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This is Life.

by janevermeulen on September 21, 2015 · 0 comments

My apologies for the delay in updating my blog. Like so many families, summer is a busy time for us but this summer seemed to have some extra chaos. More weddings, more trips and more hospital visits. This summer also reminded me of the unpredictable nature of life.

One of the greatest joys of my life is our annual trip to Olympic National Park in Washington State. We stay at the Log Cabin Resort and spend the week swimming, hiking, roasting marshmallows and relaxing. One of the best parts of our trip is the lack of technology. Our cabin has no television or WIFI and the area has very poor cell phone coverage. It is truly a break from life. But, as I discovered, life always finds you.

In our first few days, we went hiking to the Hoh Rainforest and  Miki enjoyed his first campfire and meal of roasted hot dogs. Sadly, he loved the hot dogs and proceeded to steal my hot dog and then prepared to enter a hot dog eating contest. I love spending time with my husband and son but so often find that work, volunteer responsibilities, extended family and my iPad take me away from them. Sitting with “my men” around the campfire reminded me of the true joy in my life. We let Miki stay up late to watch the stars and then we went to bed, exhausted by 9pm. The next day was going to be more hiking and swimming.

The following morning, I dressed in my hiking gear, grabbed my knapsack and we headed off for another day of adventure. But first I needed Starbucks! I also thought it was time to check my messages and make a brief return to “the real world”. As we were driving into Port Angeles, I listened to my phone messages. One of my sisters had called twice which was odd as she knew I was on vacation. She called to tell me that my mother had been admitted to the Nanaimo General Hospital on emergency for suspected pancreatitis, likely due to gall stones. I was a bit surprised by the first message as my mother had total hip surgery the month before and was recovering well. The second message was worse—my mother’s condition had declined. Words such as “failure”, “severe” and “intensive” were mentioned. As a veterinarian, these words have hidden meanings for me. I got my coffee and tried to make phone calls. I called my mother and I did not recognize the voice on the other end of the line. She sounded weak and afraid. I have always seen my mother as a warrior—a fit and strong woman who went to college full-time while working and raising a family. This was someone different on the phone.

Our vacation had just begun and I was truly enjoying myself. But, my mother is my closest ally and I am her only child that still lives on Vancouver Island. My husband wisely stated the obvious: I was no longer going to enjoy this vacation. I had my passport and wallet in my knapsack. I told my husband to drop me off at the ferry terminal and I would walk on the ferry. I asked him to stay behind with Miki for a few more days and enjoy the holidays.

The next scenes looked like something out of an action movie. Once the ferry docked in Victoria, I rushed to the custom lines and likely pushed some children and senior citizens out of the way in the process. I then bounded the stairs in leaps and hopped in a cab to rush home. I jumped in my car, still wearing my hiking gear and sped off to Nanaimo. And then I hit Victoria road construction and sat around for 10 minutes. And when I showed up at the hospital to visit my mother, I knew I had made the right decision.

My mother ended up staying the in the Nanaimo General Hospital for over three weeks. Her prognosis seemed to change everyday and I began sleeping with my cell phone. I gained new empathy for the pet owners in my life who sit with their pets in the kennels, coaxing their dog or cats to eat. Family members from across the world would anxiously wait for the daily Facebook post updating my mother’s condition. And finally, last week, my mother went home.

I did not gain any “grand epiphanies” from the experience. At the age of forty, I sometimes feel too old to have any great discoveries about life. But, the summer did remind me that sometimes the only control we have in life are the choices we make during a time in crisis. My vacation did not go as planned but I know that Olympic National Park will still be there next year. But perhaps this time, I will call in three times days to “check in” on life!

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