Storytelling: Part I

I come from a family of storytellers.  Admittedly, we tell the same stories over and over.  But we laugh just as much after the 20th time as we did the first time.  And if someone is around who has never heard our stories, it’s like Christmas morning for us.  Settle in for some entertainment, my friend!  We will have your ear for awhile.

Who doesn’t like to hear a person’s story – either funny or scary or interesting?  It’s so easy to forget our stories as life swirls in and out of control and we fight to keep our head above water.  But what are we without our stories?

And since I love hearing people’s stories, I am all the more willing to share my own.

It was May 2003 and Erik had been in the hospital for a month and a half.  He had been on the transplant list for almost 30 days at Status 1-A which meant the doctors had given him less than 20 days to live without a transplant.  He was receiving two IV drugs around the clock and had been in and out of ICU depending on how stable he was.  It had been a very long spring.

Erik hadn’t stepped foot outside St. Paul since April 16 and I only left the hospital to check the mail at our Dallas post office box or when my sister would kidnap me for a dinner out.  I was sleeping either in Erik’s room on the cardiac floor, or in the cottage attached to the hospital when he was moved to ICU.

Bryce and Lexi were living in Tahoka with my parents and would visit almost every weekend.  Erik and I constantly worried about how the separation would affect them and all I could say was, “God’s grace is sufficient…”  We really didn’t have any choice but to trust the Lord to shield our kids as much as possible from the anxiety and fear we were living with.  And thankfully my parents provided that umbrella of protection that Erik and I just couldn’t.

Word arrived one day that Bryce’s kindergarten graduation was coming up and that all parents and grandparents were invited to attend.  Erik felt very strongly that I should go home for a couple of days and go to the ceremony.  Bryce had been through a lot, so Erik thought it was imperative that I go to graduation.

I whole-heartedly disagreed!  At any moment we could get the call that a heart was available and that Erik would be going into open heart surgery.  He was also in and out of ICU due to the significant heart failure as his condition worsened.  I had been by his side since everything started going downhill in January – why NOW would I leave him to go six hours away?  I just couldn’t accept that.

However, Erik was adamant and begged me to go.  He said it would make him feel so much better to know that I was there for Bryce at his 45 minute kindergarten graduation ceremony.  Of course the separation from the kids was as hard on Erik as it was on the rest of us, so I finally agreed just to put him at ease and maybe give him one less thing to worry about.

My sister and brother-in-law had brought the kids to see us that weekend, so upon Erik’s urging I reluctantly got in the car and drove away that Sunday morning with Abby, Chris and the kids – leaving Erik and his mother in his hospital room waiting on a heart.

During that long drive to Tahoka, I sat in the backseat with Bryce and Lexi.  We cuddled and read books and visited.  I held them while they slept and it felt so good to be right in the middle of them for that long road trip.  But inside I was a nervous wreck.  Every mile we drove was a minute further away from Erik. 

What if he gets a heart and goes into surgery before I can get back?  What if he goes back into ICU and they can’t get him stabilized before I get back?  My mind was reeling.

We finally arrived in Tahoka and started to unload the car.  I walked into my parents’ house, looked at my mother in a panic and said, “I cannot do this!” 

And without hesitation my mom said, “Call Southwest!” 

So before I had even walked all the way into the living room, I picked up the phone and called Southwest Airlines.  Then I hugged the kids goodbye, walked right back outside, got in the car and drove to the airport.  I was in the air less than 2 hours after arriving home.

My sister Kelly picked me up at Dallas Love and drove me back to the hospital.  We sat in the lobby for several hours recounting the turn of events that brought me full circle back to St. Paul.  While it was a huge relief to be back in the metroplex, there was no way I could tell Erik that I had come all the way back and would indeed be missing graduation.  He was content thinking I was in Tahoka with the kids, so I decided to just go with that little white lie. 

What fun it was to call my mother-in-law and ask her to stealthily make her way down to the lobby.  And oh how we laughed as I explained my journey to Tahoka and back that afternoon.  She gladly agreed not to tell Erik and to stay with him until I came back the next day.  I had great peace knowing I could get back to the hospital in minutes if I needed to, AND that Phyllis was there with Erik.

I spent that night at Matt and Kelly’s house and got back to the hospital the next afternoon.  Erik questioned how I was back so early, but I just told him I had caught an earlier flight (which was technically true).  I had never felt better as I settled back onto my leather couch in Room 603. 

{sigh of relief}

The entire family kept my secret change of plans from Erik for a long, long time.  In fact, it was more than a year later over a steak dinner and some Merlot that I finally confessed to Erik that I had not gone to Bryce’s graduation.  It took him a second to even remember the circumstances, but once he did he could only shake his head and laugh.  Truthfully, sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Then Erik proceeded to tell me a story that almost put me under the table.  The entire family had also been keeping a secret from me for over a year.  And now it was Erik’s turn to confess….

To be continued.

(Here is a picture of Bryce & Lexi during this time.  I love it because they are clearly posing for the picture, but then a cat darted out.  So Bryce took on his ninja stance and Lexi’s eyes got so big!)


2 thoughts on “Storytelling: Part I

  1. Oh Jenny. I love reading your blog. I look forward to every one. I am on the edge of my seat wanting to know the secret. Love you guys. What a blessing you are to those of us that know you. Your stories bring so much comfort and are such a great reminder of faith. Keep on keepin on….your friend, Jenni Blayer


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