well camouflaged as a slender twig, others as thick as my fingers, bedecked in jewel tones. They crawled over docents’ outstretched hands or munched methodically on their favorite leaves. Said one visitor, “I feel like I’m watching someone eating corn on the cob.”

I went home marveling at the beauty of some of Nature’s humblest creations—until later that night, when I was getting ready for bed and noticed an odd series of red spots on my shins. The night before, I’d found a set of four on my right leg. This time, I saw a series of spots on the left. They didn’t itch. But they looked eerily like the connect-the-dots, after-dinner trail of a far more menacing insect—a bedbug.

Worried, given all the traveling we’ve done of late, I forced up the corner of our mattress to check the box spring. There, in a crevice, were two shed exoskeletons of some kind of small bug. I ran and got a piece of tape to extract them and tried to examine them under a magnifying glass. Even with that assist and bifocals, I’m just too farsighted to be able to see clearly. But I was convinced it was proof that I had brought bedbugs home with me from Chicago a few weeks ago.

Al could not dissuade me from my conclusion. He gave me a hug and went to sleep in our bed, and I went downstairs to try to sleep on the couch, too uneasy about getting more bites. I then proceeded to spend half the night agonizing. I looked up heat treatments for bedbugs and fretted over how we could cover the four-figure expense. I did Internet searches for the best contractors. I found way too much information about all the work you have to do to prepare for bedbug extermination. Finally, around four in the morning, I had worn myself down enough to fall asleep. I woke up at six, as Al prepared to go to work.

The A-rated local pest control company didn’t open until eight. At three minutes past, I called and described the situation. They asked me to text an image of what I found. I did my best to take a picture with my iPad, but with my clumsy, tired hands, could not focus it crisply enough for them to be able to ID the bug. So I got dressed and drove my taped sample over to their office.

After a few false starts with an uncooperative computer, their bug ID specialist successfully booted up and got a close look under her electronic maginifier. Lo and behold—it was not a bedbug, after all, but the shed larval “exuvia” of a carpet beetle. Ironically, their larvae resemble tiny caterpillars. In fact, they have hairlike protrusions that have earned them the nickname of “wooly bears”—not, however, to be confused with the same insect as those cute, fuzzy, brown-and-orange caterpillars that are supposed to predict the length of winter.

We don’t have carpeting. But carpet beetles aren’t all that particular. A common household pest, they don’t bite. They just munch on organic matter other than people. Much like all those caterpillars chomping away at leaves like corn on the cob. This larva may have shed its outer skin years ago, for all we know. If we had an infestation, the bug ID specialist told me, we’d know, because they’d be all over the place.

I was greatly relieved. And exhausted. I concluded that this whole episode was a major kick in the pants for us to finally declutter our bedroom and the rest of the house, and deprive any lingering carpet beetles of their smorgasbord of stray fiber delicacies.

As for those spots on my leg, I have no clue what they are. If they get worse, I’ll have to see a dermatologist and get some answers. For now, they don’t itch, which is a good thing. One more chapter in the book of strange skin changes. Whatever the cause, if I ever find out, I’m just grateful I can sleep in my bed, again.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Walk This Way

Ever since we got back from vacation, I feel too sedentary. Instead of exploring for hours on foot (true, it was a bit more than my feet could handle), I’m sitting at my computer far too much. Ginger’s no longer here to bop my hands off the keyboard when it’s time to go out for a walk around the block. It’s all too easy just to keep writing and not get any exercise.

walk-on-1445129-639x424So I’m trying to change my habit. I’ve tracked a half-hour walking route around our neighborhood—a manageable distance—and my goal is to get my butt off the chair and out the door at least four times a week.

This is actually proving easier than I expected. In fact, it’s quite pleasant. (It helps to start a walking habit when it’s warm out.) I’ve made it out and about my route at least five times in the past week—even Monday evening, after a sweltering 90-degree day.

Em is home for a transitional break between her summer internship in D.C. and returning to grad school, so she’s joined me a couple of times for a walk-and-talk. On other days, I’ve enjoyed a chance to clear my head and walk in silence. There are plenty of street trees for shade and only a few cars on the side streets to watch out for. We’re fortunate to live in a safe neighborhood with plenty of dog walkers, cyclists, families pushing strollers and other folks out walking or jogging.

Sometimes, I find myself so deep in my head that I barely notice what’s around me. Other times, I try to focus on the colors of the houses and birdsong and gardens as a meditation, staying in the moment. I’ve decided it doesn’t matter which mode I’m in, as long as I stretch my legs, swing my arms and get lungfuls of fresh air for a good, aerobic half-hour.

What if it rains? Depends on how long and how intensely. My alternative is to go to the gym and ride the stationary bike—not as refreshing, but at least I’m exercising.

It remains to be seen how well I can keep this up as the weather gets cooler and, eventually, too cold for me to be outside. But I figure if I establish a solid pattern now, when the walking is easy, my body will get addicted to the exercise and I’ll crave it enough to stick with it.

I definitely feel better when I walk. And worse when I don’t. No doubt about that. I can do it any time I want. Best of all—it’s free.

So, no excuses. Time to get moving.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Photo Credit: Francesco Maglione 

Theory of Relativity

Just over two weeks ago, we were in Ireland. How can that be? I feel as if a month has passed, already.

IMG_0438It’s so hard to hold onto that transformative sense of being elsewhere, once you’ve re-immersed in your everyday life. We have pictures and stories of our travels, and we’ve been sharing with friends and family, but with each day that passes, the details are a little less sharp. The minutiae of the moment clamor for attention.

Part of the reason the trip seems so distant is that I was in Chicago on business last week. This worked out better than expected, given that a mere seven days separated our European journey from my flying halfway across the U.S. on my own. After we had traveled all over Europe in two weeks, going to Chicago and even switching hotels once in three days was a snap. I was so relaxed about packing and flying that I surprised myself. Usually, I’m stressing about every detail. This time, I hardly did any preparation in advance. And I didn’t have any health complications along the way, thank goodness.

So even if our vacation seems like a long time ago, the travel experience has changed me. I know I can manage a lot of details on the fly. I know I can manage a health flare while far from home. I know I can do a lot of schlepping, get very tired, but recharge and keep going.

All of this is very encouraging. I would love to see more of the world before I really am too frail to travel.

In the days leading up to our Europe vacation, I felt as if I were jumping off a cliff. What if I couldn’t handle it? What if one of us got really sick on our journey? What if we lost our passports or they were stolen? On and on.

I’ve had so many episodes of strange, scleroderma-related health problems–infected ulcers, a resorbing tooth, spontaneous cellulitis–while on short trips not far from home, that I really didn’t know what to expect. The fear of illness in a foreign country has kept me from considering a bigger trip for years.

I prepared as best I could for all contingencies, including buying a good travel insurance policy that covered us for serious health complications. I carried an ample supply of antibiotics, which paid off when I did, indeed, suffer a bout of cellulitis in my right foot at the beginning of our travels. I planned our itinerary to build in opportunities to rest (not enough, but at least I tried).

In the end, I learned that I’m stronger than I thought. And I also discovered that a half-week business trip in one city is easy compared to a two-week vacation in seven. It’s all relative–a matter of experience, testing your limits and finding out what you’re really capable of, as opposed to what you’re afraid you cannot do.

Onward.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Postcards from Europe

Five countries, seven cities, 14 days. We’ve been home more than a week, but the memories of our trip through Europe resonate deeply. From Berlin to Achern, Germany; from the World War I battlefields in the Vosges Mountains of Alsace to a boat ride along the Seine in Paris; from beautiful Brugge to Flanders Fields, Belgium; from the Imperial War Museum in London to the resting place of Lusitania victims in Cobh (pronounced Cove), Ireland–we traveled by plane, train, bus, subway, car and foot to do research for my novel in progress, set in 1915 during the Great War.

And we made it. I was exhausted, yes, by all the travel. I dealt with a bout of cellulitis in my right foot at the beginning of the trip (thank goodness for antibiotics). I didn’t get enough sleep. But it was magnificent. Al and I found our way, with the help of many angels, to each destination, were blessed with the hospitality of good friends, stayed in wonderful accommodations on a budget (highly recommend AirB&B if you haven’t tried it), ate great food, and enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.

We’re grateful we could go. And dreaming of our next adventure. Here are just a few highlights . . .

Berlin balcony

Berlin balcony

Baden-Baden, Germany

Baden-Baden, Germany

Trenches  at Hartmannswillerkopf, Vosges Mountains, Alsace, France

Trenches at Hartmannswillerkopf, Vosges Mountains, Alsace, France

Storks in Munster, France

Storks in Munster, France

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, France

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, France

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, illuminated at night to show original colors

Eifle Tower, Paris, from the Seine River

Eiffel Tower, Paris, from the Seine River

Six flights up to our walk-up in Paris

Six flights to our walk-up in Paris

Medieval buildings in Brugge, Belgium

Medieval buildings in Brugge, Belgium

Poppies in Flanders Fields, Belgium

Poppies in Flanders Fields, Belgium

London, West End, near Ealing-Broadway

London, West End, near Ealing-Broadway

Parliament and Big Ben from the South Bank, London

Parliament and Big Ben from the South Bank, London

Our first view of Ireland

Our first view of Ireland

In Cobh, Ireland

In Cobh, Ireland

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Fly Away

When we moved into our home 16 years ago, one of Al’s brothers gave us a squirrel-proof bird feeder as a house warming gift. Last month, we finally hung it on the Norway Maple in the back yard.

Our delay was due, in large part, to Ginger. A frustrated huntress her whole life (she was, after all, a Golden Retriever), she would have had conniption fits with so many birds in the back yard. Now, with her gone, it’s time to give wildlife its due.

birdsAnd so, my morning’s entertainment, as I eat breakfast, is to watch the birds at the feeder. This is, without question, one of the best antidotes to stress that I have ever discovered. For me—not for the birds.

In fact, our backyard feeder has become quite the point of contention. A blight of house sparrows (yes, “blight” is the actual term for a group of them, or, if you prefer, a “humiliation”) has taken over the feeder. I had no idea they were so aggressive. They have batted away chickadees and house finches and scared off nuthatches. No cardinals have visited the feeder yet, despite the fact that we’ve filled it with black oil sunflower seeds (which house sparrows supposedly don’t like—not true). Morning doves, being ground feeders like their pigeon cousins, clean up what drops below, along with a chipmunk.

I can vouch for the manufacturer’s promise that the feeder is squirrel-proof. One particularly inquisitive gray squirrel has tried numerous ways to get at the seeds (I know there’s something in there!) by climbing all around it, and even going so far as to grab and pull down the springy perch. But so far, it hasn’t found a way to get the goods (though I must say, as a former psych major, the squirrel’s attempts are a fascinating study in learning styles).

The feeder’s hopper is full. When we return from our vacation at month’s end, I wonder how much will be left and if the sparrows will still dominate. Maybe the house finch, with its beautiful scarlet head feathers, will have finally told them off. Either that, or we’ll have a lot of house sparrows nesting in our eaves.

Meanwhile, as I make final preparations for our European travels, checking off items on to-do lists that seem to propagate over night, trying to plan for every possible health-related contingency and knowing that I will just have to deal with whatever happens, scrambling to finish off work for clients and my sewing and last-minute purchasing, I will continue to watch the birds and cheer for the house finch, which grabbed a few seeds while the sparrows weren’t looking.

If all goes according to plan, as you read this, we will be in Berlin, the first of seven cities on our complicated itinerary that takes us from Germany to France to Belgium to England to Ireland. All in the name of research for my novel and visits with friends and, yes, adventure.

Time for a break from blogging. Whatever your own summer plans, I wish you well. See you in a few weeks.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Hands On

How did it get to be July, already? With Independence Day behind us, summer is really here. It’s sunny and lovely and warm, and my hands are happy. I’m down to two bandages for my digital ulcers, one on each thumb. Always remarkable this time of year when I can feel with most of my fingertips.

photo-24This has been especially helpful because I’ve been sewing dresses. We’re getting ready for vacation, traveling through Europe to mark our 30th wedding anniversary (last December) and to do some research for a novel I’m writing.

It’s been unseasonably hot there (no complaints from me, although I’m encouraged that the forecast does not include temps upwards of 100 F, which was the case this past week). Dresses, as a friend observed, are easy. You don’t need to figure out what goes with what. Just slip one on, and you’re ready for the day.

One of the great joys of sewing is feeling luscious fabrics as your create your outfit. I’m working on a pattern for a wrap dress, and I found a buttery soft, beautiful rayon matte jersey print to sew.

I’ve learned from many mistakes that it’s best to test the pattern and any alterations first, before risking the good fabric, and I found some black and white cotton jersey in my fabric stash—perfect for experimenting.

So now the test garment is completed, and it looks and fits well enough to take along on the trip. I cut out all the good fabric and began constructing the second version on Sunday. It sews and serges like a dream, and I’m on schedule for finishing before we leave.

Best of all, my hands are fine. Despite whacking one finger on my serger and pricking another with a pin, they feel good as I write. I sew mostly by machine. The serger, which sews, trims and overcasts seams all in one step, is a tremendous help, saving time and extra hand motions. Even though it requires a lot of care when threading (and can be persnickety if I miss a step), it is a real boon. My other essential tool is a good pair of bent-nose tweezers, which helps with all the tiny manipulations I can no longer do with my fingertips.

I was marveling at the fact that my hands aren’t sore after all that work, and then I realized that fewer bandages really do make a difference. I’m so used to having at least four or five fingers wrapped to protect sore ulcers that going bare is full of surprises.

Travel will undoubtedly cause me to revert to more digital protection. I have all my supplies plus antibiotics ready, just in case. But in the meantime, I am savoring the freedom and enjoying the feel of wonderful fabric. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sew this much, successfully—a real summertime treat.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Plant a Seed

In Australia, the sunflower has become the symbol of scleroderma awareness—because those of us with the disease feel better in the warmth of the sun. I like this idea a lot. Enough, in fact, to consider trying my hand at planting some sunflowers, if not this summer, then next.

1428247_41776650Yesterday, on June 29, scleroderma associations around the globe marked World Scleroderma Day. In nearly two dozen countries in North America, Europe and Oceania, a month of awareness-building culminated with a host of activities, from hospital presentations and meetings of scientists to art gallery exhibitions and a social media series of 25 second videos, in recognition of the estimated 2.5 million people diagnosed with scleroderma worldwide. Today, June 30, the need for a cure will be presented to the European Parliament in Brussels.

June 29 is significant because it marks the death in 1940 of the brilliant artist Paul Klee, who suffered from systemic scleroderma. Klee’s later work was strongly influenced by his disease, even as his last few years were among his most prolific.

Paul Klee’s legacy helped to inspire the formation of the World Scleroderma Foundation, which is based in Basel, Switzerland, and draws together world experts in scleroderma research and patient groups in an effort to support research for a cure. The WSF’s lead patron is Klee’s grandson, Alexander, and his family.

While 2.5 million individuals with scleroderma represents just a sliver of the world’s 7.3 billion people, The WSF makes a compelling argument for the importance of scleroderma research on its website: Not only is the search for a cure needed for the millions who suffer from the disease—most of whom are women of childbearing age—but also scleroderma is a “linchpin disorder”: 

A breakthrough in understanding scleroderma would doubtless have a strong impact on many other diseases involving abnormal scarring and blood vessel injury. This might include conditions as diverse as interstitial lung disease, intestinal hypomotility disorders and many illnesses with blood vessel injury as their basis.

Which brings me back to sunflowers. Each sunflower head can contain as many as 2,000 seeds, each of which, in turn, with the right soil, sun and moisture, becomes another sunflower. If we could find a cure for scleroderma, imagine how many other millions of people who struggle with related diseases could be helped, as well.

Plant a seed to find a cure for scleroderma. Visit wolrdsclerodermaday.org to see what’s going on around the globe in support of research for a cure, or make a donation here in the U.S. to the Scleroderma Research Foundation or the Scleroderma Foundation. We’re all in this fight together.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I made good on my exercise commitment last week—I got to the fitness center twice, once for my barre class and once to ride the stationary bike for 25 minutes, plus I took half-hour walks on two other days.

Then I developed an ulcer in the nail bed of my left big toe. It’s infected. I have no idea how this happened. I am meticulous with skin care. It might have been as simple as picking up bacteria while walking around in sandals. Or just bad karma.

So, I’m back on antibiotics, limping a bit, carefully testing pressure on my left foot. I was able to walk around the block on Monday and get through most of the exercises in my barre class last night.

This is the minutiae of living with scleroderma. Just when you think you have everything in balance, something kicks it out of whack and you have to recalibrate.

But there are much more important issues in the world than an infection in my big toe.

On Sunday, at Al’s initiative, I joined my husband, our rabbi and cantor, and about a dozen other members of our synagogue at morning services at the local A.M.E. congregation. We came to show solidarity over the tragic shootings at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., last week.

Al had called ahead, the previous Friday, to ask if it would be okay with the pastor if we came. We were welcomed with thanks and gracious hospitality. Other members of the community came as well, in a spontaneous show of support. It was heartening to be part of a mixed sea of faces, all gathered to assert that what happened in Charleston was terribly wrong, that we care, that we must pull together as a society to end the violence and bridge the widening racial divide in this country.

Will any lasting good come of all those people, from different backgrounds, gathered together in prayer on a Sunday morning? I cannot say. But I know we helped to comfort our neighbors and sent good will out into the universe, and that must count for something.

After the service, we went out with friends for a Father’s Day brunch, then to the art museum, then home. Al mowed the lawn. I lay down and rested my sore foot.

My toe will heal, albeit slower than I want it to, with a combination of medication and careful tending. I will get back to my exercise plan. There will undoubtedly be other physical setbacks, but I’ll deal with those, too.

Would that our nation’s ills could heal as readily.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Photo Credit: Stròlic Furlàn – Davide Gabino

Pep Talk

No getting around it. I need more exercise. One weekly barre class is just not enough to stay in shape. Ever since Ginger died this winter, I haven’t been as good about taking a walk every day—no furry muzzle bopping my hands off the keyboard when it’s time to stretch and get out of the house. And I haven’t felt motivated to go to the gym. It’s chilly and impersonal and the three large flat-screen TVs broadcast an endless stream of bad news, too depressing.

But a visit with my cardiologist last week and my lead rheumatologist on Monday made it quite 2078973271_3307fc3441clear that I will feel a whole lot better if I move more. It’s critical for my longterm health and well being. (Not to mention body image—without Ginger’s nudging to walk regularly, I’ve put on five unwanted pounds since February—all below the waist.)

This has all been complicated by two issues: the fact that if I exert too quickly, I get short of breath due to some physiological complications of scleroderma, and the fact that my feet, despite all my efforts to find the right shoes, tire easily. They’re really sensitive from thinning fat pads, also due to scleroderma.

After long conversations with both trusted physicians, however, the bottom line is this: my body is high maintenance, but if I’m mindful of the boundaries of my endurance, the more I exercise, the more I’ll be able to endure.

So, I basically have to get off my butt and work out for a half hour at least three days a week.

I know I could listen to audiobooks or podcasts or music. But I’d rather read while I exercise. I have a backlog of books and New Yorker magazines. So my first strategy is going to be to try to read while I use the stationary bike. The treadmill is another option, but if I want to go easy on my feet, the bike may be a better bet.

Neither of these options sound thrilling. They don’t call it a treadmill for nothing. And a stationary bike is, well, stationary. But I can’t ride a regular bike anymore because of the pressure it puts on my wrists. So, I have to make the best of what I can actually do.

Another psychological obstacle to overcome: I will never look like all those pictures of buff, attractive people that decorate the fitness center, supposedly as motivation—”This could be you!” Nope. No way. In fact, I think those images do more to discourage me, because the ideal is so far beyond my reach. 

But the reality is that striving for an ideal body is so not the point. This is about building endurance, feeling more flexible and confident. Trusting myself that, even if I have this damn disease, I can still be physically strong.

My cardiologist said I shouldn’t overdo it, and there’s no need to do big, strenuous routines on the bike or to run on the treadmill. Just listen to my body and do what I’m comfortable doing, to start, and work up from there.

They convinced me. I know I have to. And who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise myself and actually enjoy the gym. Stay tuned. . . .

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Photo Credit: Harry Pujols

Hail, Caesar!

I tried an experiment last week. I had to go to New York City on business overnight. There is no easy, direct public transit from Central Massachusetts. So, because I was in Boston during the day on Wednesday, I took Amtrak to Manhattan, and planned to take a bus back home the following evening. The bus was scheduled to make three stops in Connecticut along the way, including a transfer in Hartford.

247603105_e1a7241212_zI’m not crazy about long bus trips, but the plan saved me from having to drive home late at night, either from Boston in the east or from Springfield in the west, if I had gone Amtrak all the way. 

I thought I was being very organized. I had all my tickets printed out, in addition to the email versions on my phone. For some reason, the bus tickets (one for each leg of the trip home) printed out back to back, which rarely happens on my printer. So I assumed it was intentional to save paper.

Wrong. After a full day’s meeting on Thursday, I made my way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown and found my gate. Then I noticed, to my dismay, that everyone else in line had two tickets—one to Hartford, and one to their connection.

When it was my turn to present my ticket and photo ID to our driver, I explained my dilemma and asked if I could just show him the ticket and keep it for my transfer. No, he informed me, he had to take it. They don’t accept electronic versions. Only paper. I needed to reprint my ticket when I got to Hartford.

Now, we had 15 minutes in the schedule to transfer busses. I knew the Hartford bus station was small. But I was nervous. And frustrated. If only I’d thought to make a second copy, just in case. After everyone was on the bus and our driver was finishing his paperwork, I asked him again if there was any chance I could show the PDF on my phone to the other driver. No, he reiterated, but he was sure I’d have enough time to take care of it in Hartford.

Nothing I could do but wait the three hours until we got there. We pulled out of the below-ground gate and up into traffic. Lots of it. Our driver welcomed us on the bus and introduced himself as Caesar. If it was too hot or too cold, he said, let him know. No loud phone conversations or music. No photos. I watched a flock of pigeons battling over something on a sidewalk and told myself there was no use getting upset. I just needed to sit back and see what happened.

By the time we got to New Haven, our first stop, we were already 20 minutes late. I was trying my best not to freak out. I called Al and gave him a head’s up—if I couldn’t make my connection, I needed him to drive over an hour to pick me up. Fortunately, he was his good-natured self about this delightful prospect, which at least eased the pressure.

For reasons unknown, on the way to our next stop, New Britain, we got off the highway and onto a series of side roads and byways lined with strip malls, then back on the highway. That put us behind by 25 minutes. I had no idea where we were, so I followed our route on my phone app, just to reassure myself we weren’t lost.

Finally, we pulled into Hartford, a full half-hour behind. I had traded seats with my seat-mate to be on the aisle and able to get off sooner. Caesar told us the gate number for our connection. By a miracle—or, rather, the inefficiency of bus travel—that bus was late, too, and had not yet arrived. So I grabbed my bag and ran to the ticket counter.

The ticket agent was, of course, helping someone else. And. Taking. A. Long. Time. I asked if I could just reprint my ticket, and she told me to wait my turn. Then she announced that her computer was not allowing her to print the other customer’s ticket. Meanwhile, the connecting bus had arrived.

I was at a loss for what to do. Fortunately, Caesar had come to the ticket counter. I’m not sure if he would have checked in anyway, or if he was following up on me. But given that we’d arrived late and he was due in Springfield, he could have just left. Instead, he walked with me back to our bus, pulled out his envelope of tickets, found mine, walked me back to the ticket counter and asked the agent to make me a copy. Of course, the copier was off and needed to charge. Did I mention this is not a 21st century operation? But within a couple more long minutes, it fired up and I had my copy. I thanked Caesar profusely and ran to the connecting gate.

I was the last person on the bus. We sat for another 10 minutes, for reasons unknown, and then departed. I called Al to let him know I’d made it.

“I guaranteed you would,” he said.

“How?”

“I just looked up the directions to Hartford.”

We laughed. Thank goodness. In the end, I made it to our own Union Station just 15 minutes later than I should have and was very glad, indeed, to see Al waiting for me with an open car door.

My knees were shot from the bus ride, with its cramped seating and worn out shock absorbers. And my nerves were a bit frayed. I was really tired. But if it weren’t for our driver, who took the extra few minutes to make sure I was able to make my connection—despite the fact that I was the only one on his bus who did not know the rules of the archaic ticketing system—it would have been a much longer ordeal. Maybe he took pity on me. Or maybe he thought it was ridiculous, too.

Hail, Caesar.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Photo Credit: Daniel Lobo