Columnist Cameryn Schafer and her partner Cole take their mothers on vacation. Not everything goes as expected, but laughter eases the seriousness of her circumstances. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series called “I’m Focusing on …”.
Cole and I are taking our mothers on a road trip to Florida this week. I cannot claim any credit for this; it was all Cole’s idea. He did everything to get the motorhome ready to drive, planned our stops and kept everyone informed of the upcoming departure. We left a few days ago and will be in Atlanta by the time of release.
We reached St. Louis just before sunrise on Friday morning and spent a couple of days seeing all of the sights we were hoping for and a few extra ones too!
On Saturday we made it to the St. Louis Zoo after a rainy morning. When we got to the parking lot the sky cleared up so we decided to leave our ponchos in the van. We were looking forward to a day full of adventure and animals. We started with the herpetarium, teaching our mothers about each one, and taking notes on our own. Our mothers laughed at every little gasp when Cole or I saw an animal we were prejudiced for. We went on and learned every step of the way.
We made our way to the okapis, who are Cole’s favorite and who were also hiding inside at the time. Then we got some lunch and enjoyed a moment on the air conditioning. When we finished our meal we planned the rest of our trip around the zoo to make sure we see everything we wanted. We made our way to the stingray bay to feed the rays. It was a step outside of Lisa’s comfort zone, but when she felt the first stingray and uttered a little “Oooooh”, we all had to giggle.
The zoo is full of a wide variety of animals and often many surprises. When Schäfer visited the St. Louis Zoo, he first witnessed a hippopotamus fight. This was just one of several premieres that Schafer experienced on the road trip.
We finished feeding the stingrays just in time to see the sea lion show where we learned how the animals are trained for their own medical care. Mandy the sea lion showed us her tricks and imitated other animals while we all applauded (on her instruction).
We continued to the Dinoroarus exhibit, which is made up of animatronic dinosaurs to recreate prehistoric environments. Our certified dinosaur expert Cole was delighted with the accuracy of the dinosaurs and all of the facts they provided. From Dilophosaurus to Coelophyse to T. rex everything was very precise. The exception was the “Move a Dino!” Shield referring to a dimetrodon that was not a real dinosaur.
When we went over to the last exhibition, the rain came back. Coincidentally, the exhibition we entered was River’s Edge. We jokingly announced that we were experiencing authenticity and marched through. We got through about two thirds of the exhibition before the rain set in. We joyfully shouted another “authenticity!” as we crouched from tree to tree and stopped briefly to see each animal. We saw an elephant eating leaves, a pair of hippos fighting, and even a cheetah running through the rain. When we got to the end of the exhibit, we went back to the van asap.
My first step into the parking lot was into a puddle almost to my knee. We kept running, and when I got the van in sight, I heard a crash. I turned around, unable to see through the rain at the time, and wondered what had happened.
Sometimes life has bumps in the road. On this special day, Schäfer’s partner Cole split his head at this bump in the parking lot. Luckily the emergency room staff were very helpful and Cole is much better.
I ran back through the water curtains and saw Cole lying on the floor holding his head. I moved his hand and found the dreaded purple liquid in his hair.
We got him off the floor and hurried back to the van. When Lisa examined the wound where Cole had split his head, my mother got a towel and an ice pack and I connected the nearest emergency room to the GPS app. Cole made jokes on the drive to the emergency room. I don’t remember what they were, but I remember it was funny. In all honesty, his jokes made it hard to focus on the fear of what was happening.
When we got to the emergency room, I went in with Cole. Due to the COVID restrictions, our mothers had to wait in the parking lot. He was checked in and we were laughing the whole time in the waiting room. I questioned him about dinosaurs until the doctor came in, and we kept joking until a little over three hours later we were discharged with five new clamps holding his scalp closed.
We laughed at every step of the journey. It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and after the events of the first state we all agree. Sometimes the best way to get through something difficult is to find a source of laughter.
Cameryn Schafer is a senior major in dEtetics and Animal Ecology Senior Vet with a minor in Classical Studies.
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