Quest Across the States (2): John 3:16 Bad Happy

The bricks were tan and faded, easily worn by elements and time. Chiseled in the tired stone was the reminder: John 3:16. Below hung a black awning taunting: Bad Happy. It was the irony that struck me first. The message of sacrificial love partnered with that of self indulgence.

Then I realized it was no contradiction at all. The message of John 3:16 is bad happy. There can be nothing worse than the sacrifice of a child, even for the well being of other children. I settled back in the van, as we passed the smiling white devil and Biblical truth, ready to hibernate in the hotel, knowing it had been a John 3:16 Bad Happy day.

Every demanding out of town doctor visit is always accompanied by fun. Asheville. Jefferson City. Minneapolis. Morristown. Nashville. Rochester. There are many reasons for this madness. First, I don’t want a negative association with a doctor we desperately need. We eat junk food and watch DVDs and listen to music too loud and hit every park and bookstore and activity we can manage. Second, and admittedly selfishly, we only travel when there is a doctor involved. Some places, like the MidWest, we will never be able to visit again . . . or at least we hope there’s not yet another doctor that brings us back this way. Third, I have two children. These are the memories of Joseph’s childhood, and they shouldn’t all be doctors and blood draws. Enough of his youth is sacrificed for the needs of his sister’s disability. If there must be Bad, I will find the Happy.

The plan was to spend one day of Happy in Chicago as we passed through on our way to Rochester. The plan was the Adler Planetarium in the morning, Chicago dogs and a drive to see Wrigley Field, the Field Museum and ending the day with Nancy’s Chicago style pizza. The plan was to have loads of snacks toted through the museums. The plan was to create Chicago-centric, once in a lifetime, typical memorable Happy. Funny, how things don’t go according to plan.

We pulled up to the Adler two hours behind schedule. I’m not even certain how we accomplished that. We begin to crawl out of the van to discover we’d left all the snacks at home. Here enters the first melt down. We crawled back into the car and went in search of a grocery or convenience store or anywhere not only with snacks but with Savannah’s brand of snacks.

An hour and $30 later, we returned to the Adler. Unfortunately, it was past lunch time (we are also fighting the time change). So we pick up our Chicago dogs at the same vendor as three years ago. I believe this time they were even better.

We meandered with a purpose through the constellations, through the interactive astronauts to the kids astro-educationing village. Joseph wanted to space walk. Even though I hoped Savannah would be more compliant than last time, I knew our time was short. Even on good days, the hour glass is still running out. As it turned out, this was not one of those good days. Savannah held Grandaddy’s hand and giggled while changing her mind about space. Joseph held my hand and the invisible space wall, and with Nana holding the back of his shirt, we walked through space.

As Joseph checked out the other interactive astro-education (most remarkably the shuttle simulation), Savannah sat in the younger kid area and refused to move. The cookies were brought out, but of course they weren’t the right brand. In that moment, we had lost her.

Eating not-her-brand-of-cookies and whining, we were able to get her to the giant solar system. As Joseph and I discussed Mercury, Savannah broke away, sprinting to the other side of Uranus where she proceeded to throw herself into the floor screaming and banging her head into the less-than-soft carpet. The three of us lifted her from the ground and placed her on a hall bench with some Starbursts (an unintentionally appropriate snack). She stayed calm long enough for Grandaddy and Joseph to disappear into a moon exhibit, and then the Starbursts were not enough. Nana and I walked her to the gift shop with promises of shopping until the boys’ return. After a brief peruse, she lay in front of the gift shop with screams and thuds. Grandaddy and Nana hurried her to the van while Joseph quickly chose something to remember his brief visit to the Adler by. Savannah didn’t make it a fraction of the distance as she did three years ago.

We decided to drive to Wrigley Field before putting the pressure of another museum on Savannah. We left the Adler behind us, and as we passed our favourite hot dog stand, smoke began to escape from under the hood.

Being stranded in front of the Field Museum really wasn’t that bad. Taxis lined the street, there was live music and our hot dog stand was a quick jaunt from the car if we became stranded for long. Savannah thought it was incredibly amusing. Joseph however was quite distressed. So as Grandaddy hid under the hood on the phone with our mechanic, Joseph and I bought plenty of water for Savannah and Nana and escaped inside the Field.

Again, I knew time was short. Nana would be texting when the car was good to drive – or when a tow arrived. I took my little paleantolgist-wanna-be, and we ran to the far side of the museum and up the stairs and entered the history of evolution. There were giant fish and apotosaurous and mammoths and Lucy, and then it was time to leave. We were only surrounded by fossils for about twenty minutes, but the memories will last a lifetime.

We left the Field with the plan of returning to the hotel and calling a local mechanic. Instead, the van again overheated, and we became stranded in an obscure parking lot between the highway and the beach of Lake Michigan. There were no bathrooms, no taxis, no food. There were, however, plenty of dangers for a child who doesn’t see them. We were stranded a few hours more, the novelty wearing off for Savannah. The panic trying to sink in. The tow truck came and took the van away. We stayed stranded, waiting for a taxi to find us. Savannah cried between Grandaddy and me, her head buried in my chest, both of us desperately clinging to her. A gentleman came and asked us if we needed help. “No No” we smiled. Of course we needed help, but that’s the challenge isn’t it. At this point, we don’t even know what help we need. Many times she tried to run from us. Into the street. Toward the Great Lake. Just away from where we were. The taxi called to find us, but our phone died. Grandaddy left us to find him. In one sharp scream, she threw herself onto the ground, tossing me like a ragdoll with her. The impact throbbed in my
left wrist, pinned between her panic and the unforgiving ground. A lady jumped from her car and ran to us, offering help, offering her phone, offering anything, but there was nothing more she could give.

The taxi arrived, and the tears stopped. What a blessing the Muslim man was. He was incredibly kind to Savannah, never phased each time she unlocked the door, attempting to open it on the Chicago highways and never mentioning the urine stained seat she left behind. What he did mention came from the heart of God. “She is your blessing, you know. You are blessed. I’m not saying it isn’t hard. You have it very hard, but she is your blessing, and she will bring you more blessings.”. Then in completely untaxi fashion, he discounted our rate. Later that evening my mother received a call that my father had lost $40 in his taxi, and he’d like to mail it to us. Later, when my parents spoke, it was discovered that my father was missing no money and ironically, that is the exact amount of our discounted fare.

The day was tiresome and worn by the time we fought our way out of Chicago traffic in the rental. We all sat irritably in the cradling leather seats, thinking about food, thinking about money, thinking about past due medications, thinking about John 3:16.

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2 responses to “Quest Across the States (2): John 3:16 Bad Happy

  • Theresa Borders

    Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking time to write these blogs.
    I know how frustrating it is when Savannah has meltdowns in familiar surroundings; to have them so far from home, not being able to comfort her and with a broken down vehicle must be unbearable! Having your mom and dad with you, helping you through such a difficult time, I know has brought you so much relief. I continue to pray for better days ahead and a positive outcome for Savannah. Please tell Joseph and Savannah how proud we are of them and we love them very much. Wishing you all a better day today. Theresa/ grandma Tree

  • Rene

    What a gift you have! What a wordsmith! You are my inspiration! God bless.

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