Olivia and I spent some time this week talking about one moment from our past together we would like to relive. She didn’t hesitate about the time when I bought tickets for a cruise on the Rhine River. We were both in the Army at the time, and stationed in Germany. The trip was scheduled to leave around 11 in the morning. So, when my buddies Lieutenant Pitus and Specialist Ritter invited me to go with them on a 12-mile run at 7am that same day, I saw no problem in looking tough in front of the guys and getting back in time for the cruise.
Twelve miles became fourteen miles, and eventually we ended our run at sixteen miles. I never ran more than four miles before that. There is a strange phenomenon among tough guys when you add a third tough guy wannabe in the mix. Doing the usual is not enough anymore. That’s part of why the twelve miles became sixteen. None of us wanted to be the guy who needed to turn back. Getting me back to Olivia in time for the cruise was our out. No one wanted to be the guy to disappoint her. However, running an extra four miles wasn’t enough either. We needed to go to the gym and “finish our workout” with three sets of push ups, sit ups, tricep dips and pullups to muscle failure. With a new guy in the group, Pitus and Ritter pushed themselves harder. The new guy tried to keep up.
I was done in the first set, but wouldn’t admit it at first. The mileage, the muscle fatigue and the dehydration all added up to a bad case of heat exhaustion on a mild 75-Degree Spring day in the Rhineland. My limbs were trembling, my skin was cool and clammy, but when Pitus said push yourself into that second set I gave it a try. I stood up, took one step, then collapsed to my knees and hugged the coolest thing near me, a water fountain. An annoyed Ritter said they needed to take me to the barracks. I had my combat medic aid bag in my room where there were also IV bags of lactated ringers. They carried me out of the gym, laid me in the back of Ritter’s car and sped up the hill. I don’t remember what they said about me as they carried me up three flights of stairs, but I’m sure it was nothing sympathetic for my situation.
They laid me on my bathroom floor, and got me ready for a shower to cool down. I decided to lay on the cold tile floor instead. For some reason, we decided that Ritter who was also a medic should go get Olivia, she lived on the same floor of the barracks, while ex-infantryman Lieutenant Pitus started the IV on me. I thought his reasoning to not “waste a training opportunity” was a good idea at the time.
By the time the IV was started, I looked up and saw a concerned Olivia staring down at me. She had expected to see a dressed and ready to go Jerry at her door. It was already 10 am. The guys were determined to live up to their promise and have me ready to go by 10:45 am for my 11 o’clock date with Olivia. Pitus said I should eat something. Liv asked if I wanted anything. In the strongest voice I could muster, I pathetically said like a crying child, “I would like a Kinder Egg.” Olivia returned from her room with a Kinder Egg, and I asked, “Could you unwrap it for me?”
The look she gave me was forever burned into my memory. It was a mix of “Seriously?!” and sympathy and love. Turns out she was more mad at my running buddies than me. They cleaned up the trash from my medical rescue, told Liv I should be ready to go in about ten minutes and wished us a fun date on the Rhine River as they left.
We didn’t make the cruise after all. Instead, we spent the day in the barracks watching movies, rehydrating and I eventually took her out for dinner. It wasn’t anything like a Rhine River cruise though, just McDonald’s or something quick and American. It was that day that I knew Olivia loved me. I ruined a romantic date plan, and she brought me a Kinder Egg in my time of need.
In Episode 55 of Family Time Q&A, Olivia shared how she’d like to prevent that run so we could have gone on that cruise. Nearly fourteen years laters, that cruise is something that we missed out on, but we both agreed that my laying on my bathroom floor wearing only my underwear with an IV in my arm while asking for a kids’ chocolate toy surprise gave us something to laugh about for decades to come. Maybe when we do take that Rhine River cruise in the future we can bring our kids along to appreciate the country where Olivia and I fell in love.