Saturday, March 16, 2013

The WB Family Holiday Part II

In my blog posting part I, I left off as most of the family was on the side of a rural Iowa road waiting for news about grandpa from the EMT's.

Time seemed to stand still for us as we all waited in our cars parked on the side of the highway. At times, really only in minutes, I felt my heart pound and could literally feel the agony coming from Steve in the seat next to me.  As I wrote about earlier, I knew it was important to let him take the lead on the next steps. Whether that meant that we would wait, rather than approach the EMT's exit the vehicle to seek answers.

Without much notice the EMT's from ambulance #2 emerged.  One of the EMT's met with Kevin in the lead car to let him know that grandpa was still with us after treatment and to follow ambulance #1 to Sioux City, Iowa hospital.

In what seemed like another long drive on Thanksgiving afternoon, the family met up again in the Emergency Room at Sioux City hospital. There I saw the pale and stunned faces look back at me as we all looked at each other.  I walked around the room and tried to keep think of encouraging things to say and to pass out a hug or two to those who really looked like they needed one.

Mom, Steve and Kevin were in with grandpa as he was being treated.  Again, the rest of us found ourselves waiting for word and prognosis. It would be a couple hours before there was any news, but what we did know without hesitation is that grandpa would be admitted for care.  When I think about it now, none of us ever realized in those moments in the emergency room that grandpa would never return to the family farm he built, where he's raised his family and lived with his wife of 56 years for a period of over 40 years.

I call dad grandpa because for me he represented the name very well.  Not only with his own grandchildren, but in many ways, he reminded me of my grandpa.  Growing up, I never really had a father figure type in my life, so I found myself always relying on my grandfather on my mom's side of the family for conversation and advice when I needed it.  Regardless, over the last several years with the WB, I was able to have great conversations with Steve's dad, Robert, 'grandpa',' as I refer to him in this story.  While not realizing it then, most of those conversations with him, whether on the farm or at our home in Wisconsin, I would learn would be some of the best 'life' advice for me to learn from.

I'm really not sure how much time had passed while we waited in the emergency room, but the football games we were watching or listening to were over for the most part, or were really not our focus anymore.  It must have been after 6:00 p.m. when we learned that dad/grandpa would be taken to his room.  Suddenly, as I looked around and witnessed the exhaustion and solemn mood in the room,  I checked back in with reality and realized that Thanksgiving dinner was still out on the table and that Jake and Mattie were still home alone. Since I was not the one who secured them, I wondered if they were free to run the house and at least they would be able to partake in a Thanksgiving feast.  While I was assured that they were in the bedroom downstairs, I was not sure that the door upstairs was closed. It could be an interesting trip back to the farm...

Lisa and I conversed and rallied a plan to return to the family farm to clean up the mess left from the dinner that we never got to have, as well as the mess left from the emergency team caring for dad and all in the dining room and kitchen.  We both knew that mom could not come home to any of the mess, especially the later.  A quick request for volunteers to come with us to help Lisa and I with the clean up not surprisingly produced ONLY one willing and wonderful young lady, Kate.  The youngest of Robert's grandchildren.  In silence, I was pleasantly surprised.

Lisa, Kate and I arrived back at the farmhouse about 6:30 p.m.  I immediately went to care for the pets first, while Lisa went upstairs to create our plan of attack for the cleanup.  When I got to them, Jake and Mattie were trembling, as they had no clue what had taken place six hours before.  Nevertheless, they quickly got back into their 'Bonnie and Clyde' routine of playfulness and looking for their next chance for a bit of trouble.

In a matter of only a few moments, I found myself upstairs, pets in tow, and began with the cleanup.  When I looked at the table, still set with the full plates of food, somehow I could still see the medical emergency that took place at the head of table still fresh on my mind. I quickly shook it off when we realized that none of the food could really be saved.  It has been sitting out too long and the last thing we needed at this point was for anyone to end up sick from the already tormented  family Thanksgiving feast that never was.

We made great headway with our cleanup in under two hours.  During this time Lisa, Kate and I talked about the day.  While I never asked, I knew that talking about it would help the young Kate deal more with the future unknown that would shortly follow.  In these slow moments in time, I found myself bonding more with Lisa.  I felt close to her already, but I could feel our 'family' relationship blooming even more.  I got to know Kate more and was very impressed with her and completely grateful that she helped us clean up.

During the cleanup there were a few calls made back and forth with the family still at the hospital to check on grandpa, to see how mom was doing and to develop a plan for returning to their homes in other rural towns in Iowa. We nearly had everything cleaned up when Randy (Shelly's husband) and all the other Wingert grand kids returned.  The decision was for everyone to return to their homes in Panora and Ames, Iowa and wait for further word before returning.  Lisa would drive her car home with her kids and Randy would drive home with Zack. Kevin, Shelly, Steve and I would stay with mom.

As everyone was preparing to leave, I could see the same look on KC's face (he is the oldest of the grand kids) that I had on mine as he looked at the now clean Thanksgiving dinner table.  He too could still see everyone at the table and voiced that "...he could never sit at the table again and perhaps never step foot in the house again without remembering, vividly the 'tragedy' that ensued, rather than a family Thanksgiving feast..."

Nothing else was said after KC's comment.  While a bit drastic to 'never return to the house,' I'm sure that everyone felt the same way on some level; I know I did. The family packed up and got in their cars and were gone in what seemed like seconds. As they were driving out, Steve called me to check in with me. Really I believe that he needed to take a moment to breath and I knew that.  He asked me to come back to the hospital to be with him while they waited.  I didn't hesitate, I told him that I would care for the pets and be on my way very soon. I made sure that 'Bonnie and Clyde' knew they were loved and put them in the downstairs bedroom. They curled up to one another and I headed out to be with Steve, for what would be a very long night Thanksgiving night. 

Stay tuned for Part III of the WB Family Holiday coming to you very soon.

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