Unlike most mornings, Teddy woke up in an excellent mood. First thing he said "We're going to see Silas today right?" I laughed and hugged his bed-head!! Sweet little man!! I helped him finish getting dressed and brought up some peanut butter toast before we ran off to school.
When I returned, I finished piling up all the stuff that Todd and Teddy would need to pack into the car. Todd and Teddy were going to school/work today and then driving up to Turlock. Nina and I were flying in style :) Robin, the wonderful social worker from the oncology office, had arranged a flight for us through Angel Flights. I had never heard of Angel Flights until recently. Apparently, individuals with private planes volunteer their time and planes to transport families like us. What a gift! Nina was super excited about going on a plane again :)
Sharon came by around 9:30 to give us a ride. Nina loved gliding back and forth on Sharon's leather seats :) I love how kids can turn practically anything into fun! When we arrived at the Atlantis terminal, Don, our pilot, and his friend Michael were waiting for us. Don had been a Delta Pilot for several decades and had been doing Angel Flights for the last several years. He lives in Santa Barbara but had never taken a local family on a flight. Don said that with a heavy heart!
Our flight took 1 hour and 15 minutes!!! Drive time is over 5 hours!!! What a blessing to Nina's little body. The steroids have really taken a toll on her physically and sitting on a hard surface for an extended period of time is unbearable. She primarily needs to be laying, legs extended, otherwise her legs hurt too much. Don and Michael were darling. The flight was incredible. We've have never ridden on such a small plane and we totally surprised by how loud it was inside. We had to wear these huge earphones and talk to each other through them. Nina found this to be really cool and said she wished Teddy could see her. Right after she said that Don took out his iphone to have Michael check a message. He explained that it was totally fine to use the phone while in flight. With that green light, I proceeded to send a gazillion texts with photos to all our friends and family. For the next hour, I cracked up over the hilarious responses from people. I didn't realize how many people I love are fearful of flying!! I got dozens of messages saying Stop texting, you're gonna crash the plane!!! I'm so scared for you, stop texting! I just laughed and laughed!! I have nothing left to fear!!! And most of all, I didn't care if we crashed! Sorry Don and Michael!!
Nina especially loved flying over the ocean and going through the clouds. Periodically, she pull the microphone tightly to her mouth and shout, "Mama!!" and laugh at how robotic we sounded! It was so much fun to see her excited. Thirty minutes into the trip she asked if we were almost there!! Classic!!! About 10 minutes later, with her legs toasty from the blankets and heater she fell asleep for the remainder of the trip until we were about to land. I loved watching her sleep. She was so precious with the huge headset on!!
As we soared through the sky, I starred at the clouds passing us by. I prayed, hoping God might hear me more clearly from this elevated distance!!
I am so thankful for Angel Flights! Their generosity made our family's dream come true. Thanksgiving was going to be complete because Nina was here with us!!! We were all going to be together, as in previous years! I quietly realized that this was probably the last time we would all be together for Thanksgiving. I tried not to get overwhelmed by the sadness but rather focus on the precious gift that this time was. We had her right now and that was enough!!!
|Uncle Bruno.....The Limo Driver :)|
My brother Bruno was at the Modesto Airport waiting for us, sign and all!! Nina totally cracked up when she saw him. He is such a funny man!!! How I love him!! We thanked Don and Michael, gave them big hugs, and wished them a delightful Thanksgiving. Because of their kindness our Thanksgiving was going to be spectacular!!! We had Nina's favorite for lunch (Taco Bell) with Uncle Bruno. I laughed because everything in the Central Valley, unlike Santa Barbara, has a drive-thru, even Starbucks!!! I was in hog heaven with a Starbucks drive-thru!!
After lunch, we kissed Uncle Bruno goodbye and drove to my parents. On our way to Turlock (20 minutes from Modesto) Nina fell asleep so I drove a bit longer. As I drove, my heart became heavier and heavier. My life is utter darkness, with tiny spots of happiness. I was and am so afraid to lose the happiness that blesses my life, that sustains me!!!!! By the time we arrived to my parents, I could barely hold it together. My heaviness felt so heavy!!! I was so glad, relieved, to see my parents. Nina was elated. But my parents...it was obvious they felt like they had just won the lottery!!! I was so happy for them!! They deserved this incredible time with her sweet granddaughter. My mom hugged me tightly, seeing that I was overwhelmed. I could see the pain my pain caused her!!! As my parents played with Nina, I excused myself for a quick nap. I fell asleep for about an hour listening to Broken by LifeHouse (probably not the best song to listen to when you are sinking...but then again....why not sink with a soundtrack?!?!)
Vava gave me a cookie!" She showed me the cookie my mom had given her. I hugged her and walked her to the living room where my mom was. I was barely able to keep it together to tell my mom I had to go for a walk. She saw I was slipping and reminded me to be careful. I walked out the front door and started sobbing!! My head pounded!! My heart ached!!! My soul felt like it was disintegrating!!!! Being back home at my folks made things realer in a different way. For months, I had recognized that this might be our last Thanksgiving with Nina but to actually be walking through my parent's house, hearing her laughter and voice, made it all too real!! How could we ever go on without her??? On top of this all, I felt like the only happiness I have in this darkness was slipping away!! It felt heinous!!! My chest pounded with grief!!!!
I must have walked around the block a half dozen times before I began to calm down. The poor neighbors!! Then my precious friend called me and spoke to me with such calm compassion that I was able to pull myself back together. I was even able to laugh!!! Laughter has become so important to me and helps my mind be able to momentarily pause the all consuming grief and pain! After a bit more encouragement from my loving friend, I was able to return home happy! Amazing how something simple as loving words can restore my mind, heart, and soul! How grateful I am for such words!!
Back home, Nina was bursting with excitement. My father-in-law was about to drop off Adelae. Nina could barely contain her exuberance!! Todd had texted to say that he and Teddy would arriving around 7pm. We had a delicious dinner. Adelae, Nina, and I ate mounds of freshly baked bread with butter!! Yum-o!!! It was great to have Addie's company again! A very special part of my heart will always belong to Adelae!!
With Addie at my folks, Nina did not need me :) In fact, Adelae is probably the only other person that Nina would feel completely comfortable being left with! She just adores her big cousin beyond words. While the girls played and Todd and Teddy made their way to town, I drove back up to Modesto to drop off Bruno's car. I love spending time with Bruno and Michelle, and tonight I had a bit of time I could relish in their company. Bruno and Michelle adore each other. To be completely honest, I never expected my brother to be capable of loving the way he loves Michelle. Of course no older sister ever thinks her annoying kid brother is going to be capable of selfless love! That is a given. I prayed for years that Bruno would meet a wonderful woman who would adore him and more importantly bring the best out of him. Michelle was and is the answer to that prayer. Over the past 5 years I have learned a lot from watching my brother and Michelle. Funny how that works out. You assume that because you are older you will always be the one in the teacher/role-model position. But that is soooo not true!!! I am deeply appreciative and grateful that Bruno and Michelle are a part of my life! We had a great, great, great time hanging out! When we are together we laugh...and tonight was full of laughter :)
By the time I returned home, Todd and Teddy had arrived. Now we could have Thanksgiving!
As short while later, Kyle arrived. Teddy was ecstatic to see Kyle and I have to say so was Todd! Teddy convinced Kyle to wrestle then to a lively game of bucka-roo :) It took several rounds, but eventually Teddy was able to hang on for 8 seconds :)