This past weekend, there seemed to be a theme of "family." Before the weekend even started, I thought about a family that I haven't even met. This time last year, we were in the middle of very heavy rains, one day right after another. I remember going out and taking pictures of the rain.
This is what it usually looks like, barely even moving.
This is what it sounded like that day last September.
But it was this time last year that a 12 year old boy named Jack wasn't so lucky near the creek by his house. And you can read his story here.
I thought about Jack this weekend as I was thinking about Chris and his family as they said a final good-bye to their Aunt Toni. She would have celebrated her 90th birthday today. This past year Aunt Toni was up in Boston in a nursing home where Chris' sister works. Chris is one of six kids and phone calls were made and emails were sent to see what the arrangements were going to be for planning purposes. What started as, "I'll call you once mom and I figure out hotels for everyone and arrangements for dinner Saturday night" quickly turned into, "Oh, mom and I didn't look, everyone is kind of on their own. There's a hotel nearby..." while a voice in the background could be heard saying, "Isn't that the hotel that a guy got murdered in last week?" What? Okay, this is no help! I guess we'll do our "own thing." So three Nealon brothers did their "own" thing and they all ended up in three different hotels. After Chris finally made it up to Boston, to his hotel and then to his sister's, she said, "You can stay here, there are extra rooms." On a side note, Chris' sister is a nun that works in the nursing home and they have extra rooms for guests.
"No, I'm not staying here. You told me to do my own thing."
"Can't you cancel your hotel?"
"I already checked in, no I can't cancel."
So in the end two brothers stayed with their sister and the three other brothers were in three different hotels.
Meanwhile, back in Virginia, I had family coming down to go to the Yankee/Oriole Game on Saturday night. We were actually suppose to see the game this time last year but it was the weekend that a hurricane was hitting the east coast. My family didn't make the trip and we were able to trade the tickets in for a game for this season. But there were questions and confusion as to who was going to the game. We had ten tickets and I knew who was suppose to go to the game last year but it turned into this big deal as to who was going to go to the game this year. Again phone calls were made, messages were left, phone calls not returned right away and just confusion that I think could have been avoided.
But when it was all said and done, we ended up with two extra tickets, one being Chris' because he was up in Boston. So the boys asked a friend and Shannon asked one of her friends to join us.
Before going to the game, the boys had flag football games. Of course they were both at 3:00 on two different fields. So the plan was to split up and meet back at the house when the games were over. I had my mom and Ryan. My brother was with Timmy, Molly, and my mom's friend Jim. But Saturday afternoon they were calling for some severe weather. A cold front was coming through and I was watching the radar on my phone. I didn't think the boys were going to get to play but we were there, on the fields for pre-game practice and my phone was in hand checking the radar every few minutes. My hope was that the storms would come through and then it would clear up for the Yankee game that night. You could see the dark clouds slowly moving toward us from behind where we were sitting. The radar was red and orange. As 3:00 approached, the game on the field was ending and our team was getting ready to take the field. But then there was a flash of lightning, a few drops of rain, and the coaches shook hands as they agreed to call the game. At that moment the sky opened up, the rain started to come down sideways and by the time we got back to the car, we were soaked, we looked liked wet rats.
After sitting in the parking lot for at least ten minutes waiting for the rain to let up just a little so I could see where I was going, we finally headed home. When we got home, I expected my brother Brian to already be there with the others. But he wasn't. Their field was closer to home. I sat for a while in the parking lot. Why weren't they home?
After being home for at least 10 minutes, they finally walked in the door. My brother just looked at me and said, "You have no idea what just happened!!!!" They were soaked to the skin. They were all shivering. Molly's long hair looked like it was glued to the side of her face. As Ryan's coaches shook hands and then called the game. Timmy's coaches attitudes were, "It's just rain?!? What's the big deal?!?" and they played in the sideways rain. Before the rain got too bad, Brian had given Jim and Molly the keys and told them to go sit in the car. He would stay behind with Timmy. Brian's thought was that these coaches will have to call this game any minute. But they didn't. One more play...one more play. Now this was 12 year old flag football. It wasn't high school football battling for a championship! Brian was torn as to what to do. He's not a parent himself. He wanted to pull Timmy off the field but he didn't know if he should. FINALLY, the coaches called the game, Brian grabbed Timmy and they ran to the car. When they got there, Jim and Molly weren't there. Jim and Molly had the keys, and where my brother was parked, not a paved parking lot but a graveled field, the water was rising around his car and he was nervous that he wouldn't be able to get it out. But where was Jim and Molly? As the rain pelted Brian and Timmy, Brian called Jim. He could hardly hear him but he finally found them in a small shed on the field grounds. It was raining so hard that Jim and Molly couldn't see where they were going so they couldn't find the car. Jim found a little shed to get himself and Molly out of the rain. Brian found them, got them back to the car, and he was able to get his car out of the flooding gravel lot.
It truly was a crazy afternoon. After everyone dried off, a few took hot showers, and then putting Brian's phone in a tub of rice because it shut down while he was using it in the torrential rain, we were ready to go to Baltimore for the Yankee/Oriole game. Of course we got a later start than planned. There was traffic on the beltway because of the storm and we made a stop to get my brother a new pair of sneakers at Target because the one pair be had were soaked. But we finally made it to the game. We were late, but we were there. After a bathroom break, we got in line for food before we were going to find our seats. As I was standing in line ordering food for 6 kids, Brian comes up to me to show me Shannon's finger which was swollen and purple. She had found a pull tie, you know, those things that you use to tie garbage bags. You can pull them tighter but can't make them looser. Well, Shannon had found one, put it on her finger, one of the other kids pulled on it, Shannon then couldn't get it off and as I was standing in the food concession line trying to get my orders straight for 6 kids, Shannon's finger is swelling in front of my eyes and I knew that plastic tie had to be cut off immediately or we would be heading to the hospital. Luckily, the first-aid was right next to the concession stand. I told Brian to get her over there. The gentleman there wasn't sure how to get it off at first. He rummaged through his bag and the first thing he pulls out was a knife. Shannon looked at Brian, looked away from her finger but it was a pair of Hello Kitty scissors that actually did the job. I'm not sure if Hello Kitty scissors are officially part of a first-aid kit, but it was those scissors that freed Shannon's finger.
After all the chaos and confusion of the day, we finally made it to our seats, food in lap and Shannon's finger in a bag of ice no longer a deep purple but more a pretty shade of lavender...phew!!!
On Sunday, my mom, Jim, and Brian got in the car and headed for home, and Chris flew in from Boston. At Sunday night dinner, our family was back together and we had stories to tell. Molly told Chris about how scared she was standing in the shed during the storm. Shannon told Chris how the first-aid guy told her she could have lost her finger if they didn't get the pull tie off. The boys told Chris about how the last out of the game was a bad call and Teixeira was safe at first and all the replays proved it.
All was right again as I sat at our dinner table and I thought about how this crazy time in our life will make for the best stories years down the road. I can hear my children now...remember when...
At that Sunday night dinner table, Chris told us about his weekend. He told us about Aunt Toni's service and how all the Nealons are doing. He then said, that despite all the craziness and confusion, despite the miscommunication or lack of communication, that he really does enjoy his family's company. They laughed and told stories and reminisced about their own childhood. Chris had said that if he had gotten angry about all the miscommunication about the hotels and the details about the weekend, he would have missed out on enjoying the good part of his family. Sometimes you just have to say "it is what it is" and just not get angry about certain things. It's just not worth it. Chris chose to see the good stuff and really, isn't that all you can do? We can't control other people's actions but we can chose how we deal with it.
So one last final note, here is a picture that my brother took when he went out west this summer. It is one of my favorite pictures that he took. In it, I see that you never know where you will find love and that life is not always easy, it always come with a few thorns. (This weekend it was miscommunication, storms, wet sneakers, dead cell phones, and pull ties on fingers.) But I also see the road that it will take you down, it will have bends and curves and twist and turns and you may not always be able to see where you are going but as long as we are together, it doesn't matter.
So after a crazy and confusing weekend, we will remember the good stuff. And the bad stuff that happened, well, it will all make for wonderful story telling someday.
Happy Birthday Aunt Toni!
And to Jack, a boy I've never met, I think of you often and all the stories your family has of you. There should have been more.