Last Wednesday, I came home to a sad, worried husband. The Big Guy greeted me at the door with the news that he'd been talking to a doctor at a hospital in Oregon. He'd received a call from his birth mom's boyfriend- he'd taken her to the hospital, because she'd been acting strangely all weekend- but the hospital now refused to give him any information about her condition, because he wasn't technically a relative. Could the Big Guy call them? Sure! (Even though, technically and legally, he's not a recognized relative, either!) They put him on directly with her doctor. No, I'm not kidding, they actually did that. I don't know about any of you, but I've NEVER been able to get right through to a doctor at any hospital- it's a rare thing, and not a good one.
The doctor was straight with Big- he told her she might go that night, or it might be a week- but it definitely wouldn't be a month. She had acute pneumonia, a collapsed lung, and her cancer had progressed significantly in the past month. She'd been unresponsive for a day or so. It wasn't looking good.
Immediately, we began to make plans to get the Big Guy over there ASAP- I made arrangements with my work to be able to stay home with the kids until the end of the week, and to be able to get them to and from school on time for the week following. (Thank you, Scott- you're the best boss I've ever had, bar none!) We started planning like mad to be able to get him over there, and stay for a week or whatever time we could work out, so that he could help where he could. He'd be heading to his birth sister's home in Washington, and they'd go down together to see what they could do at the hospital. Thursday, first thing, we were out the door running, picking up a rental car, buying a simple cell phone, all of the things that needed to be done to make it happen. We raced around town, raced home...and got the call that we'd dreaded. It was the hospital. It was too late. She passed away at 11 AM coastal time. She never woke up.
Did I mention that it was also the Big Guy's birthday? Yeah. Happy 46th birthday, baby. One month, to the freakin' day, since he'd found his birth family. Bug, meet windshield.
So. We deflated, hard. We spun in circles for a few. He called his birth sister, who we'll call S., and his big brother, E. They talked on the phone quite a bit, and the afternoon went on. Finally, we went out for the Big Guy's birthday dinner, us and his real mom. But before we did that, he had a (completely insane) idea: he proposed that we, as a family, should go on a trip to meet his birth sister and her family. The debate began. Bear in mind, I'm a Taurus, and he's a Gemini. It went like this:
He pointed out that the car was already rented. I pointed out that Thing Two had a big to-do going on at the school on Friday that he'd been talking about, non-stop, for two weeks. He pointed out that we had the cell phone all ready to go. I pointed out that there would be no groceries in the house upon our return, and that no preparations for the coming work and school week would be done. He pointed out that this was hitting his sister pretty hard, and she might like the company. I pointed out that his mom wouldn't be able to take care of our dog, because he's large, young, and jumps a lot, plus he probably outweighs my mother-in-law by a pound or two. He pointed out that there are kennels in this town. I pointed out that the kids and I weren't packed or prepared for a trip of this magnitude, especially on such incredibly short notice! I thought that my arguments were pragmatic, to-the-point, and well, logical. But then he ran this one on me...
He pointed out that it was his BIRTHDAY. Ouch. Yes. His birthday.
Hell of trump card, that one.
And the big to-do at the school? Thing Two patiently explained to those of us of lesser intelligence (you know, the adults) that a hotel with a swimming pool would more than make up for it.
This is where things get kinda blurry for me. No one had slept well since Tuesday night anyway, for obvious reasons, and that trend continued right up until, oh, Monday night of this week. We put our backs into it- got everyone packed up, hotel room reserved, family and friends informed, and jetted out on Friday. We took I-84 to Portland, and got to enjoy views of the Columbia River right on in to Portland, and then headed north. We met S. on Friday night, and she introduced us to her wonderful, wonderful family- she has a great husband, three sons (two mostly grown and one a little older than Thing One), the older boys' fiancees, and her grandson. She showed us some pictures of their mom and family, and talked about life with her. We puzzled over where some of the Big Guy's features came from (he's definitely the biggest of the bunch, height-wise!) We learned a lot, stayed up late, and then repeated the process in the morning, spending the day with the immediate family, and also met her in-laws, who are also wonderful people. The boys ran wild, went 4-wheelin' with their older cousins, and the adults generally spoiled the grandbaby, and chatted it up. It was an amazing, fantastic, absolutely lovely time- I wish we could have stayed a week, but alas, a weekend is all we had. Sunday morning, after a coffee get-together with everybody in the family who could make it, we said goodbye to Washington, and a big ol' chunk of new family. (S., if you're reading this, and if I forgot to tell you at the time: THANK YOU. Thank you so much, for sharing your family with us, and making time to see us, and EVERYTHING. This was just wonderful, and we're so very, very glad to be related to you guys! Come and see us this fall- been talking to one of my coworkers, and he says the grouse here are plentiful, even near town- great hunting!)
Then we hit the road, heading south, to make a stop to see our friends A. and J. and their family, in Oregon. We were supposed to just be there for an hour or two, but HA! They wound up feeding us a terrific supper, and of course we visited for longer than planned. There was the new house to tour, garter snakes for the boys to catch, the garden to look at, and much to talk about...Despite the fact that I'm a Taurus, a planner, and about as anal as a person can get about schedules and routines, I can't be sorry that we stayed on for longer than we'd planned. The Big Guy had a heck of a time trying to round the boys and I up- it was like herding cats, I'm afraid. At one point, Thing Two was actively trying to convince one of the kids to stow away in the car! But the Big Guy was reluctant to go, too- we hadn't seen A. and J. in such a long, long time, and he truly loves A. like a brother- he's an amazing person, as is his entire family. On the drive back down Highway 20, we all talked about blood family, and heart family, and how there's really no difference between the two. A. and J.'s kids and grandchild are heart cousins to our boys, and A. and J. are heart uncle and aunt- this is how we explain our chosen family, and blood-related family, to Thing One and Thing Two. We left in a glow of familial love. (A. and J., if you're reading this- I doubt that we said it nearly enough, but THANK YOU, for the wonderful dinner, and for having us- we had a great time. J., Mark wasn't being flattering- you both are becoming more and more beautiful, all the time, and we love you very much. We hope to see you guys again soon- you're sorely missed.)
At 4:45 AM on Monday, we made it back home, after an extremely long, extremely tense drive. Highway 20, for those of you who are not familiar, traverses the state of Oregon through some of the most twisty, tricky mountain roads, and then dumps down to some of the most empty desert lands on this side of the continent, until you're nearly in Idaho. For like, FOREVER. The bulk of it is deserted by people, but not wildlife, and there aren't any lights, just a very long, very dark road. The Big Guy tried to convince me, half-heartedly, to sleep on the way home- NUH-uh. Not when an elk, mule deer, antelope, or other large critter could stroll on out into the road at any second! (Elk, in case you've never met one, are massive- if your speeding car hits one, your life, such as you have left, will never be the same again.) So I acted as a spotter all night- and we did see a variety of wildlife on that ride, but didn't hit any. (Pats self on back.) We also saw the results of some wildlife collisions, which kept us both alert and on-point, all the way home.
We're still recovering, to a certain extent, and it may be a few days before another post shows up on here- between taking off time from work during haying season (I am swimming in paperwork!), and just plain getting caught up on house stuff and sleep...yeah, it's gonna be a few. I apologize for the lack of pictures from the trip, but there are many photos that include youngsters- I cannot, in good conscience, share those. They aren't my kids. But just picture a whole passel of boys running around in verdant settings and having a generally joyful time with people that they love... a bunch of adults visiting with just a slightly less-boisterous degree of delight... you'll see it, then. There was nothing but happiness, with a backdrop of vivid green. This was the best trip we've ever taken.
Our hearts grew three sizes, and more, this last weekend. The whole week was like the Tardis- it was a LOT bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. We've had entire months, seasons, that were less eventful. And while this sudden trip was not in the plan, it needed to happen. The Big Guy's reconciled himself to the fact that, no, he didn't get to meet his birth mother in person, but they both got some closure, with the phone calls they had in the short time that he got to know her. There is peace there. We're grateful to all of our family, both the newly-met, and the ones who've been there all along, blood and heart. Thank you, Mom, for making this possible. We also want to thank Cheri, Jean D., Lynn P., and everyone who donated to our Indiegogo fundraiser. Uniting a Family is unofficially over and done with- we are unable to shut the page down, due to Indiegogo's rules, until the end date, but as of last week, the fundraiser is no longer necessary. There will be more tutorials, though, once the dust settles.
Love to you all- hope it's all good in your world!