Burned Over District
Somewhere in Ohio today, traveling for work, I stopped for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel. I had stopped not only because I was hungry—no dinner last night because I was over thirty hours without more than two hours sleep—but because Carol King’s “You’re So Far Away” had come on the radio and caught me unaware and tearing up. I will blame low blood sugar but the truth is the last five weeks have been a roller coaster of emotional blows and intense intellectual engagement in work and I suspect I’m just vulnerable.
I ordered unsweetened ice tea from a skinny white girl with a hoarse voice who treated me with brusque good will."You ready to order, sister?” she asked. As I was leaving she asked me if I wanted ice tea to go. “You take care, sister,” she said, as if I had stumbled out of the freeways of central Ohio into a land of old time Methodists. A place where religion ran just under the surface, like the Burned Over District of the 1800's. I am not a religious person, but I was obscurely comforted by that sister.
I am on the road again. But I took this assignment because it would allow me to check on my mother and I managed to stop long enough in Cleveland to see her. She was vastly changed from only a week before. The nursing home was already checking on it and they got back the lab results that said she has a UTI, a urinary tract infection. The nurse thinks that explains her increased confusion and over-all change. I hope so. I can't be here long enough to find out but other family members are coming to check on her. On the road.
I know the road is a place that calls a lot of people. I am afraid it has few calls for me. I am missing home. I'll be there Sunday night.
You take care, sister. Or brother.