Monday, January 3, 2011

road trip for family

Life has been a complete whirlwind since last Friday (Christmas Eve).  

A few weeks ago I got word from my mom that my grandpa had to go to the hospital.  He ended up developing pneumonia which in turn gave him heart complications.  Things weren't looking good.  Travis and I decided to pack up and head to New Jersey to spend time with my family, as arrangements to pull my grandfather off of life support (my grandfather's wishes) were planned for the Monday after Christmas.  A funeral would be planned for later that week.  We wanted to be there for my family, especially my grandmother.  We packed our bags, loaded up the car, and the four of us (Ellie included) started out on the nearly 1500 mile road trip.  We left Enid on Christmas Eve, around 5:00 pm.  We had intentions of making it to NJ for Christmas night, but it took us way longer than expected.  Not only did the need for sleep force us to make two stops to rest our weary eyes, but the weather decided to slow our trip significanly as well.  

The first leg of our trip was from Enid to Nashville.  We drove from 5:00 pm on Christmas Eve to 7:30 am on Christmas morning.  This is how we spent Christmas day, at a Red Roof Inn in Nashville, until about 2:30 pm:

We woke up to the parking lot looking like this: (and still snowing)

We checked out of the hotel around 2:30 pm, went over to Shoney's for a buffet Christmas lunch, then were back on the road by 3:30 pm.  The rest of Christmas day was spent driving from Nashville to Roanoke, VA.  On our way, we drove through a lot of this:

We arrived at our randomly selected hotel in Roanoke at 12:30 am.  We crashed, and were back on the road by 8:00 am.  On our way out of Virginia, we drove through a beautiful snow laden stretch of land. Thankfully the road conditions were much better than the night before.  For now.

 Once we got out of Virginia and into Maryland and Pennsylvania, the weather was much more mild.

and the clouds were incredible.

It wasn't until we hit New Jersey that the weather got intense.  It was so worrisome, that I didn't even think to take out the camera to snap a few pictures.  The conditions were ridiculous - especially on route 78 and the NJ Turnpike.  Note that we were driving through blizzard conditions; 15-20 inches of snow were predicted.  (We definitely got that, and then some.)  The weather added about 3 hours onto our trip in the end.  I don't think I have ever been so worried for our safety on the road.  I honestly thought we might not make it to my parents' house that night.  Other drivers were getting stuck in the snow along the highways, left and right.  I was fearful that we might end up just like them.  Thankfully, with lots of prayer and a husband that knows how to handle a car in a variety of road conditions, we made it to my parents house safely.  (Whew!)  We were exhausted upon arrival (about 9:30 pm); the trip really wore us out.   As we snuggled into bed that Sunday evening, the snow continued to fall...

This is what we woke up to on Monday morning:

my parents' car covered in snow

looking up the street

the Malibu's first snow

Because of this storm (blizzard), my grandmother was unable to get out of the house on Monday and head over to the hospital to sign the papers to take my grandpa off of life support.  Things had to wait until Tuesday.  

On Tuesday afternoon, my parents, Travis, Callan, and myself were out shopping at the Christmas Tree Shop when my mom's phone rang.  We were expecting the worst.  However, my aunt told my mom that Grandpa was eating applesauce and breathing on his own!  Unbelievable.  We drove 1500 miles to say our good-byes to my grandfather and here he is getting better!...or so we thought.  

Tuesday night, we drove down to Staten Island to my grandmother's house.  My mom headed over to the hospital, while Travis and I stayed back with Callan.  My mom had to see my grandpa for herself.  Needless to say, when my mom and grandma arrived back from the hospital, they were awe struck.  They couldn't believe that they had every intention to "pull the plug" that day, and then my grandpa goes and livens right up.  We didn't want to get our hopes up, but things were looking pretty good, well, better.  With congestive heart failure we could only take it one day at a time.  God blessed us with a few more days of my grandpa here on this earth.  He got a few more love-filled visits with his wife, children, and grandchildren...

It was wonderful to see my family, despite the circumstances. 

With my grandpa doing better - even sitting up to eat applesauce and mashed potatoes - we couldn't stay any longer.  Travis had to be back for work on Monday.  We drove up for a funeral, but we didn't mind leaving without attending one - that means my grandpa was still alive.  We left my parents house on Friday, New Year's Eve, around 8:00 am.  We made a quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts before we hit the road.

coffees, bagels, and donuts

chocolate creme filled donut

We drove from my parents house to Columbus, OH and spent the night at a La Quinta.  

Callan at the hotel

I rang in the new year with these two little cuties as Travis was zonked out from a long day of driving:

(taken with my iPhone)

We were back on the road headed for home come 8:00 am New Year's day.  Around 8:30 am my phone rings.  My dad's on the other end.  He sadly shared with me that my grandpa died that morning.  As tears welled up in my eyes, I desperately wanted to turn around and head back to NJ to be with my family, but I knew that couldn't happen.  As we drove the rest of the way home, all I could think about was my grandpa and the wonderful memories I have of him.  Family vacations at Camp-of-the-Woods and camping in Pennsylvania, his workshop in the basement, the bowl of candy he always had within arm's reach, the sound he used to make when we were younger (my sister and cousins know the one...), the way he prayed at family dinners with his "thees" and "thous"... I could go on... what fond memories he gave us.  Sigh.  I was (and still am) so sad that I have to miss his funeral.  But I am so thankful for his long, happy life and the few good days he had before he left this world to meet his Savior.  

my grandpa - such a stud back in the day

The rest of the drive home was pretty emotional.  I (we all) just wanted to get home.  

...and Missouri (I wasn't quick enough to catch the "welcome to" sign), although I did get the St. Louis arch:

a random city wall filled with boarded up doors and windows

Thankfully the weather was much better on the way home.  We did have some rain as we started out on Saturday morning - however it was appropriate, so I didn't mind.  It cleared up after a while to reveal beautiful blue skies and some pretty amazing clouds. 

It was such a relief to finally start seeing signs for cities closer to home...

We drove, that last day from Columbus, OH to Enid.  We arrived home around 11:30 pm Saturday night.  A long day in the car.

This trip was certainly emotional - sad, hopeful, joyous...

For things I am thankful:

*a safe trip - both to and from NJ
*a loving, supportive family
*amazing memories of my Grandpa
*the fact that my grandfather is spending eternity with Jesus - and one day I will see him again
*my Grandma got to meet Callan - her first great grandchild
*God's peace during this difficult time

my grandma holding Callan

14 states over 9 days, 50+ hours in the car, at least 9 fill-ups, 3 hotel stops...all for one incredible man.  Worth it.


  1. so sorry to hear about your grandpa. sounds like he was an amazing man

  2. Thanks a lot for making me get teary eyed while on my lunch break at the office. You are a great writer. Its good that you got to be there with family.