The Kindness of Strangers (or That One Time I Accidentally Poisoned My Husband)

Apparently hiking the perimeter of Geneva Lake has become an annual event for my husband, so it’s an event for me as well. It’s not a mountain climb in terms of vertical feet; in fact, it’s a fairly flat, even path. It’s just that it’s so long, between 22-23 miles depending on your source, and you don’t exactly plan for anaphylaxis, you know?

We began and ended at the pin in the lower left corner of this picture. I’m exhausted even looking at this!

The Lady In The White Mansion

Six of us began our lap at 8:00 AM. The day could not have been more pristine, more perfect. The sun shone in a cloudless sky, a light breeze kicked off the lake, and we came prepared this year. I’d packed band-aids and ointments, hydrocortisone and capsaicin creams, ibuprofen, Tylenol, AND migraine meds, along with first aid tape and scissors. We brought a stash of water, energy bars, granola bars sufficient to fortify the six of us through lunch. We were GOOD.

But then we weren’t. We were not good at all. About six or so miles in, my husband ate a blueberry Larabar. I’d read the ingredients list for the lemon Larabars, so warned him off the bars in the yellow package. He has a nut allergy, and energy bars aren’t usually on our grocery list, but I selected bars that didn’t have nuts in their names. Don’t ask me why I noticed the nuts in one and not the other, but there it is. He neglected to read the ingredients himself, and soon after eating the snack in the blue wrapper, went into anaphylaxis.

As we continued, I asked how he was doing, like as Joey from the show Friends would ask, “How YOU doin’?” My husband quietly replied that he’d tell me later. I cracked back, “But what if I want to know now?” thinking I was being cute, and he then admitted that he was having a bad allergic reaction, and didn’t quite know how he was, in fact.

Naturally I felt 100% at fault. I tried to assess the situation logically, and develop a plan, if that’s even a possible thing at this point, a “plan”. . . Other family members had coordinated meeting up with us walkers for lunch at the halfway point, so I dialed up one bro- and sis-in-law, pleading with them to purchase some Benadryl as quickly as they could, and drive in our general direction. And they did. Minutes later, we encountered a lake resident, a woman overseeing installation of her pier, and I interrupted her awkwardly and desperately, inquiring if she had Benadryl he could have.

She did, and invited me to her home (about 200 yards up the hill) to get the medicine. I am sure I began to act frantically now that I knew we were close to at least some immediate relief for him, and as we walked up to her home, my brother-in-law called to say they were on their way. I explained to him that this incredibly kind lady had agreed to give us a few Benadryl pills, and for the moment we were likely going to be OK. She overheard me say that my husband had unknowingly ingested nuts, and she put the pedal to the metal. Maybe in response to my (I’m sure obvious desperation trying not to freak out) comments to my brother-in-law, she and I raced up to her home, two doggies at her heels, to get those pills.

I hesitated to enter her home, feeling like a terrible intruder, sweated up and grubby to boot, but she warmly invited me in while my tears began to fall. How could I let this happen? How could I not have noticed? She dashed to her medicine cabinet and returned with the goods, then volunteered both bottled water and a ride back to the shore via her golf cart (yep, that’s how far up her home was from the shore, and how willing she was to help). I declined both, now clearly desperate to get that medicine in my husband’s bloodstream, and ran back down the hill. Before I left her, I thanked her profusely and sincerely (at least I hope that was the message she received). I mumbled something about if not for stupid COVID, I’d have hugged her and how much I appreciated her doing what she did, opening up her home to some random woman passing by during a pandemic.

I wondered what she thought of our brief time together after the fact. I wish I knew her address because I owe her a thank you letter. I hope that if when we hike the perimeter again next year, I recognize her house and have the chance to thank her personally. I thought she probably has some story to tell her friends and family given my dramatic performance, and I hope she knows she did something truly good that Monday.

May I Use Your Bathroom Please?

An effect of anaphylaxis is internal distress, and by distress I refer to nausea and intestinal, ummm, uncertainty. You probably think that the severity of my husband’s allergic reaction meant an end to our trek around the lake. OH NOOOOO, not my husband–if a little thing like massive trauma and nearly dying after being run over by a truck didn’t stop him, you can bet that something so inconsequential as this silly little allergic reaction wasn’t going to stop him either.

We did lose track of him for awhile, which you may think is impossible and perhaps even irresponsible. Like, Wendy, you nearly murdered him with cashews and you can’t even keep eyes on him? Yep. In his quest to reach the restaurant we were to meet the rest of the family and avail himself to their facilities, he walked so far ahead of us, we lost sight of him in the crowd. My brother-in-law says I worry too much, but when you literally lose an adult, you wonder about your ability to take care of your shit. My relief at being reunified with him was a living, breathing creature, I swear.

A visit to the restaurant restroom, a tiny little lunch, and two more Benadryl down the hatch, and we were off for the second half. He could breathe, though was swollen, itchy, red and rashy, but I knew like I knew my name he was not going to end his quest. One of our six had called it a day at the halfway mark (still an incredible feat, mind you!), so the remaining five of us sallied forth.

There are few restaurants or public parks along the shore path, so in terms of food, drink, and potty stops, you’re limited. During the week, many homes are vacant, so you actually see very few people around the lake. Should nature call, the guys could find woods or sneak behind a tree for the most part, but for us girls and those of us whose bodies are trying to rid themselves of toxins, public facilities are scarce. I could detail how uncomfortable he was, but that’s my hubby’s story to tell, not mine. Suffice to say that it takes real nerve to approach a random stranger tending to the gardens outside her home, and ask to use her bathroom. He did. She said yes. Hero #2 of the day, that one.

Need a Ride?

Shortly after the bathroom incident, another of the group decided he’d had enough. To be more accurate, I guess it’s fair to say his back decided he had had enough. As we had processed out of Lake Geneva proper earlier, I said to him that we were kind of at a point of no return, meaning he was committed til just shortly before the bitter end (another ten miles or so), so he better be committed. . . Well, I was right and I was wrong. It wasn’t easy, but he continued for some time until he happened upon Good Samaritan #3 du jour. A motorist offered my bro-in-law a ride back up to the main highway from the shore–turned out to be an almost three mile drive! He was delivered to a local pub where he waited for his personal Uber driver, his sister. It didn’t seem like hitchhiking, but I guess that is exactly what he did. Not a scary, crazed potential axe murderer to be found, just another kind soul, understanding of the toll that shore path can exact.

Monday was a good day for humanity.

The Finish Line

Ten hours after beginning, sidetracked by lunch, allergy, and injury, four of us crossed our imaginary finish line. I felt so accomplished! My husband told me I looked strong, and I felt it. “Nearly murdering you,” I said, “was motivation enough to get to the checkered flag with you. There’s a responsibility there, you know?” Though my hips, ankles, knees, and brain were numb, it was a good-numb. Something like that anyway.

We did it!

The moral of the story is to read carefully. Or maybe the moral of the story is to be kind. You pick. Monday provided several examples of people doing the right thing because, for no other reason, it was the right thing to do. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, there’s no other way to say that. I thank you all, strangers and family, for your role in getting us there, to the start/finish. Overlooking the lake from any vantage point, you can’t help but marvel at its size. It’s. So. Dang. Big. I must be nuts to have done this. Again.

8 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers (or That One Time I Accidentally Poisoned My Husband)

    • He was completely clear by the next evening, but it felt like an eternity between when he admitted he was reacting badly and getting the Benadryl in him! The hike was/is ridiculous! No other way to say it—it’s that “I hate doing it, but love having done it” that keeps you moving.

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    • I got tears in my eyes every time I thought about it. The first lady especially, because it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, though we weren’t. It’s an odd isolation you feel making that hike. So few homes are actually used during the week (we are talking serious affluence here), and to find anyone was surprise enough. To find someone so generous and understanding was overwhelming. I feel so grateful still, a week out.

      Liked by 1 person

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