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A Most Memorable Move

Story ID:8602
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Person:Our family
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A Most Memorable Move

Christmas of 1974 found us making a life-changing decision. We were going to leave our home state of Illinois and move hundreds of miles to Kansas. It would be a huge change for our family. Once Ken accepted the new job,
things moved rapidly.

By the first week in February, the movers were at our house packing, while I sat at our three-year-old’s bedside in a hospital. She’d become dehydrated during a bout with the flu. We had two days after Karen’s dismissal before we headed for Kansas. The farewell parties were over, the house was empty, and it was time to go.
From the moment we'd made the decision to move to Manhattan, Kansas two, maybe three, butterflies took residence in my stomach. It was February, and I didn't like the idea of our making the 8 hour trip driving two cars. I had no problem driving in bad weather around town, but on the highway was a different story. "What if we run into snow?" I'd asked Ken a dozen times, and he patiently told me over and over that if that happened, we'd stop and go on the next day. The three butterflies in my tummy didn't seem to hear him, however, and they kept up a constant flutter.
We split kids and dog into our two cars, and I followed the husband I trusted more than anyone in the world. That Saturday morning was cold but clear, and Karen seemed to be feeling better.
Seven-year-old Kirk moaned and groaned as I drove trying to keep Ken's car in sight, making sure I knew that he didn’t want to leave his friends. I finally tuned him out and followed Ken into a large roadside service area. We met inside for a hot drink and a snack. As I walked in, a weakness flooded over me, my legs felt like rubber, and I had a headache. Stress, I told myself.
Back on the road, the snow started-- light at first, then harder. I had to work at finding Ken's tail lights and my butterflies each gave birth to babies. I thought about pulling off to the side of the road, but I couldn't see it in the thick, swirling snow. Near tears and silently cussing my husband, who had promised we'd stop if we ran into bad weather, I drove slowly on until I heard a small voice from the back seat.

"Mama, I'm going to throw up!"

I gripped the wheel so hard my knuckles matched the blizzard outside. "Empty the toy bag," I shouted at him. "Throw up in there."

So, being the obedient child I'd raised, he did exactly that, fell back on the seat and was soon sound asleep. Meanwhile, I was still trying to see where the heck Ken's car had gone, was praying one of those big semis was not coming up behind me, and gagging from the stench invading the entire car.

An hour later, the snow came to a blissful and beautiful end. I'd finally controlled my gagging, or maybe had gotten use to the overpowering smell of vomit. Seeing Ken’s car ahead filled me with relief. He signaled and pulled into a roadside picnic area. A picnic area with snow piled up high!

I parked next to him and flew out of the car. "You told me we'd stop!" I hollered as he was getting Karen and Rusty, our Golden Retriever, out of the car.

"Sorry, but there was nowhere to stop," he said, not looking one bit apologetic. "Besides--you did fine."

I was busy removing the toy bag Kirk had used when he got sick, so I didn't answer. I marched by him and tossed it into a trash receptacle with a mighty heave-ho, wishing all the time that my husband was in the bag!

Karen and Rusty ran around in the snow, having a wonderful time. We decided on a stopping place near Kansas City where we’d spend the night, and after I'd checked on Kirk, who slept on, we got back on the highway and had a non-eventful journey to Liberty, Missouri, just north of Kansas City. The motel agreed to take the dog as long as he was never left alone in the room, so we went to dinner separately, which was just as well since I was still not very happy with my husband.

By the time we had eaten, Karen looked green around the gills and felt warm. Kirk had reverted to his usual peppy self, his snowstorm illness seemingly gone. I slept with Karen who seemed to be running a low fever and all through the night she grew hotter. I lay awake most of the night worrying about her.

In the morning, I told Ken we needed to get Karen to an Emergency Room. It was a Sunday, and it was the only thing I could think to do.

He said, "It's only another two hours to Manhattan, and I'd rather see a doctor there."

He gave me that stubborn German look, and I agreed that two more hours wouldn't hurt. This time, I took Karen, and he had Kirk and the dog. She slept the two hour drive through the Flint Hills. We checked into a motel, and set out to find a hospital. The first one we located was a Catholic hospital, and my staunch Lutheran husband suggested we look for the public hospital instead. "No way," I told him, "we're going to this one. Now!"

The pediatrician on call told us Karen had a secondary infection brought on by her earlier flu. He called a pharmacist who left his Sunday afternoon leisure time to open his store to fill a prescription for us. No seven day pharmacies in small towns at that time. I mistakenly thought that the misery of our move was over.

By evening, I could barely see straight from a severe headache, couldn't eat, was burning with fever. Yes, Mama had gotten Karen's flu. It started the morning we left Illinois, but I managed to hold off the worst of it until we reached our destination. And once in Manhattan, the butterflies flew away, too. I never did cry on that trip, but, oh, how I wanted to.

Karen and I were sick for the first full week. The movers arrived on Monday to deliver part of our things to the small duplex we'd rented while the house was under construction. They offered to unpack, but I was too sick so told them to leave the boxes and go.

I fell onto a mattress wondering which box held the sheets but really didn't care. When Kirk got home from his first day in a new school, he unpacked boxes while I supervised from the mattress and Ken finished when he arrived home after his first day on the new job.

It was a never-to-be-forgotten move, but it’s also a treasured memory of the earlier years of our marriage. We were able to move hundreds of miles from everything and everyone we knew because we had one another and a strong marriage, even though I had some doubts about that during the miserable trip. It turned out to be only one of the strong links in the chain of love that has surrounded us for over forty-eight-plus years of marriage.

Photo 1 Our family 9 years after we moved to Kansas