Filling ‘Bucket List’ ends with trip to hospital


This month, I reached my “personal best” regarding transportation. I experienced my fifth ambulance ride in a year. It’s not that I had a goal in mind. It’s that for 69 years, I only had one ride in an ambulance, but now in my 70th year, I have had five!

Not only five, but the first four were in Europe. What better way to make a European trip memorial than traveling by plane, bus, automobile, taxi and ambulance! By far, the ambulance was the most interesting.

The European ambulance ride was amusing. They spoke mainly English, but every so often, they would switch to totally Dutch. For all I knew, they were talking about me. They could be saying things such as “This old woman thinks that she’s a 20-year-old in the way she is trying to see everything in just a few days. Doesn’t she know that she’s old?”

This month, as I was transported from Huntington Library to Huntington Memorial Hospital, the ambulance ride was more understandable. I knew everything that was being said from “At your age, you really should be more careful” to “Isn’t that your husband driving the car behind us?”

Not only was the ambulance more “user-friendly,” the expression on Pastor Pete’s face while following my “white carriage” was much calmer than my other four emergency transfers. Driving in the Netherlands was an exercise in terror for him. The streets were confusing, the bicycles annoying, and the GPS was speaking to him in Dutch.

One day in the Netherlands, Pastor Pete felt very comfortable when he found himself on a cobblestone street on which the traffic had totally disappeared; however, he knew he might be in trouble when the little man in the GPS kept shouting to him in Dutch “Turn Around!” The calm ride suddenly changed when he looked ahead and saw a train headed toward him. The “little GPS man” knew exactly what he was talking about! Suddenly, Pastor Pete had a flashback to “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

My latest ambulance adventure began at Huntington Library. When I was nine, my mother purchased copies of “Blue Boy” and “Pinky.” One day, as we drove past Huntington Library in Monrovia, she proudly told me that the original paintings were in the gallery and that I could see them when my husband took me there. She also convinced me that I should wait for my husband to take me to Catalina Island, Hollywood and the La Brea Tar Pits.

At the tender age of nine, I began my bucket list and was always looking for my Prince Charming who would come riding up on his tar covered horse, pulling a Catalina Express ferry and with theatre tickets in his hand. I knew it had to be a prince because who else could afford to take me to such magical places.

At 70, I have “done Hollywood, Catalina Island and the La Brea Tar Pits,” but the Huntington Library was still on my bucket list. The day arrived that it was to be removed.

We arrived at the library and there was a sign that “Blue Boy” was out for restoration. I was a little disappointed, but there were still hundreds of photo opportunities. We had toured for about an hour and were on our way to see “Pinky” when I stumbled and found myself falling to the ground.

“Falling” is something I have done my entire life. My mother told me that when I stood for the first time, I tipped over and fell on my face, and I’ve been doing it ever since. While we lived in the Midwest, I added “slipping on ice” to my resume. If falling, tripping, stumbling and slipping were designated as Olympic sports, I would have more gold medals than Michael Phelps.

I do fall and roll as gracefully as possible but it always draws a crowd. The day at Huntington Library, I was surrounded by gardeners, paramedics and Pastor Pete, who was holding a Japanese umbrella which he had been given to keep me in the shade. I thought he looked rather cute holding that little paper umbrella. He didn’t!

I left ER with four stitches in my chin, a jaw “out of alinement,” a broken wrist, a plastic umbrella bag and a rubber band. Being a thrifty person, I opted for the free plastic bag and rubber band rather than spend $14.99 for the “arm cast protector cover shower swim hand wrist bandage” that was listed on ebay.

However, I did discover a way to make a few extra dollars. I searched “broken arm cast covers” on ebay and up came 19 vintage photos of people with broken arms that you could purchase for $5 to $8. I chuckled at “elderly woman with cane man arm in sling” and questioned “girl smiling holding knife 1956” but my favorite was “man biting woman’s face broken arm in sling.”

I wonder how many copies of “elderly woman with broken wrist and bleeding chin husband holding Japanese umbrella” I should make. At $8 a copy, I may have found a goldmine!


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Pat Van Dyke