Psalms 30:2 “LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”
We are far from being healed but have come quite the distance from where we began 9.5 months ago.
Taylor and my first Thanksgiving without Archie, yuck. We tried to get the family together but things just weren’t falling into place. With the countdown at two weeks and two days, Taylor made her own call. While at Grief Share I received a text. “Ok..so I booked our hotel for Wednesday night…it was 57 percent off and was only $56 for the night at the Inn of Chicago which was where we stayed when I marched. I looked at the train schedule and…”
Background: in 2008 Taylor, as an eighth grader, was asked to march with the Northwood High School Band. The Wa-Nee school system is set up so the middle school is in one town and the high school in the other, neither the two shall meet. Marching with the high school band was by invitation only and back then you had to try out. The high school instructor, sitting behind a shroud, would listen to the student play, so he would not know who he was listening to. Taylor was blessed, even earning the right to a high school letter jacket in the eighth grade.
They did well that year, earning 3rd in state, Class C. She also had the opportunity to participate in Bands of America and to march in the Chicago McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade. That was her only year with the Northwood Band, as we moved and she began school at Fairfield Middle/High School in January of that same year. Though she participated, she never had the opportunity to watch the Thanksgiving Parade…until now.
Wednesday I was getting off work early and my office buddy, Kathy stopped me to say Happy Thanksgiving. She began with,”Go and make great new memories…” which was really sweet, but then added,”Archie is looking down on you and only wants you to be happy.” I started welling, and she went on until there were tears. She is a real sweetheart, but I started our outing with one foot “in” for this adventure and the other “out,” wanting to spend the holiday in bed, wishing it were just Black Friday and I was safely back at work. Isn’t that the way everyone starts a holiday? Wishing it would end so they could go back to work? “It is what it is. Let’s just get it over with.”
Taylor and I set aside enough time that we could park, buy our tickets for the train (Archie was the driver), and still have enough time to wait a bit to board. The LAST thing we needed was the road construction (that is EVERYWHERE) in Goshen to make us late, panic when parking, rush to get tickets, then nearly miss the train–we did not do that. Check :). Ahhhhhh. Good start.
We went through all gift cards before our adventure, finding several partially used ones to help off set expenses. We started with a cheap Taco Bell meal for lupper (the meal somewhere between lunch and supper), right before we arrived at the airport. Neither of us had taken a lunch because we were leaving early, airport food and restaurants in Chicago are expensive, so this was perfect (and well within budget). We arrived nice and early, purchased our tickets, meandered around the airport, then boarded the train, where we shared a meal without stress.
It was amazing arriving in Chicago with the city fully decorated for Christmas. Arch and I had gone last year during the week between Christmas and New Years Eve, just for a night. I have now experienced the city aglow with the anticipation of the holidays with the two individuals I love(d) more than life. I am blessed.
I was surprised as I was sharing this with Taylor (she was gazing at the light show taking place on the globe crowning a skyscraper mere blocks away) that I was not crying while sharing, but smiling while watching her awed expression. As we walked briskly in the 30 something degree city, we were were surrounded by twinkle lights, wreaths, evergreen swags, and decorated trees! Beautiful!
Our first stop was, of course, Ghirardelli for our free chocolate sample and to purchase a few squares for later :), then off to the hotel–the exact hotel in which we spent the night in 2008. While checking in we asked why the sign atop the building was not lit. They explained they don’t light it every night, but immediately got on the walky talky and told us they were turning it on :D.
We dropped off our lightly packed backpacks then explored Michigan Avenue, using a gift card I didn’t even know I had for Starbucks, to get “free” coffee. We were off to take in as many lights and trees as possible, all the while reminiscing about time spent and places visited as a family of 3. After 9:00, we retired to the hotel, but only AFTER going roof top to take pictures with the lighted “Inn of Chicago” sign…just like we had in 2008.
Morning arrived before the alarm, I am still broken in that area, quick showers, then to Dunkin Donuts where Taylor used a gift card from her birthday to buy us breakfast. We loved our hot coffee, warm bagel, and breakfast sandwich as we headed across the city, with nearly empty streets, in our quest to find the parade. Over a mile later, we were shoulder to shoulder in a crowd of people, still clinging to our now warm coffee, awaiting the inception of the parade. Though at least 30 minutes early, we did not get our first glimpse of Ronald McDonald for nearly an hour and a half.
Taylor and I were chattering with excitement, her describing what it had been like marching in the parade, me detailing what Archie and I had witnessed as we were anxiously awaiting a glimpse of her in the red and black blur of the Red Regiment. Time went quickly and soon Ronald was waving from his monstrous red boot car. Taylor pulled out her phone and instantly captured moments that will never again be witnessed…sharing them with me!
Three hours later the parade concluded. One quick stop and then we descended the stairs to the train station, though we had 2.5 hours to wait. Quite a few shops and restaurants were open, but Taylor and I had accomplished what we had set out to do and were ready for our journey home.
For our Thanksgiving lunch I used the remainder of my gift card and got my most favorite: coffee! Taylor? Her love of old 80s and 90s TV series have taken their toll and what she desired most was right out of an episode of Matlock. Can you guess? A Chicago Style Hot Dog, eaten in the Pedway system of downtown Chicago, washed down with a Chai. Happy Thanksgiving to us!
For those 2.5 hours we talked through the last 24 hours, what our expectation had been, what the reality was, and then concluded as our attention turned to the movie playing 10 feet away. The final scene one character said,”every con just wants to have a meal in a restaurant like he did before. That guy just wanted to go back to when things in his life were good, and the other man wanted to go back to when his parents were still alive. It ain’t possible. You can’t go back, Ray, you can’t go back.”
Taylor and I just looked at each other. “Wow, that totally sums up where we are right now, doesn’t it?” Taylor smiled silently and nodded.
When we returned to the airport, memories were again there to greet us. These memories were painful, and to be honest, I didn’t want to talk or think about them. This was the airport I had flown into hours before we had taken Archie to the hospital when the cancer journey began. Taylor relived her day at the hospital for Archie’s CAT scan and his nausea and her fear of how he looked and how weak and helpless they both were. As we left the parking lot we passed the hotel where I had called Archie and he told me that he had told the Lord that if he had to stay in that much pain, he wanted to go home…I had hung up crying. All of those memories came back, but this time no tears from the fears. We are finding the more we talk through the painful experiences the more they turn from emotions to facts. Wow. I spoke those words to Taylor, smiled and said,”That would preach!”
I’m not a preacher, just a blogger.
Until Monday: Blessings!