Sunday, December 6, 2009

Road Trip!!

It's Sunday, late morning and I am in the playroom watching Lucy play pretend and Hank and Charlie play video games. Just a normal weekend in the Gibbs' household. Except it's anything, but "normal". This isn't our playroom...and those aren't our video games...and this isn't the Gibbs' household!

We are in Connecticut, where we have spent the last two days with our friends, Patty and Larry Richard and their sons, Sean and Kyle. Getting out of the city, was just what Hank needed to recuperate. He has forgotten about his surgery and is enjoying being a kid, surrounded by people who completely understand all he has endured. The Richard family has spent many years dealing with the effects of Parry Romberg Syndrome. Their son, Kyle, has had the same surgeries as Hank. It is such a great gift to be able to spend time with people who truly understand what we are going through!

Hank's revision surgery was such a different experience than his 8 hour free-flap surgery in July. I expected a tough recovery, but so far it has been relatively easy. Hank is one resilient kid! Thursday was the day after surgery and also the day that Hank's surgeon, Dr. Siebert, was heading out of town. I was a little concerned about nursing Hank back to health all on our own with out a follow-up appointment until Tuesday. How would I know if he was looking as he should?

I called Dr. Siebert's office and asked if we could get in to see him before he leaves. "He's leaving the office at 11:45 am," Dee, his receptionist told me. I looked at the clock...11:03 and we are in pajamas...."OK, I said...we will be right there." Hank and I quickly got dressed, threw on our coats and ran outside to catch a cab. Fifteen minutes later we were sitting in the exam room with Dr. Siebert. "Hey big guy!" he said to Hank, as they gave each other a high-five. "How are you feeling?" "Good!" Hank replied. "You look great!" Dr. Siebert announced. He said that the swelling might get a little more pronounced, but that was normal and his eye might even swell shut. But not to worry...and to keep the incision over his eye lubricated with polysporin. "He's going to look fantastic!" he assured us.

Hank looked at Dr. Siebert and asked, "When can I go see Kyle?" I smiled to myself as I watched the doctor deflate just a little bit. He had told me the day before that Hank could not go to Connecticut to see Kyle because he was too active when there. I promised that we were just going to lay around, play Legos and watch movies. "Well, if that's the case, you can go on Saturday," he said with a grin. "ALL RIGHT!" Hank replied. I was so relieved. I knew that Hank wanted to see Kyle and his family, more than anything. And Lucy had been asking us "when can I meet Larry?" (although I don't know if she realized Larry is the dad...) Let's face it, our entire family would be very disappointed if we didn't get to see the Richard's!

We gave Dr. Siebert hugs, said goodbye to his staff, Nilsa and Dee, and went out and caught a cab. "You know, I am feeling pretty good," Hank confided, "Let's go to the Museum of Natural History today!" I thought about it for a split-second, and then remembered that Hank had surgery YESTERDAY, and no way would we be going anywhere! When we got back to the apartment, Hank laid down on the couch, "I'm tired," he said. And I knew that laying low was exactly what he needed.

I filled Jeff in on what Dr. Siebert said and called Patty Richard to let her know. I got a text message from her later that said, "My family wants to see your family...we're coming to get you tomorrow!" OK, so it was a day earlier than the doctor said, but as Patty and I discussed....they were coming in the evening...and really...what's the difference between sitting on a couch and resting and sitting in a car and resting? Same thing, right? Well, at least that was the logic we used to make our plans!

We didn't say anything to the kids about our upcoming trip and just concentrated on keeping Hank quiet and resting. We played cards, watched TV, the kids played on their hand-held video games. And Jeff and I were right there with them. I did make quite a few trip up to the laundry done...lots of washers and dryers made quick work of it!

In my effort to keep Christmas alive and well for the kids while we are traveling, I brought along some snowman appliques for the kids to decorate the apartment with. Three snowmen, three kids...great idea...or not! The snowmen weren't the same was a was really small...and so the whining began! UGH! So much for a fun family project! But after they realized that they could dress and re-dress the snowmen, everyone settled down and had a fun time!

Friday morning we got up and Jeff and I picked up the apartment and got our things together for the trip to Connecticut. The kids played together and didn't seem to even notice that we were packing! We stayed in until afternoon and the piled ourselves into a taxi made for four passengers...and headed up to 5th avenue where all the stores are. We didn't tell them where they were going, so the whole ride, Hank kept asking, "Where are we going, again?" We made them guess and I can't believe none of them got it right. What they didn't know, was that we were heading to "Build-a-Bear," a store where the kids can pick out a stuffed animal and actually stuff it themselves, dress it, and adopt it. Kind of silly, but they really love it! And the store in NYC is huge!

The kids had such a great time and we didn't even mind that it was crowded and the lines were long. Hank picked out a frog, which he named, "Warty" and dressed as Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. Charlie's choice was a wolf, which he dressed as Darth Vader, also from Star Wars and named it "Wolf Vader". (so clever) And Lucy decided on a cinnamon colored bunny which she dressed as a fairy, but put cheetah-print Maryjane shoes on, and is now called "Beautiful". I think it is so fun to see their different personalities and creativity shine through on things like this. They each have their own mind and pick what they want!
It was dark by the time we left Build-a-Bear, and headed out. Patty had sent me a text message that they were on their way, so I thought we had a couple of hours to kill. I had the bright idea to go look at the windows at Macy's and herded the family in that direction. But I must have had a brain hiccup...we were on 46th street and in my mind, it was just two blocks down and two blocks over...but it wasn't on 44th was on 34th Street! So the hike had been in vain! With the energy flagging and the stomachs rumbling, we stopped into a McDonald's to get the kids a quick snack. We ended up on the third floor of the restaurant, where the kids happily dug into their not-so-nutritious meal. I received a text message from Patty that said they were getting close. "EEK! I thought...we are not going to be there when they arrive!" I showed the text to Jeff and we started hustling the kids out. Done or not...we had to go!

We headed out the door and down the street, where Radio City Music Hall stood out against the night sky. The streets were crowded with people and traffic was congested, so we headed for a side street to catch a cab. We found ourselves among even more people and smack in the middle of Rockefeller Center and the gigantic and beautiful Christmas tree! It felt like everyone in NYC picked the exact same moment to view the tree and it was a little daunting to make sure we had all three kids in sight. But we stayed for a minute and took some pictures. It is truly a remarkable sight and I am excited that we got to see it.

We pushed through the crowd and made out way out onto a busy street. We quickly hailed a cab and made our way down to the apartment. Patty and Larry had arrived at the apartment and were waiting for us. I was very eager to see them and did not want them to have to wait for us. The kids still did not know that they were picking us up, and I couldn't wait to see Hank's reaction. The cab ride took longer than expected and with five people crammed into a small cab with bulky jackets, my purse and three big "Build-a-Bear" boxes, it was less than comfortable.

We pulled up to the apartment and I saw a vehicle in the loading zone with a police parking enforcement vehicle parked alongside. Uh-oh...this can't be good. I could only imagine how stressed Larry would be feeling. We piled out of the cab just as Patty came out of the SUV. I smiled at Patty and watched Hank to see his reaction. I saw him catch Patty out of the corner of his eye. He looked at me. He did a double take and looked at Patty. He looked at me. "Hank, who is that?" I asked. "Is that Patty?!" he asked. He looked again and then yelled, "It IS Patty! and Larry too!" He was so confused...what were they doing there? "Hank, they are picking us up to go to their house!" I told him. "Tonight? Right now?" he said as he turned and gave Patty a huge hug. Hugs all around and then we were racing into the apartment to grab our bags. They had told the police officer that they were picking up a patient, and were given the OK to stay where they were. We moved as quickly as possible, and before I knew it, we were loaded in and ready to go.
Hank and Charlie were in the third row of seat, with jackets, blankets and stuffed animals between them. They couldn't see each other, and I am pretty sure that Charlie couldn't see out the window. Lucy sat sandwiched between Patty and I in the second row, and Jeff rode shotgun, with Larry at the wheel. Larry maneuvered us out of the city and we were on our way. The boys fell asleep in the back and Lucy kept Patty and I entertained with her "i-pod" toy for her new bunny animal.

We stopped for dinner, and had a fun time as the kids and Jeff got acquainted with Larry and Patty. Lucy usually takes a little while to warm up to people, but she quickly felt comfortable with those two. Charlie sat next to Larry and I could see they were already fast friends. I sat there feeling so happy and grateful that Jeff, Charlie and Lucy were getting the chance to meet the Richard's. And I couldn't believe we were with them! What a wonderful treat!

After dinner, we got back on the road, and a half hour later, we were driving up their driveway, and being greeted by "Mocha" their friendly chocolate lab. Hank was out of the car in a flash. Hugging Mocha and heading for the house. He was greeted by 14-year old Sean and 20-year old Kyle...the Richard offspring. Hank loves them so much and has a special bond with them. Their friendship and support aided his recovery after his last surgery and Hank will never forget it. He considers them his friends and big brothers and with Kyle experiencing the same condition...Hank looks up to him, and the bond extends beyond what I, or anyone else, could understand.

The Richard's had gifts for each of our children, with the boys receiving "Hess" cars and Lucy getting a little dog in a purse that you can decorate. They were so thrilled. But I feel so bad, as I did not plan to arrive here empty-handed. In fact, I ordered something for them to send to them prior to their arrival, but it did not arrive at our house until we arrived in New York. It is now sitting at my sister's house, waiting for our return. Oh will arrive to them at Christmas! Good intentions.... (Jeff did make up for it the next day with a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka for Larry)

We finally got everyone settled down for bed, with all three Gibbs' kids in the playroom. Patty, Kyle, Jeff and I stayed up late talking, and then headed off to bed. We had such a great night's sleep and everyone woke up happy. Saturday, we just laid low, with Lucy and Jeff decorating her new puppy purse, and the boys playing with their new cars, video games, and anything else they could get their hands on!

Larry and Patty arranged for Sean and Kyle and Kyle's girlfriend Liz, to watch our kids, so that we could go out and have a nice adult dinner. What a treat! Liz's parents, Rob and Anna, came too, and we had such a nice time. Although I found myself on the verge of tears as we sat at the table...worried about Hank. Just three days out of surgery...the power had been flickering, as the first snow was falling, and I had caught Hank messing with the fireplace not once, but twice before we left. Jeff and I were hard on him and he cried, which made me feel terrible! So Patty called the house and checked on them. They had just settled down together to watch a movie, and all was well. And I released the breath I was holding and was able to truly have a great time! Lots of laughter and funny stories!

We returned to find that the little kids had outlasted the older kids! Everyone was happy and had a great time. We got the kids and ourselves to bed, in preparation of an early rising time, to make it to church.

And that brings us to today. Got everyone up and out the door for 9:00 am Mass. It was cold, with snow on the ground, but the church was crowded and warm. We had to take two vehicles and Hank happily rode in the truck with Larry and Sean. In fact, I didn't even know he had left! We came next and were able to all sit in the same pew.

As I sat there, looking around family and the Richard family, together in prayer. I felt my heart swell with gratitude....that we had been brought together with this family...that if not for Hank and Kyle having Parry Romberg Syndrome...we would never have met. Gratitude that Hank's surgery went well and he was getting a chance to recuperate with this family who understands him. Who understand what Jeff and I have been through. And a sibling in Sean, who understands how Lucy and Charlie feel. What an amazing gift we have been given!

As luck would have it, they were selling donuts after church, which is exactly what the kids wanted for breakfast! We purchased a box and headed back to the Richard's home. Donuts consumed, the kids headed upstairs for playtime in the playroom. Which brings us back to when I started this! Hank's follow up appointment is Tuesday morning, when he will get out the stitches above his eye and the plastic off his face.

Another day of recovery ahead of on TV, games with the kids...just a nice easy day, with beautiful scenery around us...a warm fire...and fun friends! Just what the doctor ordered!


  1. Terri... will you be my mommy?!!

    :) I love my mom... but you must be the best ever... keep smiling through it all with Hank, and know you have the best wishes and support from EVERYBODY who has, or has yet to, come across your story....

    xo kerry

  2. You're amazing. Your posts always make me both laugh and cry.