Happy Campers

When I was a kid, the one thing we did often as a family was go to the lake. My grandfather gave my dad his old v-hull boat and my dad worked on that boat an entire winter to get it just the way he wanted. New seats. New fiberglass interior finish. New motor. When he finally got it ready to go, off to the lake we went.

We’d stay a whole week at a time – fishing, swimming, skiing and floating on air mattresses. We drank sodas from a can and ate bologna sandwiches and potato chips all day long. We ran free and did whatever we wanted. For a kid, there could be nothing better. Get dirty? No big deal, just jump in the lake. All we had for camping was a heavy canvas tent with a pole in the center and a Coleman stove, but those were some of the best days of my life.

When our own kids were growing up, we also had a tent and a Coleman stove. But we didn’t have a boat. We would drag those kids camping, sometimes more willingly than others, and we would camp. Turns out being the parent isn’t quite as much fun as being the kid. Camping is some work, am I right? As the mom, it seemed like all I did was prepare meals and clean up messes… and try to keep bored kids entertained. I suppose if we had a boat it might have gone differently, but we did hike and swim and float and enjoy the great outdoors. Even if the reality of adulthood took the wonder out of camping, I still really enjoyed those trips.

Now that we are mostly retired, Skip and I bought a little camper. I mean it’s small. It looks like half a camper, haha. Compared to our campground neighbors with their big rigs and their four slide outs and outdoor kitchens, ours looks like an egg theirs might have laid. But when you compare our camper to a tent, we have taken a big step up. This is luxury.

Our Aliner Ascape 13′ camper has a booth style table which converts into a queen size bed, a two burner gas stove, a small refrigerator, a built in microwave, a TV with soundbar and Bluetooth, a cassette toilet which is a real blessing, an outdoor shower, AND AN AIR CONDITIONER. We are not suffering. The best thing is that we can pull it with our KIA Sportage. It only weighs about 1600 pounds!

camper and car
We set up and break down camp like pros!

Interestingly, as it turns out, during this time of COVID 19 and social distancing, camping has become a popular activity. It’s sometimes hard to get a reservation these days. In a time that everything in our lives has been turned upside down, I am thankful we have this little camper. We love to fly, we love to travel, we love to go to restaurants and theaters. It has been painful to have to sit at home. At our age we see the clock ticking and we feel like we are waiting at the starting gate. At least when we are camping, we don’t dwell on what we are missing. We enjoy those days as if nothing had changed.

camping sunset
My favorite time of day.

If there’s a silver lining to 2020, it’s that we have been forced to slow down. We’ve found the time to reflect upon our lives and what is important to us. Our campsite is my own personal place of reflection. I am, in that space, a happy camper.

The End of the World

So the end of the world script which I had anticipated goes like this:

Monster aliens are attacking and we are all hiding in odd old buildings and garages trying to figure out how to get rid of them. Or… All the Christians disappear and we are hiding in caves, using encrypted satellite phones, stealing groceries and supplies, and trying to take down the anti-Christ. Or… Global warming has caused epic flooding over two-thirds of the planet and we are all racing for higher ground… and of course, there are simultaneous earthquakes and tornadoes. In all of these scenarios, of course, our family is well, safe, intact, and involved in saving the world. We are clever. We are bold.

The version of the end of the world we are living, it turns out, is not my favorite. I mean, I realize this isn’t the end of the world. But I do believe it could be the end of the world as we know it. Globally, our world has changed. And I believe it will never be exactly as it once was. But I’d rather be rebuilding monster-destroyed buildings than learning how to live with a virus which can be transmitted whether someone is showing any symptoms or not. Nope. Send me the monsters. Send me the aliens. I’ll take the earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and tornadoes. I need a monster I can see, thank you very much. I need a disaster we can roll up our sleeves and rebuild from.

We lived in the country in southeast Oklahoma until about a year ago when we moved to Oklahoma City. We sold our home, packed up what would fit into a one bedroom apartment, left our family behind, and moved to the big city. Why? Everyone asked. We picked up and moved because we wanted to go places. Do things. Eat in cool restaurants. Go to sporting events. Attend concerts.  Be close to the airport. Travel. Hang out in crowds.

Monday, February 17th, marked the beginning of our world being turned upside down. It started as a regular day. We went to meet with our tax accountant. We had a lovely lunch out at HopDoddy Burger Bar. My featured photo for this blog post was taken at that lunch. From there we went to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on all the yummy goodies we love.

We made our way back to our apartment, I opened my $5.99 bottle of Trader Joe’s red wine, poured a glass, and started fixing a dinner of pasta, chicken and cream sauce with artichoke hearts. I was just about to throw the pasta in boiling water when my phone went off. It was my 17 year old granddaughter calling. “Nana, the heart transplant team called. They have a heart for me. We are headed to Dallas.” 

While I was on the phone with my daughter, my husband finished fixing dinner. I wolfed down a small portion, packed a bag, and headed to Dallas. We knew this was coming. We just didn’t know when. We knew she was on the heart transplant list. But we certainly didn’t know what else was to come.

Aubrey and Me

I spent a week in Dallas, a week in southeast Oklahoma caring for my granddaughter’s three brothers, left my husband with them, back in Dallas, maybe a day or two at home, I don’t remember. It’s all a blur. Because about five days after Aubrey’s surgery, my mother called me. She was being admitted to the hospital.

I eventually left my daughter’s side, left my grandsons with my husband, and ended up in Sherman, Texas with my mother. She was very sick and she kept getting sicker. I spent a week at the Reba House, and she spent a week in the ICU. Then… she died.

Around that time we were hearing about the coronavirus. We discussed it some with the ICU nurses. By the time my mother died on March 11th, it was becoming apparent COVID-19  was something we too were going to have to face. We had a small memorial on Sunday, March 15th and then on Monday the 16th national ‘Shelter in Place’ orders were starting to be issued.

My Mother
My Mother

After getting my mother’s affairs in order, and when we realized that school was indefinitely canceled, my husband and I gathered our three grandsons, and headed back to Oklahoma City. And here, in our little apartment, the five of us have been sheltering in place for two weeks.

This isn’t a romantic, thrilling, telling of an exciting end of the world scenario. This is real life. We are getting along okay, and we are well, but this is not exciting. We aren’t jumping into a four wheel drive and outrunning broken fault lines or aliens. The truth is, this is very boring and frightening all at the same time.  Like the movie Contagion with Jude Law and Kate Winslet. I didn’t like that movie at all. Pfft.

Aubrey had a rough go of it for a while there. But she is showing exponential progress these days and we are so excited to see her up and moving around. She FaceTimes me several times a day. She’s sad and kind of mad about her reality right now, but that’s a good thing. She is fighting hard to get back home and be reunited with these brothers of hers. And they can’t wait to see her either.

I pray for you and your family. I pray you will be safe from this invisible virus monster threatening to destroy our lives. I pray for protection, I pray for our leaders’ wisdom, I pray for a vaccine, I pray for restoration and recovery. There is a humility in realizing that we are not alone in this. That we are not above it, nor can we outrun it. I hope that as a nation we can become a kinder, gentler, and more empathetic people toward those less fortunate than us. We will be changed by this. I pray we are changed well.

Aubrey healing and her Mom
Aubrey Hannah in Recovery and her Mom

 

 

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