Monday, May 19, 2014

A Miracle,3500 Miles, the Plague, A Book and A Dance - part 1

Oh my word friends, it has been too long. I was going to apologize and say just how crazy it has been but what's the fun in that.  I am after all a story teller and the past few months are one heck of a story.  This will take a moment or two.....or twenty; so pull up a chair, grab some sweet tea, and settle in, the journey starts:now.

April first dawned bright and early, there was a buzz of excitement all around Skiffdom, today was the day we'd been planning for almost a year.  Today we were driving back to Virginia, as a family, for the first time since we moved to Texas more than six years ago.  We'd prepared for  this trip, unlike other Skiff adventures.  At Christmas, all the boys received a personal electronic gadget to keep them occupied over the long trip; each child had brought their favorite blanket, stuffed animals, books, toys, etc, in a personal bag that they kept with them at their seat.  The back of the truck was piled high with fourteen days worth of luggage for the seven of us, and Phil the cat had a pet sitter arranged.  We all piled into the truck and headed to Brookshires (the local grocery store) to have breakfast and wait for the pharmacy to open to pick up a few prescriptions.  What fun, the boys ate pastries, I bought "clean" snacks for the long hours in the truck and hubby and I sipped our coffee.  Okay we guzzled our coffee; sipped just sounds so much more genteel but there was nothing genteel about the way we clasped our mugs and downed the caffeinated ambrosia.
Finally, an hour later, the pharmacy opened and we were on the road, the bright sky and open road spread out before us.  
We were heading back east for my sister Jennifer's wedding. Normally, if there is a family function, I just hop on a plane, fly out for 48 hours and then I'm back home. No fuss, no muss.  But Jennifer really wanted the whole family at her wedding if possible. That combined with my father's recent heart attack made it important that we all travel the 1400 miles back to the state that is for lovers. 
Ah yes, my father's heart attack, here is where the miracle of our story enters.

I remember the day like it was yesterday, Sunday December 8th all of the Dallas area, where we live, was under at least 4 inches of  solid ice.  Everyone was completely iced in, a rare sight here in the land of 100+ degree summers and mild winters.  So we all sat around, watching movies and thanking God that our electricity had not gone out like thousands of others had.  It was late afternoon when my phone rang, flashing my mother's number.  I answered happily, expecting that my mom was checking in on us because of the weather. Instead it was my sister Stephanie, calling in tears, to tell me that my father had had a massive heart attack while on a plane in Salt Lake City, where he had a layover on a business trip.  
Dad had died twice, my sister relayed; once on the plane where he was brought back by a Cardiologist and a doctor who just "happened" to be on the same flight and once in the ambulance on his way to the hospital.  Things were looking really bad.  I have never felt the amount of complete helplessness that I did at that moment.  My father, the man who had always been so strong, stronger than any ten men I knew, was laying in a hospital in Utah and I had no way to get there.  The ice that had been a mere nuisance before was now a cage, keeping me trapped, far away from where I needed to be.
He stabilized over the next few days and I was finally able to fly out early Thursday morning.  My Father was scheduled to have a stint placed that afternoon, just as an emergency hold over until they could get him stabilized and back home for open heart surgery at a later date, when he was stronger.  I sat in the waiting room with my mom and four of my brothers, when fifteen minutes later the doctor came out and asked us all to follow him back to the cath lab, where my father still laid sedated, with wires hanging everywhere, a picture of his heart beating on a monitor before us.  The doctor was grim and we all stood by while he explained that things were much more dire than anticipated and my father would have to undergo open heart surgery the next morning.   My last brother and two sisters made arrangements to fly out to Utah that night and the doctors began to prep my Dad for surgery.
The surgery started before six am the next morning. We all sat huddled in the waiting room, now all eight of us siblings and my mom were there.  We pretty much took over the whole room.  We did all we could to pass the hours by, praying, playing cards, talking, praying more.  The nurses called every hour to give us an update but it was taking much longer than predicted.  Fourteen hours later the surgeon came out, so exhausted he could barely talk.  His prognosis was not good.  He said if Dad made it through the next three days he would then have a 50% chance of making it.  The days ticked slowly by, the progress slower than the doctors wanted. It was the slowest three days in my memory.  This was the first time my brothers and sisters and I had been together sans spouses and kids since I was married fourteen years before.  The one positive thing that happened was that we all drew much closer together.  One of my favorite memories of that time is my sisters and I sitting alone in the waiting room praying and singing worship songs together.  Such a poignant, sweet moment in time.
hospital and mountains in Salt Lake City
Dad made it through those three days, but when they removed the intubation tube he was not himself at all, he couldn't speak and his personality was gone.  The doctors confirmed he'd had a stroke during the surgery.  As the days passed, one by one, we all had to fly back to our families, leaving mom with my Dad.  Two days before I was to fly back our rental car was broken in to, in the hospital parking lot.  It was late and we had done a quick run into the hospital to drop food off to the sibling staying with Dad that night.  My brother Joe, who is a Maryland State trooper, was due to fly out first thing the next morning.  Thankfully he was able to stay and help work out the details of the robbery and the insurance on the rental car covered the cost of everything stolen. God was even in this, that next day my father was still pretty sedated and he seemed to only respond to Joe when he needed to eat because they were going to put a feeding tube in if he was unable to eat
Me at the Hospital in Salt Lake City
.  Had the car not been robbed Joe would have been gone and would not have been there to get Dad to eat!  My brothers and uncle flew out at different times to be with mom, so she was alone as little as possible.  The doctors were saying that Dad would probably have to stay in Utah until at least February.  They didn't know my Dad.  Once Dad set his mind on recovery, there was no stopping him.  The Meier stubborn streak has no equal and it was put to good use in this instance.  The first week of January my father was flying back to Virginia, medication ports still in his arms.  

After that dramatic crisis it was doubly important for the whole family to be together to celebrate my sisters wedding and my Dad's miraculous recovery. 
We Skiffs were excitedly driving through state after state on our way to celebrate. That first day we drove through Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and stopped in Atlanta for the night.
While in Louisiana, we stopped at Duck Commander to stretch our legs for a few minutes, it was literally a mile off the highway.  The boys liked the show, especially Benny, so it was a fun little breather.  We bought a few souvenirs, saw Willy, and grabbed some pictures.  The boys were particularly impressed with the Duck Dynasty RV's.  Then we were back on the road, driving, driving, driving.  
The boys were enjoying the trip, they were all getting along, without any meltdowns.  Talk about miracles!!!
Duck Commander
Duck Dynasty RV at Duck Commander West Monroe, LA
By the time we made it to Atlanta for the night it was 1 am and we were exhausted.  I had made reservations online at one of our favorite hotel chains, The Country Inn and Suites, once we knew for sure where we would stop for the night.
My eyes were practically held open with toothpicks when I went to check in.  The night manager was as sweet as pie but she was just confounded as to why she couldn't find our room.  It seemed Travelocity had booked us a room that didn't exist.  She was very apologetic but she only had the smaller suites; we didn't REALLY need all those beds did we? I assured her we absolutely needed ALL those beds.  She resolved the issue by comping us a second smaller suite.  All was good, we were so tired, we just wanted some beds.  I put some boys in the first room and made my way to the second room to get the other boys settled.  I slid my key card into the lock, excited to be getting to bed; I opened the door to a completely unmade bed, stripped down to the mattress and the room hadn't been cleaned.  I called down to the front desk and explained the issue, the manager apologized profusely and promised us ANOTHER room.  We all crammed into the first room to wait. Another fifteen minutes and the manager was at our door with the key card to another room.  This time Hubby brought the older boys to the room, as soon as they walked in Sam began to have an asthma attack; although it was a nonsmoking room, someone had been smoking in it.  Once again we called down to the front desk and once AGAIN they gave us another room. I would like to say I found humor in this all to Skiff hotel adventure but alas I was exhausted and irritated but at least they would have a good breakfast in the morning (my boys absolute favorite part of any hotel stay is the breakfast).  The hubby and I finally settled in for a very uncomfortable nights sleep on the pull out couch in the room with the smaller boys around 2 am.  But Breakfast was going to make it all right, really it was.
Around seven am we began making our way to the breakfast room in batches. The delightful smell of coffee and waffles assailed my senses as I walked down the hallways with the younger boys.
We made our way to the breakfast line only to discover there were no clean plates, forks, or made coffee!!! They were out of everything.  I wanted to cry, no room, no bed, now no coffee!!!  After another 40 minutes they brought in clean dishes and began to refill the depleted food trays but there was still no coffee.  I was not a happy camper.  That was the worst $130.00 we'd spent on a night at a hotel in a long time.  The hubby was in a much more gracious mood than I and discouraged my impending rant to the hotel manager. Lucky for her that I have such a good guy for a husband.  By nine am we were back on the road, making our way steadily towards Virginia.  We drove through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and finally made it my parents in Virginia at nine o'clock that night.  1400 miles, two days of driving and the boys were still doing great! 
The next day I had to go buy my bridesmaids dress for the wedding.  This is another miracle, let me tell you.  My sister was having a casual wedding with her bridesmaids in pink. Now it seems like finding a pink bridesmaids dress would be no big deal but add to that I am plus sized and we bigger women don't usually wear pink, I had one day to find it and the malls near my parents didn't have a single plus sized store!! I was truly sweating the whole dress thing.  My mom and I looked everywhere and finally ended up at Dillards where I found a casual but not too casual dress, in pink, in my size, ON SALE, and it actually looked good on me!!! Let me tell you, I was doing a happy dance because I was thinking I would be rolling it down the aisle in jeans and a t-shirt at the rate the dress shopping was going.
The rest of my days before the wedding were spent in wedding prep, while my amazing, wonderful, terrific, cannot brag enough about him, husband took care of the boys, bringing them to all our old haunts. I was sad to miss out on the trips down memory lane but I loved being a part of my sister's wedding preparations.  I worked on decorations with the girls while my Dad was busily baking my sisters wedding cake.  Five months from being brought back to life, surgery and a stroke and my Dad was not only well enough to walk my sister down the aisle but he made her wedding cake!!!!!
Martha, Mary and I working on wedding prep
Boys at General Shephard Crump Memorial Park Glen Allen, VA
Alex at Crump Memorial Park with sheep
Paul in front of trains at Crump Memorial Park
Boys at Maymont, Richmond VA
More Maymont
Maymont April 2014

The Big Day arrived, bright and beautiful.  Jennifer made a beautiful bride and her wedding could not have been more perfect.  She had her wedding at the historic Carillon in downtown Richmond.  Friends and family came from all over to celebrate my sister's marriage and my Dad's miraculous recovery.
The Boys at Jen's Wedding

My beautiful sister Stephanie and I getting in place for the wedding
The cake my Dad made 5 months after his heart attack!!

Alex and I at the reception
The wedding was a huge success; after the reception there was a huge "after" party at my parents house.  It was so good to catch up with everyone we just didn't want it to end!! The fun lasted late into the night, with hubby and many of my family playing poker.  I however was exhausted and went to bed around 9.  Sunday we visited with family and started to pack up. Our plan had been to stay in Virginia for the remainder of our trip, doing fun day trips but in true Skiff fashion we just couldn't do a "normal" near cross country trek.  Nope, on a whim we decided we might as well go to upstate New York to visit my husband's family, we were after all a mere 600 miles away!  Stay tuned for the rest of the story!!!

The picture of my whole family: brothers. sisters, spouses, grand-kids, my mom and Dad and Jen and her new husband, Hunter 4/5/2014

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