Monday, December 13, 2021

What a Miracle Looks Like (Sometimes)

Lately I’ve had a whole new take on miracles. I’ve realized they often come dressed as annoyances and inconveniences — or even something gone horribly wrong.

Prologue: Last August I was prepping for the new semester to start. I had created my new syllabus and printed a phonebook-size stack of handouts for the first day of class. After more than a year of teaching online because of the pandemic, I was very excited to return to a physical classroom.

Then on the day before classes started (a Sunday, no less) I found out that there had been a clerical error. The computer somehow had listed my class as being taught online by mistake, and the department said we had to honor whatever format the computer listed for course delivery. So there I was with a useless stack of handouts, looking at yet another semester of teaching online. I have to admit, I wasn’t happy about this. But I did my best to make the most of it.

Fast-forward three months. Our daughter purchased cheap flights for her and her little family to fly home for Thanksgiving. We were so excited to have them come. Then about ten days before they were scheduled to leave, she got a strange email from the airline saying their tickets had been cancelled. —Not their flight, just their family's tickets. And just one way. So bizarre — I have never seen this happen before. She was more than a little frustrated — and confused.

With a toddler and an infant in tow, a 12-hour drive can seem like an endless journey. But they decided to make the most of it and leave a few days early, and spend a whole nine days with us. Yay!

They arrived, road-weary and frazzled, cramped into their now too-small car with a fussy baby for the final few hours of the journey. We fed them, took the kids off their hands, and put them to bed. Our daughter complained of a stomach ache, possibly just from all the junk food from the road trip, and we gave her some herbal tea to soothe her symptoms. 

The next day she still wasn’t feeling well, and spent most of the afternoon on the couch, sipping more tea.

My dad and bonus mom scheduled a separate Thanksgiving dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving for our side of the extended family. My mother-in-law planned her Thanksgiving for the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I complained about why we can’t just keep Thanksgiving celebrations on the designated day and celebrate with whoever’s available. This year three Thanksgiving dinners seemed completely over-the-top. But we took our food assignments and made our 6 pies and our 20 lbs of mashed potatoes and drove to Salt Lake City to be with everyone for the first of the three. 

Our daughter arrived in tears. Her toddler had thrown a tantrum and head-butted her in the face. I spent the minutes before dinner chasing said toddler around the house making sure he didn’t touch or break any of the crystal figurines all over the living room — or choke on any of the Jordan almonds placed in candy dishes all over the house. 

Dad and Sharon had gone to a huge effort to make the evening special. The tables were decorated elegantly, the seating thoughtfully planned, complete with conversation questions. The food was good and we all had a lovely time. I felt sorry for grousing about the extra gathering, and stayed afterward to help and chat. When our daughter slipped out early (but not before the group family photo) I didn’t think much of it. She’d had quite a day.

We got home an hour later. The kids were in bed asleep, and Jordan was on the couch again, feeling miserable. All of a sudden she decided to call Urgent Care. She pulled her husband up off the couch. “They close in ten minutes. Let’s go!”

It was appendicitis. They sent her straight to the ER. Early Monday morning they removed her appendix, and what they thought would be a fairly simple laparoscopic procedure became more complex. Her appendix had ruptured and they had to go in with a full incision to take it out. Final word was the doctor had to “dig it out with his fingers.” Oh, my.

I was home caring for the boys, grateful I had the week off, and had finished all of my commissions before the kids arrived. The baby was sick and the carseats were in their car at the hospital, but InstaCart came to my rescue with nasal spray and a syringe and sippy cups and diapers and all the things. 

And then it dawned on me — their flight that mysteriously booted them off was scheduled for Monday morning. That very morning. Her appendix could have burst mid-flight. Instead, they were here with us in Utah, the boys comfortably sleeping at Nana and Papa’s house, surrounded by loving family who could help take care of them. It was a miracle. 

That extra Sunday Thanksgiving dinner I was grousing about? Turned out to be the only time we spent with extended family. I was so grateful they held it when they did. We had a wonderful time.

Our daughter is young and strong, and her recovery was as fast as could be expected, but she still needed lots of help. And lots of rest. And she wasn’t able to lift anything over twenty pounds. (Which included both of her little boys.)

They also realized if she was going to have a comfortable ride home they needed to buy a bigger car. They’d been looking for an Acura MDX for a long time. None were available in California, and very few here in Utah. (You know, supply chain and all.) But suddenly one came available — a used 2022 with just 8000 miles on it, owned by the dealership. A godsend. They were offered a huge amount over blue book for their Honda. Money seemed to drop from the sky. They were able to drive their dream car home at a significant discount.

I ended up driving back to California with them so I could help with the boys for another week. Riding between the two boys in their carseats was actually comfortable in their new ride! 

And how was I able to be in San Francisco for a week when UVU was back in session? Well, remember that computer glitch at the beginning of the semester? The one I was a little grumpy about? It turns out that because I was teaching online again this semester, I was able to do that on my iPad from their apartment. Another miracle. 

Epilogue: I know this perspective may not last forever, but for now, I am committed not to complain about canceled airline tickets, clerical errors, computer glitches, over scheduled holiday parties, stalled traffic, or any other annoyance or inconvenience. Because I’m seeing that everything is a blessing in disguise, and many of these so-called annoyances are actually straight-up miracles.

Happy, healthy children are one of the best miracles from all of this!

Here's our smiling, happy mostly-recovered daughter, alongside her heroic, exhausted husband, who pulled all of us through this ordeal while simultaneously working remotely (from the car, hospital, and home). We love you, Austin!

No comments: