Playing it by Ear

It’s been an eventful week for Ethan and me, in ways both spectacular and frightening.  Like the swinging of a Viking boat ride at an amusement park, our emotions have faced gut-dropping oscillations from one direction and another.  I’ll start from the beginning.

Once long ago (last Friday night), we traveled to Leavenworth, Washington, to meet my aunts for a day of chatting, eating, and shopping.  I’d been hiking and camping for many straight days, so I was excited to take a break from the outdoors and get back to civilization.  Plus, I couldn’t wait to see this cute Bavarian-themed town that I’d heard so much about!

I woke up in a good mood, took a shower, and opened my toiletry kit… to find that my deodorant had melted in the hot car. My toothbrush, hair brush, etc. were all covered in a white gooey film. I sighed and began to clean it up.

A minor setback, but I made some tea and put on a podcast while doing my makeup. I had a ruffly floral dress picked out for the day.  I pulled it out of my suitcase, and SMASH.  A very special bottle of wine I’d been saving got caught on the dress and fell to the floor, shattering to a million pieces and spilling precious and pricy Gamay Noir all over our hotel room.  I’d splurged on a wine tasting back in Oregon, in celebration of my recent promotion, and purchased a bottle of my favorite varietal.  It was heart-wrenching that it went to waste.  So upsetting, in fact, that I cried off all my makeup and had to redo it while poor Ethan searched for a mop.

Then, while cleaning that up, a bird flew into our window. Horrified, Ethan rushed outside to check on it. It was dazed but soon fully awakened and began hopping around.

We were late to meet my aunts, but immediately upon seeing them I felt better.  They greeted me with huge smiles and hugs, and suddenly the wine and deodorant spills seemed like small and forgettable mishaps.  It felt amazing to be back in the company of family, and all of us had a lot to catch up on.  We savored scrumptious traditional German food, then set off for the shops.  First we visited a historic candy store where we sifted through hundreds of flavors of taffy, selecting the most delectable and dropping them into a paper bag for later.  My aunts led me to their favorite store which was dedicated to displaying ornate hand-painted Russian nesting dolls.  We sipped on locally-made sodas and munched on a fresh-baked pretzel served with fondue cheese.  I delighted in the architectural details of the town, despite the fact that it’s completely manufactured for tourism and not based on any actual German descendancy in the area.

The day passed quickly, as happy days do.  Soon it was late afternoon and my aunts and I parted ways.  The weather had reached 100 degrees and sun was beating down.  Ethan and I were going to head straight to our campsite, but something sparkly caught our eyes: the Wenatchee River.  The river runs through the center of town, along with a constant flow of tubers.  It was too late in the day to rent a tube, but we could still go for a swim.  

Tubers on the Wenatchee River

A bridge connects the town to an island in the river.  At the entrance to the bridge, a sign is posted which very clearly states, “No jumping off bridge.”  Some teenage boys had apparently taken this as a challenge and were carelessly jumping into the water in between tubers.  It immediately struck me as dangerous, since the river was quite crowded and a mishap could easily occur.  However, Ethan had other ideas and joined the boys. Needless to say, if all his friends were jumping off a bridge, then yes – he would do it too.

His first jump was fun.  He wanted to do it again so I could get it on video … and that turned out to be a mistake.  After his second jump, Ethan emerged from the water looking dazed.  He couldn’t hear anything out of his left ear.  

Ethan’s second jump from the bridge

He self-diagnosed that he’d probably burst an eardrum.  According to the internet, he’d be deaf for a while and then his ear would heal itself.  Unfortunate, but it could be worse.  We got in the car and began the drive to our campsite.

An hour later, Ethan said his ear was kind of hurting.  Over the course of the next 20 minutes, the pain increased, as well as a feeling of pressure inside the ear.  He pulled over at a rest stop, rolled out of the car, and lied down in the parking lot.  He moaned and refused to get up.  A very kind lady and her daughter walked up to see if we were okay and I explained the situation.  I looked for nearby Urgent Care centers, but at this point we were pretty far from civilization.

It began to get dark and Ethan finally sat up.  He stuck a handkerchief into his ear and pulled out a huge glob of bloody wax.  “Ah, that feels better,” he said.  “Now we can go.”

The next day, he reported that his ear felt fine.  We drove to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, location of America’s most attractive teenagers and their wealthy parents.  Lake Coeur d’Alene is a big wet playground, with speedboats and private water planes zipping every which way.  Along the shore, groups of boys jumped off cliffs while gaggles of girls giggled and pointed. I knew Ethan was facing temptation and feeling left out.

Then he exclaimed, “Let’s rent a jet ski!”

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea for your ear,” I replied.  I had to set my foot down here, because I really didn’t want a medical situation on my hands.  We compromised and rented stand-up paddleboards instead.

Paddleboarding on Lake Coeur d’Alene

Thank goodness, because the next morning Ethan’s ear was once again in intense pain.  We were supposed to be heading to Glacier National Park, but instead took a side trip to the Kalispell Community Health Clinic.  This place was an absolute miracle; not only did they accept walk-in patients with a very short wait time, they also didn’t require insurance.  Ethan was in and out in the time it took me to grab a cold brew and call my dad.  I was surprised and ultra thankful for this clinic!  

We learned that it was indeed a ruptured eardrum.  It was bound to be painful but there wasn’t anything the doctors could do to help, other than offer pain meds.  They cautioned against high elevations… which Ethan did not disclose to me until we were already on a mountain top in Glacier National Park.

There’s more to the story, but you’ll have to wait for the next post.  Cheerio!

2 thoughts on “Playing it by Ear

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