When I was much younger and anyone mentioned Madison, Wisconsin, my state’s capital, two things would come to my mind. Actually, after all these years, I still think of two things. Dunkin’ Donuts and torrential rain.
In 1970, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in one of his kidneys. At that time, even though the general practitioners in our small town were delivering babies and performing appendectomies in our small hospital, any surgery that involved the “C” word was performed at a big hospital in a big town. Which, for us, usually meant Madison, nearly 200 miles away.
His surgery went well and he was soon home. Unfortunately, a few days later, he woke up in the night with chest pain and difficulty breathing. Mom rushed him to our hospital where he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung. They loaded him into an ambulance and took off for Madison.
Now, I work in the medical field and a blood clot in the lung is truly serious, but the doctors I work for don’t usually rush these people off to a university medical center. They may no longer perform much in the way of surgeries, but they do treat some serious stuff. I know that advances in medicine and medication have changed how they do a lot of things. Another great advancement we have is that we can get people in a helicopter and fly them somewhere if they are that critical.
In 1970, no such luck. They went by ambulance, and the road to Madison was still mostly two lanes. No freeway.
The EMTs let Mom ride in the front seat of the ambulance and to this day she will tell you what a harrowing experience that was. The driver went down the middle of the road, lights flashing, sirens blaring. At one point they got behind a camper with a kid watching out the back window. The kid just sat there watching the ambulance and his parents just kept driving the speed limit in their lane, while traffic just kept coming in the other lane. The ambulance driver, I guess, was absolutely wild. (This would be one of my pet peeves – people who don’t pull over for emergency vehicles. I’m thinking I will some day write a blog all about my pet peeves.)
My goodness, once again I am way off track. Back to Madison.
Between Dad’s kidney surgery and the blood clot, my sister Pat and I got to make a few trips down to St. Mary’s Hospital to see him. (Other than that I don’t think I was in Madison until I was in college.) Whenever we went to Madison, whichever adult relative we were with would stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts for donuts for the trip home.
On one such trip home, it started raining. I have never before or ever since been in such heavy rain. It was as if one monstrous bucket of water was being dropped from the sky. All the other cars pulled over to the side of the road, but Mom kept crawling along.
In the fall of 1983, on my way to Madison to start my fourth year in college, I ran into a downpour almost as impressive. The worst part about that was that my 1974 Chevrolet Caprice had a leak in the trunk and by the time I got to the house where I would be living that semester, half of all of my possessions were soaked.