Caregiver’s Nightmare

or Why My Sister Got No Yarn


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The traffic was backed up on the west side of the Hudson River, a mile or more before the entrance to the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge. 

“If these cars are all heading to the Sheep and Wool Festival at the fairgrounds, this does not bode well,” I said to my husband, Pat.  He didn’t seem bothered.  Pat has dementia and enjoys car rides even though he rarely remembers where we are going.

The car jam broke up a bit on the other side of the river but slowed to a crawl waiting to turn into the fairground parking. 

Pat was astounded at the number of cars.  It was only about 11:00 a.m. and the rows and rows of vehicles glinted in the autumn sunshine.  I reeled off the states on license plates: Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey. 

Fortunately, we had our tickets, so we skipped the buyers’ lines and followed the crowd.  For crowded it was.  Our first stop was the llamas and alpacas (and I still don’t know the difference).  We bumped and jostled our way through the goat and sheep barns. 

The one thing I was determined to see was the demonstration of Frisbee-playing dogs.  It wasn’t the sheepherding dog demo that I really wanted to watch, but we made our way slowly to the grassy area marked off by flagged poles where an audience three deep was already gathered. 

The dogs were amazing.  They obviously loved the game, and the trainers/owners loved the dogs. 

By this time, Pat and I were both hungry.  I consulted the map and pointed the way to the food trucks.  It turned out that everyone else at the festival was also hungry.  Each vendor had lines of fifty or more people waiting to order food.  Even the fried pickles truck had a line of obviously desperate people. 

The hordes in the food plaza were worse than Oxford Street in London at Christmas time. 

“I don’t want to wait in these long lines,” I said to Pat.  Ever since Covid, I get anxious in large groups of people. 

And it wasn’t just masses of people waiting to eat.  Every barn and booth was packed.  

The only thing I wanted to do now, having seen the dogs and given up on eating, was to choose some colorful handspun yarn to send to my sister in California.

“Let me get some yarn and then let’s go,” I said.  “We’ll eat somewhere else.”

Pat, agreeable as always, held onto me as I dragged him through the crush.

After consulting the map multiple times, I figured out the way back to Gate 4 and our parking area.  The barns of yarn and wool vendors were still crammed with people, but I pulled Pat into the one near our exit.

Halfway down the swarming aisle, I yanked Pat into a booth.  I began to examine the yarns and the prices.  Sixty dollars for one skein— uh, no.  I turned around and—he was gone.  No Pat.

Pushing my way back into the aisle, I looked around for an Irish cap and gray beard.  There was a cap, but the wrong color and the man was too tall. 

“Oh, no, oh no,” I moaned, elbowing my way to the entrance.  No Pat.  I turned and shoved back the other way.

Already I was imagining finding the festival police, if there was such an entity, and having someone call for Patrick Dillon on the PA system—if they had one.  How in the world would I find him in these mobs of people?  I got out my phone and called his mobile.  It rang and said he was not available.  Did he even hear it? 

My mind played out more scenarios, such as me searching until closing time, when at last people would have gone and he might be easier to spot. 

What would Pat do if he were trying to find me?  Would he use his phone?  Press his emergency medical button?  Ask for help?

Eventually, I suppose, I would have remembered the app that locates him and his phone.  Later,  though, I discovered that he’d unknowingly turned it off in September. 

But then—hallelujah–I spotted him, standing bewildered in front of the next barn over.  What an incredible relief!

“Let’s get out of here!”  I said, grabbing his hand. 

Back in the car, I went over the protocol of what to do if we get separated. 
“Stay in one place,” I directed. But would he remember?

Should I tie us together the next time we’re out in a crowd?—if I ever attempt that again.

One thought on “Caregiver’s Nightmare

  1. Oh, Kim. How did I miss this and how very frightening for you. Many years ago I remember losing my baby son on a crowded beach. Parents and grandparents each thought he was with the others. I was very relieved to find him.


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