Woot! We finally got to take a family trip! Prior to purchasing our new van, we lacked any ability to make a trip anywhere really. With an unreliable vehicle, I just wouldn’t drag my family across the country. As a result, we have missed many family functions, and opportunities to support people in times of need. Finally, On April 12th we loaded up and headed for Oklahoma!
Why Oklahoma? Our son lives there with his wonderful wife and two kids! Yes, we have grandchildren at the wonderfully young age of 44! But the excitement was tempered by the reason for the trip, and the fear of whether we’d have to cancel it last minute because Isaiah wouldn’t handle the ride or stay in a strange place.
The trip was kind of sudden. I haven’t had a Facebook account in about a year so I didn’t see the post myself, but in late March Deb came to me with the information that my son and his family would be hosting a memorial BBQ for a friend of his. Brandon Abrams (Brandito) took his own life in April of 2017. Like many who lose this battle to depression, Brandon left behind a slew of people who loved him greatly and missed him beyond words, my son being one of those people.
It was heart-wrenching for me as a father when I had to watch the cruises, memorial runs, and gatherings from 1000 miles away. I wanted to be there to support my son in the worst way, but it simply wasn’t possible. This wasn’t the only thing I’d missed down there, but it was one of the biggest, ranking right up there with the birth of my two grandchildren.
When the memorial BBQ came up, we knew we wanted to go. As it turned out, money would be an issue, and it looked like we would have to back out. The purchase price of our new van being more than we had desired, cleaned us out. We hadn’t told anyone other than my mother that we were thinking about going because we didn’t want anyone disappointed if it didn’t work out. Money was only one mountain, Isaiah and his ability to travel and deal with change was the other.
About two weeks before the trip my mom asked me if we were planning to go. When I told her we were likely not and why she said, “Well I’d like to go. What if I pay for the gas?” And with that the ball was in motion to go, with only one more hurdle left to jump.
Isaiah would be the ultimate decision maker on whether the trip would happen or not. He can’t handle crowds, loud noise, or change very well at all. When he got in the new van for the first time he completely freaked out, and we had to take him out right away.
His second experience in the van was taking his sister to get her hair cut. As soon as we got to the salon we had to take him out. He was stuck between being freaked out in the van, or freaked out because of the loud noises where we waited for his sister. We’d only had the new van a month, and hadn’t had much opportunity to get him used to it. It was very sad to watch him struggle.
Any chance of full-timing in an RV would be dependent on Isaiah’s ability to not only cope, but enjoy himself on trips – after all a major piece in our desire to do this is to offer him the experiences. The next couple of weeks were full of apprehension for Deb and I as we prepared to go. It’s hard to get excited about much of anything when you always know in the back of your mind that one of your children might not be able to handle it.
Once we decided to go we contacted our daughter-in-law to let her know we were considering the trip. We kept it from our son. If we could, we wanted it to be a surprise for him, and if we couldn’t make it, we didn’t want it to be a let down. Deb and Mom worked out the details with Ashley on food and sleeping, and everything was looking good. We didn’t tell anyone, not even our own children. We didn’t want to risk someone slipping up in a chat channel or on Facebook, and letting the cat out of the bag. Isaiah seemed to be the only wildcard… Until the Wednesday before we were leaving.
The plan was to leave on Friday April 13th at 6 AM. This would allow us to roll into Lawton, OK by around 10 PM. That would mean we were there with enough time to sleep, and be ready for the BBQ on Saturday. However, as the week was progressing we noticed that the predictions of a snow storm were moving closer and closer. As I looked at weather maps and projections, I was starting to get concerned about being caught in it. On Thursday afternoon it seemed that the storm was going to affect as far south as Des Moines, IA. If the predicted storm impact moved up just four to six more hours, we’d end up caught in it and possibly shut down. That afternoon the decision to pull out at 10 PM the same night was made.
We had to wait for my nephew to get off work and have time to shower before we could pull out. I had only gotten 6 hours of sleep the night before, and I’d be driving all night. I decided to load the trailer with as much as I could as quickly as I could, and jump in bed for a nap. All said and done, I ended up with two hours of sleep before I got back up at 9:30 PM and spent another hour and a half helping finish up packing and getting things loaded.
When I took Isaiah out to the van it seemed our fears were about to be realized. I had strapped him in, the van was running for heat, my mom, my nephews, Elijah and Elizabeth were all buckled in, and Isaiah freaked. I had gone back in to help Deb finish up, but when I hauled more stuff out, Isaiah was already in my Mom’s lap fighting her trying to get out of the van door. Nerves had made him sick. I am pretty sure everyone thought it was a done deal right there. I know I did.
After getting him changed we decided to wait to put him in the van until we were ready to leave. Deb would sit right next to him on the trip; she’s his favorite. Much like a toddler wants mom when they are stressed out, Isaiah seems to handle all of his mountains so much better when Mom is right by his side to talk and encourage him through it.
While we continued to pack and load we kept telling him we were going to take a long car ride but he would be just fine. I tried to tell him that it would only be scary for a little bit, but he would soon see he was going to be fine. He calmed down a bit while waiting, and 10 minutes later we were all loaded, and climbing in the van.
Isaiah was agitated as we all climbed in and Deb buckled him into his seat. We decided to roll out. We were going to go through the metro area toward the south and see how he did. The state line was 90 minutes south and that was our cut off. If he wasn’t calm by then, we were going to turn around and come 90 minutes back home. He’d get good exposure to the van then, and maybe a couple more rides like that would mellow him out.
By the time we hit the state line he was fine. He sat in his seat looking around at the lights and stuff out the window. At one point we moved him from the spot behind the drivers seat, to the center of the bench seat so he could watch out the front window as well as seeing out both sides.
The trip, a roughly 14 hour drive, ended up taking about 21 hours. We were going to hit rush hour in Kansas, so we stopped in southern Iowa and let the kids play for two hours at a rest area while I grabbed a quick nap. Isaiah actually stayed awake almost the entire time going both ways. He seemed to really enjoy looking around at everything going by. He did outstanding, actually using the bathrooms at the stops we made. It was truly amazing how well all the kids traveled. We didn’t even do any fancy tricks or gimmicks, no videos, no gadgets or toys. They sat, sang, talked, and rode very well. In fact, I think the teenagers complained more than the little kids.
Isaiah ended up doing fantastic. He had some rough spells when all the people were around, but I think most of us guys did. A distaste for large crowds seems to be common among men in our family. When Isaiah had issues we used the almighty iPad to distract him.
I was so happy to be able to be there for the event in support of my son. We were not only able to be moral support, but also help with the cooking and moving food around. Keeping people fed, and helping watch kids. Deb and Ashley worked their butts off, but managed to have a good time along the way!
This trip has really made Deb and I excited as the prospects of what we may be able to do moving forward. Isaiah handling this trip well allows us to plan other trips to places he might very much enjoy. None of us wanted to leave when the time came, but commitments back at home made it mandatory.