Day three of my vacation dawned bright and clear, destined to be gorgeous but very hot. The entire bridal party (there were seven couples plus ushers) plus various significant others had been out the night before, for the bachelor/bachelorette party. Really, it was more of a week-long get-together, since most of them had arrived midweek in order to go to Disneyland and so forth, and then to do various other things as a group along the way. As I understand it, that Saturday night was fairly low-key, but there was a lot of drinking, as it took place at the local casino.
Villa de Amore, was a bit harder for some to make than for others. Located as it is on the top of a hill outside of town, it's not exactly simple to locate or to drive to, but once you're there the location and view can't be beat.
Once there, we tried to scope out a patch of shade (it was already in the low 90s by noon) and wait for things to begin. There were a few people standing around, some rather frantically running to and fro, and a couple of others looking utterly frazzled already. I knew only a handful, as I am only tangentially attached to the event. I was open to meeting people, as much as I can ever be, but wasn't putting myself out to any great extent. It wasn't my place to draw attention.
At some point, the person in charge from the venue (Maureen? Marcia? M...something?) managed to corral everyone toward where they needed to be in order to run the actual rehearsal. Since I was not involved, I hied myself off to take some photos, which are (as has been the case in this series) interspersed here. I didn't get very far before I heard something that made me turn toward the ballroom area. I saw the bride in tears, her 'bridesman' (there was an equivalent 'groomswoman' in the party as well) at her side. Glancing around, I saw others standing around, looking in toward the bar area, mouths literally hanging open. I walked across the grass--having already gotten the idea that this was verboten but not caring at all about anything except getting inside--and asked my friend in the bridal party, a man named Jon, what had happened. He looked at me like he didn't recognize me. I grabbed his arm with one hand, squeezed it hard, and shook it. "Jon! What? Happened?"
That snapped him out of it, a little bit. Enough to blurt out that the groom had fallen, was on the floor in the bar area. Had hit his head. "It looked like he had a seizure. ... Why would he have a seizure?"
My hand was still on his arm. I squeezed it again, though more gently. "I don't know. I'll find out."
I went inside, though I could barely see because it seemed so dark by comparison after having been in the sun. All around me, people were standing frozen in shock. I located my friend, the groom's mom. She was near him, watching without watching. Five of his friends surrounded him on the floor, which was already strewn with bar towels. Some were soaked with blood. Each was working steadily, helping him. One held his head steady. Two were at his back, holding his arms and legs so that he wouldn't turn over or hurt himself. Another pressed a towel at the site of the wound on his head, talking very gently to him, reminding him to stay awake and to be calm. The other was replacing the towels, providing backup, keeping him still as he continually tried to flip over onto his back (which would have been the worst thing for his head wound, and which, not knowing if his neck had been injured, was the last thing anyone wanted him to do).
I was extraordinarily impressed and grateful for the response of those five people, as well as that of the staff at the Villa and of countless other people who sprang into action without even thinking except that someone needed them. Someone called 9-1-1 and stayed on the phone until EMTs arrived. Someone stayed with the bride, her parents, and the groom's parents throughout. The bride's sister, in particular, was enormously helpful, calm, and self-effacing. I cannot imagine what that experience would have been like if she had not been there; she saved the day.
Even after the EMTs had left to take him to the hospital, there was a group effort to get things done. Of course, the rehearsal would not continue. The rehearsal dinner, planned for immediately afterward at South Coast Winery, wasn't going to happen. The bridal party took it upon themselves to contact the winery to get the food packaged up and delivered to the bride's parents' house in Murrieta. Many people got their phone numbers to me so that I could keep them informed from the hospital, rather than coming along. The "chief" EMT was very helpful in letting us know where to go, when to be there (it would take a while before they would have any useful information anyway, so rushing was not necessary and is, of course, dangerous), and how to get there.
He was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center, which is not all that far away from Temecula (18 miles) but it's up the I-15, which is not a fun stretch of road to drive, particularly if one is unfamiliar with the territory. On the way out there, it was a breeze thanks to the adrenalin. We probably made it in 15 minutes.
And then we trekked alllllll the way through the hospital, having taken a wrong turn into the back parking lot. It worked, right? We got to the ER waiting room in time to hear that the groom was sending text messages to his bride-to-be, from the ER. Only, he didn't realize that he was sending them to his entire bridal party, having replied to a mass text rather than just to her. His first message said something like, "I fell and hit my head, [nickname]."
When we saw that, we were pretty scared. How out of it was he? Was he still at the hospital, even? A helicopter had taken off as we were driving into the parking lot. Was he in the helicopter? What was going on?!
Rather than play this out in real time, I'll cut to the chase. The seven of us (groom's parents, bride, bride's sister and brother-in-law, bride's father, and I) waited in the ER waiting room for several hours. Two were allowed to visit him at any one time; a varying combination of his parents and his bride-to-be rotated through. He had a CAT scan. His bride and apparently the hospital were in contact with his neurosurgeon in his hometown. (He had brain surgery a year ago, which is another story all together but which bears upon this one.) I sent and received probably three dozen text messages from the bridal party and the groom's uncle, who was back at the rental house with his daughter, who was working on the wedding cakes. (I had called the uncle before we left the Villa.) Eventually, one of the bridal party couples brought over some of the rehearsal dinner food so that we could eat. I made the others go out to try to eat if they could--as far as I knew, none of them had eaten anything in hours, or perhaps all day. I planned to have something when they'd returned.
It was me, then, and the bride's sister who were in the waiting room when the doors opened and our poor disheveled groom walked out, barefoot, a large Band-Aid on the crown of his head, looking a little bewildered but basically normal for him. A nurse was at his side. "I want to turn you over to your people. Are these...your...people?" She was clearly perplexed, having seen his parents and his bride-to-be all day, but not seeing them now. Instead, she had the bride's sister (in a dress) and me (in clean-ish dressy-ish clothes), both standing and probably looking both scared as Hell but deliriously happy, too.
He walked right over and put his arms around my neck. "Yes, these are my people." He hugged me long and hard, and then turned and hugged his sister-to-be.
We got his shoes (which he'd kicked off mid-seizure), retrieved his paperwork and the CD with his CAT scan on it, found him a bottle of water, and settled outside. He worked his way through a vegetarian meal in the food box while we sorted out transportation for him, the stuff from the rehearsal, and the dinner. I think that at that point, most of us really wanted to know, "Are you sure you want to have a wedding tomorrow?" But no one wanted to be the one to say it. So no one did.
Driving south on the I-15 between Wildomar and Temecula on a Sunday night (on a holiday weekend) at dinner time is a bitch. No matter what lane you're in, it's the wrong one for where you want to be, and at least 50 people want to be just where you are doing something other than what you want them to do. That was a seriously irritating introduction to southern California traffic. And, since the adrenalin had pretty much worn off, we were all feeling rather battered and beaten, so it was a wretched trip. We were glad to get home. I have no idea what (or even whether) we ate, or what we did, or when we slept. I just know it was a relief to get out of that car...until we started thinking about what the next day--the wedding day--might bring.
And to think, it all had started so beautifully.
[the title quotation is by Ovid]