God Watching: Seeing Kevin, Visiting Dad, And Driving 1300 Miles In A Busted Car
Christine's picture shows God was watching over us
Oh, it just feels so good to be home! This past week has been filled with all sorts of emotional ups and downs, but I am glad I was able to be away to be with my family. Thanks for indulging me in my longest absence from the blog since I started it. As you know, we drove 450 miles down to Pensacola, Florida to see my brother Kevin and most of the family I grew up with last Tuesday.
Our original plan was to stay until Tuesday this week, but a telephone call from my stepmother Faye last Thursday changed our plans. That day we learned my father was going to be going in for quintuple heart bypass surgery this week. So we took a detour on Sunday north to Bolivar, Tennessee before coming back home to Spartanburg, South Carolina on Tuesday night. It was quite a memorable week of events.
We had an awesome time seeing my brother Kevin who has been told he only has a few more months to live. In 1999, he suffered a series of heart attacks that basically killed 85% of his heart function. The doctors cut out the majority of his "dead" heart a few years back and he only has one artery functioning now. That artery is 95% blocked and stents don't do any good anymore. He's too high-risk for any surgery and he's pretty much given up on changing his diet at this point.
The thing that struck me about seeing Kevin was how "normal" he looks right now. Yes, he's a very large man weighing about 350 pounds. But he's out and about doing the things he loves the most--playing Texas Hold 'Em, bingo, flirting with the ladies, and singing at the local karaoke bar. We did a little bit of all of that together last week (sans the flirting for me since I already have my woman!). And yet he's on morphine and oxygen for comfort because he's easily out of breath and starts sweating profusely even in a well air-conditioned room. This is Kevin's life right now.
Despite my little "accident" earlier this year on the cruise to Mexico singing karaoke, I ventured back on the stage again to sing "You Are So Beautiful" and Roy Orbison's "You Got It" to my lovely bride Christine while Kevin sang some country music songs that I'd never heard of. It was a lot of fun, although not something I'm accustomed to doing around midnight on a Friday night. :) But I wanted to be there with and for Kevin. We made some great memories together.
We stayed with my beautiful sister Beverly for the week who was a very gracious host making us homemade meals, driving us around everywhere we wanted to go, and just being a good little sister. In fact, Kevin came and stayed with Beverly too during the week. Since we all grew up together as kids, it was pretty neat all being under the same roof again as family. That has been a rarity since we all became adults.
When we went over to mom's house for dinner to watch some Jeff Dunham DVDs together (HILARIOUS if you have never seen this funny ventriloquist--he's the "on a stick" comedian with Walter, Peanut, etc.--Kevin was laughing so hard I was worried about him, but it was great seeing him enjoying himself so much), I took a photo of a picture when all of us kids were young. Beverly was about 3, I was 5, and Kevin was 9 or so in this photo. Don't you just love looking at how dorky you are when you were a kid (no Christine, I don't STILL look dorky today!).
My mom and stepdad Frank surprised me while I was there--they said they started livin' la vida low-carb to lose about 50 pounds each. As you know from my podcast interview with my mom last Fall, mom has struggled keeping her weight off despite having gastric bypass surgery in December 2003. I was so tickled to hear how enthusiastic Frank was about the low-carb lifestyle and his eagerness to be doing it for his weight and health (he cited that study that came out last week because he saw it on the news touting low-carb over low-fat--ummm, I haven't heard of it! LOL!). And they've even got Beverly to join them on this. I suppose this situation with Kevin has caused them to get serious this time around. Here's hoping.
It was hard to say goodbye to my family in Florida on Sunday, but I had to be there for my dad and his surgery on Tuesday. We hit the road early that day to be in Bolivar, Tennessee before dark and met up with my half-brother Nathan, his wife Stephanie, and their new son Hunter. As you know, Nathan (or Nat as we called him growing up) was one of my inspirations for starting low-carb since he was so successful on it. Interestingly, he's not doing it now, but he knows it works for him when he does it. It was awesome seeing their new baby. I WANT ONE! :)
We also had a delightful visit with my Aunt Mary Jane while we were there. She told me about how much she enjoys reading my blog (HEY MARY JANE!) and feels like she's been talking with her nephew when she reads it. In fact, my computer illiterate dad finds out more about me through Aunt Mary Jane from the stuff she reads here at my blog and tells him about. That freaks out my old man out when she tells him some of the things I'm up to. He is so 19th Century!
Of course, the reason we went there was to see my dad in support of his heart surgery early on Tuesday morning. We had hoped to spend most of the day Monday with him, but my dear old dad had other plans to "tie up loose ends" and working all day. He has the kind of job where he is a Jack-of-all-trades (or a J.D.-of-all-trades as I call him--J.D. is his name!). And he was up bright and early at 6:00am Monday morning and worked until nearly 9:00pm the day before having his open heart surgery. That's my dad for ya.
We were up obscenely early on Tuesday morning--like 3:00am to get packed up, hit the road up to Jackson, Tennessee, and be there with dad before his surgery. On the way to the hospital, my check engine light started going crazy on me. I noticed when I pressed the gas the engine would struggle. Uh-oh, not NOW! More about that in a moment! Needless to say, we prayed without ceasing for that little Escort to keep going.
Imagine my surprise when less than an hour before he was going in to have his chest cut open here comes about 20 people to be there with my dad to pray and support him during the surgery. In addition to me, Christine, Nathan, and Faye, there was dad's older sister Mary Jane, dad's brother Paul, dad's younger sister Gaylon, and I do believe the entire Sunday School class from dad's church in Middleton, Tennessee as well as the pastor. What a blessing it must have been for dad to see all these people fawning over and sacrificing their time early in the morning just for him. He's not used to this kind of attention. But I know he appreciated it more than he'd ever admit.
That sunset from my dad's front porch is all he is gonna be working on for the next few months as he recovers and heals from the surgery. I had no idea they actually had to break his chest bone to get inside his heart. OUCH! That's gonna be the hardest part whenever dad will want to cough or sneeze (which he is prone to do with his allergies). Don't you know he'll be squeezing a pillow with him a lot? The really GREAT NEWS is he got through the surgery and is now up and alert with no complications. Praise God! THANK YOU so much for your prayers and happy thoughts.
Now, about our car. Our beat-up and nearly broken down 1998 white Ford Escort was literally on its last leg although we didn't know how close it was to dying on us as we traveled through the mountains of Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee on Tuesday--but we kept praying for God to just get us home. After driving 1300 miles in the span of a week to be with family in their time of need, we NEEDED that miracle to happen for us...and it did. The car ran perfectly until I went to the post office on Wednesday morning and that was all she wrote.
When the car started shaking violently and making a loud rickity-rackity noise, I knew it wasn't good. Turns out my timing belt broke and the valves were all shot to you know where. The expense to repair would have been about as much for another vehicle, so we decided to get a new car for us. That car in the picture above is our new 2002 Buick LeSabre with less than 50,000 miles on it--and it cost us less than $10,000. WOO HOO! I couldn't have been happier with that deal. We'll be making payments on it, but at least it's a car we can rely on as we travel around to various places with our business.
I am beyond tired right now and need to get some rest. But I will be back to full-time blogging again starting on Thursday and for the next few weeks until my trip to Nashville, Tennessee in mid-August for former "Biggest Loser" contestant Isabeau Miller's FitCamp where I'll be joining other "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog readers and people wanting to get into shape on a two-week journey to whip themselves into shape. I can't wait to provide daily video updates of this experience for you.
Plus, while we're in Nashville, I'd like to have a get-together meetup with the low-carbers in that area, so let me know if you're interested in coming. I don't have a specific date or time yet, but we're staying in the Franklin, Tennessee area on Murfreesboro Road. Drop me an e-mail if you think you can possibly come in late August at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me again say THANK YOU to everyone who has prayed and thought about us this past week and a half. It really means the world to me that so many people care and love us like family. I gotta tell you I've missed blogging, though, so I'll be back at it hot and heavy in very short order. SEE YA!