My brain and my heart are full tonight. I don't even know where to start with this post.
Thursday morning we began a six-hour drive across the desert to visit Erik's aunt, uncle, and two cousins. It has been many years since I have been able to say I have been in the middle of nowhere geographically speaking. What made this trek especially spooky was the fact that before we left, I did a frantic load of laundry and in my haste forgot to extract my cell phone from the pocket of my jeans, rendering it nothing but a fancy paperweight in a matter of seconds. Not that I would have gotten a clear signal where we had to go, anyway. We spent hours traversing miles of volcanic rock and sagebrush, passing through newly-born ghost towns offering us nothing but sagging, eerily blank gas station signs and shattered windows. We stopped once to use the restroom at a truck stop, and Brian bought a cup of coffee that was dispensed from a machine stating it wasn't for wimps. It tasted like I imagined truck stop coffee would. We continued our journey and saw nothing else but an occasional herd of striped antelope for hours. This was Erik's first trip out of state. Although I was nervous about how he would do, he was, of course, amazing, as always, munching on cookies Boppa and Gua provided and watching Sesame Street for just the last hour of our trip.
The weather held beautifully, and we spent the weekend relaxing at Brian's brother's house in Idaho. Oh, yes, there is a God. I love this family to death. Amazingly, despite my neurotic/paranoid/antisocial tendencies, I am completely relaxed in their home, and my sister-and-law always greets me as if we saw each other just a few days ago. After Erik adjusted to the kids, he did fairly well, although he certainly didn't interact with them like a typical child would and clung to us the majority of the time. His cousins are aware he is different, although they have yet to understand exactly why, and they tend to be sweetly protective of him. We saw him make giant strides in a matter of days. He used the term "upside-down" correctly, much to my surprise, and played with his older cousin for an extended period of time. He insisted sitting with us the day his cousins enjoyed children's movies in the other room, and, although he did wonderfully overall, he still preferred our company over the children.
After a security check, we were allowed to tour the more public areas of the nearby military base, and the sheer bleakness of it all along with the heavy planes we saw sitting on the tarmac ready to rip into the sky brought stinging reality to my brain and a strange, persistent nausea to my stomach. It's impossible to ignore the fact we are at war in that particular setting and what that means to our family. We mingled with military families at the BX, a shopping facility that appears a lot like a less fancy version of Wal-Mart at first glance but feels very different. I was perusing a rack of incredibly-priced, fabulously-scented shower gel when I heard a very pleasant female voice on the loudspeaker announce, "Auntie Nancy, could you come to the jewelry counter, please?" I thought I was hearing things, but it just so happened that my oldest nephew had gotten separated from us and had asked a clerk for help. I am proud to say that I have now been called into action on a military base.
We slept well in general, although it was dicey at times. The nearby trains that shrieked every couple hours upon their arrival caused Erik to kick fitfully in his sleep or cry, but we had been warned by my sister-in-law before we arrived, and we left his reaction to chance. Was it difficult at times? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely. It's these little things that serve as reminders that no matter what we do or where we go, there is no vacation from WS. By the last night, Erik cried the horrible, strange, colicky infant cry he still has not left behind at the age of 3 for at least an hour before he finally settled into a restless sleep. The next morning he very simply asked to go home.
It was the first time in a long time I wasn't itching to go home after two days on a trip. After traveling a bit in my younger years, I desire nothing but to be home. Thankfully, I felt as if I was home all Thanksgiving holiday. While being around typical children can be heart wrenching, I love my nephews with all of my being and am so proud of both of them and who they are becoming. Looking at their photos upon our return, I am shocked at how grown up they suddenly seem. There was just one moment during which I thought my heart would break into a thousand pieces. Without warning, I realized I desperately wished things had turned out differently for us. However, the rest of the time brought nothing but happiness, and I know that even in the midst of our challenges, we are surrounded by friends and family who love us and support us no matter what our situation brings. As far as an emotional hangover, it did attempt to hit me today, but I was so incredibly busy today that I didn't have time for it.
Instead, I spent the morning acquiring a new phone from a young man who instantly and inexplicably fell all over himself the moment I came through the door of his store. I joked with him and asked him if he was awake yet, which only seemed to make him worse. I finally completed our transaction and left with a brand new phone with a Gwen Stefani ringtone. I then spent the remainder of my day trying to complete four hours of bone densitometry scan reports, two trips to the vet, countless loads of laundry, and unpacking. By the end of the day, I found myself at the animal hospital nodding thoughtfully before a series of illuminated films showcasing the twisted, thickened insides of my cat, who seems to have been stricken with either cancer or irritable bowel syndrome. I chatted with a veterinarian while Gracie-Cat shook off the effects of a double dose of sedation used to tame her during the studies, which ended up costing nearly $400. As I was interested in adding a little weight to my vehicle with a snowstorm on its way into town after the appointment, I stopped to stand in line to pay $3.25 a gallon to fill up my Jeep. I was feeling thoroughly financially ravaged by this point. It was there I found myself rummaging through my purse to the hoarse screams of an increasingly conscious, pissed-off feline when I saw the empty window in my wallet and realized the flustered young man who had helped me with my phone in the morning had failed to return my drivers' license. As it was five minutes to five, I left the gas station at mock speed, peeling out in the parking lot, making it across the intersection to the wireless store just before I assumed they closed. The sheepish clerk reached under the counter and stammered an apology that made no more sense than our conservation from earlier in the day. I smiled but had no time to respond. I had a screaming, increasingly pissed-off cat with freshly shaved buttocks freezing to death in the back of my car and had just spotted a familiar truck with two familiar shadowy silhouettes inside turning off the highway just outside the store.
No time for deep thoughts or reflection. I had a little boy and his father to meet for dinner.