Man, a whole day on the road, and we're STILL in Texas! It really is BIG here. Actually, today went FAR better than we anticipated. We shot for an 8:00 am departure, which was a personal family record on this trip. We got strapped in, and pulled out of Doug and Heather's driveway at 8:05! Not bad! Anyone with kids knows that being only +5 minutes out the door on a road trip is a victory!
We had ample caffeine in us thanks to Doug's two pots of coffee that we ingested this morning. We really didn't know just how long it would take to arrive in El Paso, and we knew our relative Helen was throwing a dinner party for us, so we didn't want to be late! When we left, it was lightly raining, and as soon as we turned the corner to pull out of Doug's development, we saw it: RUSH HOUR traffic, TEXAS style... which means Texas SIZED! It took us another hour and 15 minutes to get OUT of town. By then, I was a little nervous that we blew our timeline. See, THAT'S why we never leave so early! ;)
We cruised for a while in the rain, but it eventually cleared and we enjoyed a beautiful morning. We stopped at a truck stop to empty our tanks and refuel the car's when we ran into absolutely the cutest Australian Cattle dog named Gus hanging around the entrance. He was clearly lost, and he was the sweetest and friendliest dog you ever met. He hadn't been neutered but he wore a collar with his name on it and his owner's name and number. There were two men working on the door to the store, and I asked one of them if the area code was local, and he said it was. He proceeded to call the number, but got voice mail. I tried a few minutes later, hoping my mystery area code might entice the owner to pick up. No dice. Meanwhile, I went inside and filled a cup with water and poor Gus guzzled just about the entire thing on the spot. Curiously, he wasn't hungry. What dog isn't hungry? So, we hung out with him for a while, and the urge to just sweep him up and take him home with us was so strong! I can see why people in grief get a pet. Gus made me happy the minute we set eyes on each other, and he literally hugged me and just sat with me under the porch at this truck stop. As I steadily got more and more covered with fur, the clock continued to tick away. I just couldn't leave this dog. The gentleman working on the door said he'd be there all day, and that hopefully the owner would call back by the day's end. I asked him if there was a local rescue group he could call, and he mentioned that his wife actually worked with one, and that he'd bring Gus home at the end of the day if the owner didn't show. Angelique and I used to be dog foster parents back when we had a house in Phoenix, and we just can't leave the scene like that without doing something. So, Dan, the man working on the door, and I shook hands, and we left feeling confident Gus would be okay.
With as many hours as we had on hand today, Ali settled into a movie with her headphones on, and Angelique and I settled into the rest of Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. I have listened to Tuesdays with Maury and The Five People You Meet in Heaven before, and this was my second lap through Have a Little Faith. Yup, I'm a fan of Mitch Albom! Anyway, hearing it a second time, I heard things I missed the first time. Plus, I listened to the book on CD prior to the spiritual boot camp I just came out of in MN while driving solo from southern California in early June. What a lifetime ago. What I can say is that the story once again renewed my pride in my faith. What I love most is that the title doesn't say, Have a Little of THE Faith, or Have a Little of MY Faith. In fact, the point of the book is that it really doesn't matter what faith you have; it's the fact that your faith can coexist with mine, and they both can increase the world.
I have to tell you more about Ali. She impresses Ang and me more and more every day. She is amazing. Today, Ang and I were talking in the car about the grief process as it was a HARD day for us emotionally. Ali was coloring in the back seat and asked us what we were talking about. I told her. I said that we were sad because we went to Minnesota with so much hope for Bella, to which she replied, "And all our hope is gone now." She didn't break up crying, she didn't say it as a question. She said it so matter of factly, yet with enough sensitivity that we could tell that she thought about what she meant, not just what she said. She chose her words. This was so insightful that Ang and I just sat there and marveled at her... yet again.
Ang and I spent a good two hours in the car talking about the whole process and Ali just colored, talked with us, and took pictures (see below). We made great time, got the advantage of changing time zones, and ended up in El Paso at 5:15 local time! We looked back on the day and realized it was quite pleasant on the outside; it was just painful on the inside. We were really grateful the day went by so fast and so pleasantly.
One of Bella's nurses is in a masters program right now and had to pick a population to study this semester, so she picked EB. One question she had for me was, "What do you want caregivers to know?" I wanted to share with you what I shared with her:
I said that I want married caregivers to make a PACT when their child falls ill or is born with special needs that all the increased stress and anxiety will be fuel to drive their relationship closer together, NOT further apart. This is a choice, not a given. Unfortunately, our society has allowed this choice to slip into the hands of "that's just the way it is." NOT TRUE. I have never felt closer to Angelique in my life, and we have yet to raise our voices at each other or get mad at each other throughout this entire journey. We may disagree with a decision or behavior of the other, but we talk it out, or, if it isn't that important, we just let it pass. Pick your battles, folks, you don't have to be right about EVERYTHING. We CHOSE consciously at the very beginning of this journey in June of 2009 to allow all the stress and strain bring us closer together, and it has. The proof? The three of us have spent practically every waking moment together since last Sunday afternoon, and you know what? We love every minute together (okay, okay, except when Ali won't listen at bed time, but that's never been any different!).
I am so grateful to this day for the conversation I had with Sean Stephenson on June 17, 2009. In that conversation, he said to me, "Tim, this thing (Bella's condition) is going to do one of two things to your marriage. It's either gonna rip it apart, or it's gonna bring it together. You need to decide RIGHT NOW which one it's gonna be." That conversation inspired much of how the rest of this story with Bella has played out. Without it, I don't know where we would have ended up, but I do know that WITH it, we ended up here: in the deepest love, respect, and partnership I have ever experienced in my life. I have the marriage I always wanted. I am blessed.
Choose wisely; your whole life is a choice.
Bella after her bath, and here is what happens when you give Ali control of the camera...
The view from Ali's world...