This is the first post I have made without the St Jude header in a while.
Friday, we made our way in a SUPER packed Prius from St. Jude up to Carbondale. Since Angela complains I never take her anywhere on side trips… I clicked on one of my “Mounds” in google maps for a stop along the route. I didn’t research it very hard… We ended up at a Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site on the far western edge of Kentucky. As we got closer I had a bad feeling that I had already drug the kids a few years ago! Oops! I didn’t bother getting out of the car. I screwed up in my haste to leave Memphis. It was OK… There was a restaurant that we wanted to check out in Mound City called Huckleberry’s. Surprisingly, Summer was easy on me for the mistake. I was expecting big grief from her but she just wanted to make sure we got to Nate’s place with enough time for his graduation festivities.
We had to drive through lovely downtown Cario Illinois to get back onto 57 before we got to Mound City. Our departure from Target House meant it would be a perfectly timed place for lunch in the southern tip of Illinois. Ang got their fried catfish and I got a massive smoked bologna sandwich. (First time I have ever had one… I would order it again!) Summer, predictably, ordered a Rueben. If you have a Rueben on the menu… And she has not had it… She’s gonna order it. She said it was OK. They didn’t toast the Rye.
We headed north and got Summer to the Carbondale apartment in time for her to make Nate’s Graduation banquet. Angela and I had a room in Mt Vernon for the night. It was about 100 bucks cheaper than staying in Carbondale on graduation weekend. But, the tradeoff is that it’s an hour away! Nate’s graduation was at 9AM on Saturday, so that meant a 6AM alarm. Ang and I sat on the bed and did nothing for about 45 minutes and decided to go to Dairy Queen for a nightcap.
That night I sat down and wrote the post about Summer’s final diagnosis. I pulled the trigger on the “publish” button and went to bed. Yeah, we had been sitting on all of the MRI info few days. But until we knew exactly what was going on… We were not saying anything. From the St. Jude parking lot, I sat in the trunk of the Fort’s Prius with the hatch open because it was sprinkling. I made my first call Thursday afternoon. It was to my Mom. She answered after a few rings and asked if she could call me back. Absolutely! I didn’t want to make this call anyway. That was an easy out, but it took the edge off. I think we talked a few hours later. Mom said she had talked to Sylvia, but wanted to know if I was going to call Dan and Don. I dreaded the thought. We were on speaker phone sitting with Summer at the table in our Target House apartment. I told her I want to… But I am not sure I can take two conversations right now with those guys. Don was one of the first people I talked to after her diagnosis in Champaign. I will never forget how hard it was for me to keep it together while talking to him on the phone.
The weather was supposed to be rainy on Saturday, so the SIU graduations were held inside the basketball arena. I have been there before. Once. The Fort’s employees had sponsored a jersey in Summer’s name during the blackout for cancer game earlier this year. I was glad it was inside, It was humid as heck and every time the sun peaked out I was getting a sticky feeling. Once inside, Angela hard-charged ahead to get us seats. While I was following her… Summer called me. She was outside in Nate’s car and had to go back to the apartment to get his name tag so he can graduate. She wanted me to drive her in Nate’s car.
Even when graduating college… You have to help them along!
I headed to the opposite side of the arena and found Nate’s Subaru sitting with no driver in the circle drive. Summer and I got about a 1/2 mile away and Nate called to say they had extra tags! Classic event day chaos! I turned around and got a mediocre parking spot and asked Summer if she was game for the walk. She said she could do it. We got about 10 steps in and she asked to hold my arm. She can walk with a cane, but it’s easier to keep pace using someone else for balance.
We made it no problem. When we found Angela for seats, I would swear we were in the same spaces we had during that previously mentioned basketball game. Nate was seated on the floor on the opposite side of the stadium, but we had great seats to watch him get his diploma.
While we were watching the ceremony (They have an official school Mace??? Is this Harry Potter?) I leaned over and asked Summer how many credits she would have needed to graduate.
“I had enough credits in December, but I would not get my minor completed” was her response.
My mind is spinning.
“Why is she not down there right now???” I whispered at her.
“Because I didn’t know any of this was going to happen” she retorted in a hushed sarcastic way.
For the next 10 minutes of the graduation, my mind was a buzz… What do we need to do here to get her a diploma? I leaned over and told Angela. She gave Summer the exact same look I did 10 minutes before. It was agreed that we are looking into securing her degree regardless of minor status. I will be checking on this next week with SIU Cares. Those folks have been super helpful during this time.
Afterward. We met with Nate’s family and had a great little get-together in Carbondale. They love to talk and I think we had one of the longest parking lot “midwestern goodbyes” I can recall. I wish we had more time to talk. They are great people, as you might expect since Nate is their kid!
Summer made mention while we were in Carbondale that she wanted to take Angela to her favorite store. Some “hippy dippy” store as Jennifer (Nate’s Mom) and I referred to it. It was already after 3 PM and the drive is a solid 3.5 hours. Summer wanted to run back to the apartment and change, and then head over to Marion if we did stick around. That could have tacked on another 2 hours to the departure… We opted to go home. But, as you might expect… We second-guessed ourselves the whole way home. Angela and I talked about it. Saying things like “next time” or “when we are back” is dangerous and starts to become a brutal reality check.
Terrible drive home BTW. I think we drove through a Tornado south of Staunton!
We got home to a yard, mostly, mowed. Aiden and Alex had worked to edge and trim the front yard before we got home. It looked great. I was really wanting to get home to take care of the yard, but the boys alleviated that stress. Nice.
Mother’s Day was me disappointing my wife with a lack of thoughtfulness. I looked at her and said sorry I didn’t get her anything as if our bad week was enough of an excuse to get away with not even getting a card. We have been tied to the hip for the past week, but I felt really stupid
Thankfully, both of the kids got their Mom a present this year. That might be a first! Seriously.
I then was only responsible for letting down my Mom, who I also did not get a gift for! Batting 1000!
Summer and Nate came up from Decatur that morning for lunch in Pekin with Grandma Linda and then headed up to Fairbury for my family’s Mother’s Day blowout. This might have been the first time we have had all the grandkids and Grandma Stahl together in years. It was a special day.
The Vacation plan.
GoFundMe. Wow… Just wow. I went in and made some changes to the end goal in hopes of having a little buffer for our sanity while making plans for our trip. I ticked it up a few thousand and it was met that same day. Again… Just Wow. Ang had said to me the other day that we can bring a cot and sleep 5 people to a hotel room when we stop. This was source material for a fight over money. But we stopped short.
When we were headed to the wrong mound park on Friday… I had a call come in from Pat Fort. Pat said told me that his brother Trevor still has his old RV in Pekin and that they would allow us to use it for our trip. I HAD thought about asking for this Sprinter Van Conversion a week before… But I honestly believed it would be too small for 5 of us. Pat had always used it for his vacation vehicle, and I had only looked in it once. I recalled it was very small with limited seating. On our phone call, Pat told me it might be bigger than I remember.
Today, Monday, the kids, who were still home, Angle, and I went over to the barn to look it over. (Worst sentence structure ever!)
It probably can’t do 90 like we are used to… But it looks like a lot more room than a Sienna for 5 people. Aiden is absolutely sure that we are going to trap him at a KOA’s across the US. I told him, “Maybe one” and he about lost it. Now I think it might have to be at least 2!
No, honestly, sleep is important. We will do what we always do. Use aps to find hotels while using the RV to keep everyone comfortable and relaxed during the drives. I would love to bring a tent though! That might really freak Aiden out!
Today, was a Monday at work. Everyone is awesome. They are saying things like”You have better things to worry about” but I seriously have 4 or 5 infernos raging. I was getting a stress headache about a mile from work but took a deep breath after I parked our road-weary Prius the dealership has let me throw miles on over the past 6 months. I headed in. Chad stopped me and gave me a big hug first thing. Not a bad start.
Overall… Trapped on a ZOOM call till 11 and getting 1.5 items done on my list of 5 things today still felt like it turned out better than I expected. Let’s see if I can work through this list tomorrow!