I had prepared in advance too for that whole "daddy being gone" thing. I got a plane ticket for my younger brother to stay with us for a week. He just got out of the Navy I've seen him only a handful of times since he left for Recruit Training in 2003. I get to see my little brother (he may be 26 years old, but he weighs 114 lbs, I can still call him my little brother), my kids get to see their Uncle John and I have help for things like dinners on nights when I work late. That sounds like a good plan too, right?
Bailey went to camp too, only she would be leaving a day after her daddy. When she first asked to go, I was totally against it. Not that I don't think she'll have fun, or that I think she's not ready, it's that I can't wrap my head around my only baby girl being in another state where I can't kiss her on the head right after she dozes off at night. When the opportunity came for Michael to go to camp as a counselor, the attractive part of that (for me) was that he would be across the parking lot from her and could help her when she's all emotional from missing her mommy. Honestly, she's probably having a blast and forgetting all about how much she's missing me, but in my mind she's curled into a corner crying that she needs me and that's how it's going to stay; my imagination...my rules! While she is gone, I was going to slap a coat of paint or two on her bedroom walls and update her room to look like a tween lives in it. I had a plan, and a good one too!
You know what "they say" about the best laid plans?
The counselors went to camp on Tuesday, so I got my brother a flight out for Monday. He was supposed to leave Jacksonville, FL at 6AM, stop in Chicago for a short layover and then arrive in Little Rock at 10AM. We would have the day to grocery shop for foods that he likes and that he can prepare for the kids, and he would get to spend some time with Michael before he had to leave. Storms in Chicago on Monday morning prevented all flights from landing but they didn't stop flights from taking off. Maybe some of them were delayed, but his connecting flight took off right on time. When you're connecting flight leaves before your initial flight lands you do not make it to your intended destination on time, no matter how much your sister needs you! John got on four planes leaving Chicago before one left the ground with him on it. That flight didn't bring him to Little Rock either, it took him to Fayetteville, AR which is about a 3.5 hour drive from my house and a 1.5 hour flight from Chicago. It's also very close to my in-laws, Michael's sister lives in Fayetteville and his parents live in the next town over. My sister-in-law picked him up at the airport and we drove to meet her to pick him up at Michael's parents' house. After a long and stressful day, things were coming together and I was feeling good!
Michael left Tuesday morning, around 10AM, ready to go spend a week serving the Lord and having fun at the same time. He got to the camp with knots in his stomach, and almost laid down and took a nap. Michael has pretty severe PTSD and unfamiliar territory is hard on him. He said he started to feel sick, nervous, inadequate and unprepared and just wanted to escape those feelings. When that happens Michael sleeps; at least he usually sleeps. Tuesday afternoon, he decided to power through. He acknowledged his fear and pressed on! I have never been more proud of him than I was when he told me that, because for the last five years he's "not felt well" and slept it off when faced with a challenge instead of facing it. This time, he faced it! He went out and did some team building with his fellow counselors and was having a blast. Then came The Blob! There was someone on The Blob that needed to be launched! Michael volunteered and took a running jump off the wooden pier, felt his ankle snap, left the pier, landed on The Blob, felt his ankle dislocate and got off The Blob and fell into the lake. He wouldn't get out of the lake until everyone else had left the area because he didn't want anyone to get freaked out by his ankle. I am told there are pictures of it, but I am not sure I want to see since the only description I've heard is that his foot/leg looked like a nine iron.
A nine iron looks like this:
Two of the counselors, one I've never met and one who is a VERY dear friend took him to the nearest VA Hospital and called me at work when they were en route. I spoke with Michael and he told me to stay home so that Bailey could catch the van to go to camp on Wednesday. He obviously forgot for a second who he married in 2003 because I was NOT letting my husband be in a hospital and me not be there. I called John, who was having a glorious day with the kids, and told him to start packing bags that we were going to Fayetteville again. Twenty-four hours exactly after we headed to Fayetteville to pick up John, we pulled out of the driveway headed to the Fayetteville VA Hospital!
Michael had to have his leg set twice, once at the VA Hospital with him awake and once at the hospital they sent him to when they couldn't set it. The ER doc made it clear that he needed to see a surgeon as soon as possible, but he recommended we see a doctor in Little Rock so he could have surgery closer to home. They discharged him once he could get around on crutches and we went to his parents' house and slept like logs for about 3 hours because he was determined that I was taking Bailey to camp and he was going with me. We also had to go get our Mini-Van which was still at the camp in Oklahoma.
Getting ready to get out the door was stressful. Bailey isn't a morning person anyway, she was tired, disoriented and trying to get ready in a house that is not ours. I am not a morning person, and not only was I emotional and tired but I felt like I was at the end of my very frazzled rope. John is not a morning person, and it seems to take him about 45 minutes to get ready and he had to go with us to drive the van back.
I was trying to get Michael in to see a surgeon in Little Rock on Thursday so we could have a relaxing trip to take Bailey to camp and get back home. The ankle surgeon isn't in Little Rock on Thursday, and they could see Michael at 4PM. It was already pushing 9AM when the realization hit that we did not have enough minutes to get her to camp in Oklahoma and him to the doctor in Little Rock unless someone hit the gas pedal and quickly. This was not a good time to find out that no one had checked Bailey's bag to make sure she had packed everything. She had no soap, shampoo, brush, or underwear; one bra and her toothbrush but no toothpaste. I'm pretty sure at this point I started screaming at everyone, including my Mother-In-Law, which was not good. I could see how urgent it was that we leave IMMEDIATELY, but no one else seemed to be motivated to make it happen and I was playing phone tag with the doctor's office. It was suggested that Bailey not get to go to camp because Michael's ankle was the priority, but Michael nor I would stand for that. Kids come first around here most days, and that's just how it is. I mean how else are they supposed to learn to put others first if we don't model that by putting their needs ahead of our own. Besides, camp cost $225 and we could not get our money back if she didn't go. She was getting there, and Michael was getting to his appointment and I needed the adults surrounding me to help that happen or get out of the way.
We did get in the car before 10, stopped at Wal-Mart to get underwear and bras for Bailey and got to camp around 11. Michael wanted to see his co-counselors so we visited for a few minutes with me internally struggling between needing to get on the road and not wanting to leave Bailey until I was sure she was settled. We left a little bit before noon, which set off another panic because it was over 200 miles and we had just four hours to drive it. One accident on the interstate, one traffic jam in rush hour, or one too many bathroom trips and we would miss Michael's appointment.
Once I got the car on the open road, I calmed and remembered what good therapy driving is for me. As Michael drifted in and out of sleep, I spent some time reflecting on what an amazing husband the Lord sent me. He usually puts others needs ahead of his own, even in severe injury. It's what made him a good Soldier for 22 years and makes him a good Father, Servant*, and Husband today. He got through a stressful time, without shutting down, with PTSD that was not only difficult but it was painful I am sure. While I prayed, thanking the Lord for him, it literally felt like the car was being carried, we didn't have any problems on the trip and we didn't even hit traffic where they are working on the interstate.
We made it to his doctor's appointment with 45 minutes to spare, took a minute to collect ourselves and went straight to the waiting area. They took Michael's splint off to do another x-ray and examine his leg. The surgeon came in, looked at the x-rays, visibly gagged, and got straight to the point. He should have had surgery Tuesday night before the swelling started. Since he didn't and the ankle is really swollen, he has to come home and put his foot up for a week, for surgery next week. He will have more titanium in his leg when they are finished than the nine iron his leg resembled the day before, and he will take a long time to heal properly. They put a new splint on him and I brought him home.
The ordeal isn't over, and the next few weeks is going to take some careful planning. Luckily, I have learned to roll with the punches when needed, because we all know what happens when we make plans. Basically, the new "plan" is to plan for things to not go as planned. That should work, right?
*Although Michael is a Stay At Home Dad, when I refer to him as a Servant I do not mean he serves us. Michael is a true Servant of the Lord and he does that by seeing a need and filling it and serving the people who God loves. I love him for it!