It was Monday night, 8:30pm or so. It was the “witching hour” where we are trying to round everybody up for bed, just a bit on the late side that night and the kids were that overtired crazy they get when they need to go to bed. I picked up the phone, and a business-like voice asked for Zach. I assumed it was his work because they were starting the move from the old facility to the brand new (in fact, not totally finished…some areas are still “hard hat only” areas) and Zach is the go-to guy for computer stuff, especially oddball problems. Zach quickly went downstairs, away from the melee, to have his conversation, but that just “confirmed” my thought that it was work. I will never forget the look on his face as he walked the last few steps up the stairs back into the living room a few minutes later. I sit here with tears rolling down my face remembering it. He stuttered out that it was Hayden and Dad was dead, and was choking back tears. That is when the world started spinning.
After holding each other for a while, I told him to call his mom and let her know. (his Dad and his wife celebrated 30 years, so the divorce happened shortly before their marriage). For the next few days, we were almost always on at least one phone, but often two phones and the other one would start ringing. We have prepaid cell phones that had barely been used up until this week, but we had to keep adding money to keep them going over and over again because they were seeing such heavy use.
Zach didn’t really start crying hard until he had to tell his mom. I was on the phone with Zach’s best friend (very close friend of mine after all of these years too) and was telling him what was going on. I wasn’t going to have him come over that late, until I heard Zach start sobbing, big heaving sobs on the phone with his mom, and Robert said he would be right over. It was so good to have him here. For a while we considered having him come along with us, but realized that wasn’t the best idea for us or him. It was nice of him to offer to come with us though.
A few more phone calls with Amber and Kirsten and we discovered that nobody there had numbers for Zach’s Aunts, Jim’s sisters. They were considering sending messages via facebook out of desperation, but I told them to give me a bit and see if I could find them. I knew we had addresses, but when I looked in my Palm Pilot, there wasn’t a phone number there for Sandy. I started googling and came up with a number in the same town, with her dh’s name and called. Wrong person. (that was fun). Then I googled Joyce and went to compare addresses, discovered I did have Joyce’s number and called her. That was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make. She said she would call Sandy. After a while, I posted on my blog. Much to my horror, that is how some of the cousins found out. (it was late and, thinking they had gone to sleep, Sandy was going to tell them in the morning) I think it was meant to be though because the chance of them seeing it when they did is just amazing.
One or the other of us was on the phone almost the whole time until past midnight. I tried to rent a van, but the first one that was available was Thursday evening. We called airlines and quickly realized that wasn’t a possibility for us. (besides the fact that there have been multiple stories of autistic kids being kicked off planes and I knew Zane was not going to handle a plane ride well under this kind of stress) and I knew I could not handle it if that happened. It would break me. At about 1am, we realized the kids were still up and put them to bed.
Our first big decision was whether or not to take the kids with us. At first, we thought about leaving them here. My parents would watch them. Since this family doesn’t see each other often, and Hayden and Amber were bringing their kids (and the other siblings live in San Antonio area) we decided to bring the kids because it might be a while before we meet up with everybody again. A few people in the family had met Zane, but nobody had met Zora. If anything good was going to come out of this, at least they could meet our kids.
My parents immediately said that they would loan us the money we needed to rent a van, and mom said she would come up the next day to help me shop. I had an outfit, and Zach had work clothes and a sportscoat, but when I pulled the summer clothes back out, all of Zora’s clothes were bright and cheerful, and the only remotely sedate clothing was meant for cold Kansas winters, not warm San Antonio. (it was still in the 80s there). Zane had some stuff, but needed shoes that weren’t bright green crocs. Both had outgrown their summer church shoes. We ended up getting Zane a sportscoat, which seemed appropriate because almost all the pictures Zach has of him and his dad has Zach in a sportscoat just like his Dads. We found some stuff on clearance for Zora (summery, but more sedate).
I also needed new make-up. I realized that most of my make-up was left over from my wedding. I would buy new mascara and eye liner when I needed to wear make-up, but I know the last time I tried to use the eye shadow the little sponge brushes literally disintegrated in the make up when I tried to put it on. It was time.
Tuesday, I spent the morning trying, again, to find a car to rent in Wichita sooner. I was hoping for a van, but there was nothing. Mom came up and we took Zora and went shopping, and Zach stayed home with Zane, next to the phone, talking to family as plans firmed up and trying to get a car sooner because the viewing was moved to Thursday instead of Friday.
Eventually, Zach got a Hertz agent to understand what was going on and they started working on their end to get a car into Wichita ASAP. We were willing to drive to surrounding towns, but Wichita was the main hub in this area for cars and nothing else was available either. We think they called down to KC and brought a van from there (it had MO plates) and they said they would try and get it to us by noon on Wednesday. It was clear they were pulling strings and really going the extra mile because every time they located a possible car, they would call to see if it was ok…the first was a 2 seater, but strapping the kids to the roof seemed like a bad idea.
It was weird to go shopping in a rush like that, but we always feel so…I don’t know…inadequate, around that family. We always feel like the poor relatives and that feels really yucky. I know that we aren’t as dirt poor as we once were, and it shouldn’t have mattered to me (and I am sure that it didn’t matter to them), but I already have to walk into that crowd as the fat one (I hate how I look…HATE.IT. My hair is ugly, my body is ugly, and I feel so freakin’ frumpy.), and that couldn’t be changed in an afternoon, but at least my kids could look nice.
I shouldn’t have felt that way. It was a fear that I realized was totally unfounded when I got there. Everybody was warm and welcoming and I knew instantly that nobody there cared one iota what we were wearing, they just cared that we were there. It’s weird what fears and insecurities come up when facing stuff like this though.
Between the time we found out on Monday evening until Thursday night after the viewing, I had a total of *maybe* 6 hours of sleep. I found I just couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even sleep in the van on the way there either. On Tuesday night I sent Zach to bed so he would be awake to drive and I stayed up packing.
Packing was very erratic. I couldn’t make decisions and ended up packing pretty much every weather appropriate outfit we own, all of our toiletries (including bandaids and some first aid stuff that actually came in handy) and a very strange selection of toys for the kids. I packed snacks for the kids and even had stuff like spoons for yogurt and knives for peanut butter. I packed and packed and packed. You would think we were moving. lol. Luckily, we don’t actually own very many clothes, so it fit easily into the van. We went to Germany for two weeks with one carry-on rolling suitcase each, the computers in Zach’s briefcase, and my purse. That was it. We had enough room in them to buy several bags of stuff there and have it fit in our luggage. We left for a 4 day trip to San Antonio with enough stuff to live there for a year.
The drive itself was long and hard, but the van was nice. We left Wichita at about 2pm, discussing how we were going to get around in San Antonio (we printed off 1 google map and forgot to print anything else) and, despite the fact we have lived in Wichita the majority of our adult life, turned the wrong way on the interstate. About 25 miles out, we saw a sign giving mileage to Kansas City and realized our mistake and turned around. How on earth we managed to do that, we have no idea. I joked with mom that maybe angels turned us around to keep us out of an accident.
A few hours later, as we were getting ready to enter Oklahoma City, they were talking about a major pile up that had occurred on I-35. I started watching for the location and realized, when I saw it, it was about an hour from where we were when it happened…had we not taken the hour detour, we might have been in the middle of it. Maybe it really was angels.
The kids actually did reasonably well on the drive. Zane played his DS and Zora, somehow, managed to entertain herself with the oddball contents of her “sparkle purse” (she puts helicopters, cars, dollhouse dolls and other odds and ends in there) and singing at the top of her lungs. We stopped at fast food places with those play structures (even a stand alone chick-fil-a…I had never seen one of those outside a mall, so that was odd) and let the kids stretch their legs while we ate, and then they ate when we got back in the van. We also discovered a magical concoction of extra caffinated coffee for Zach.
We rolled into San Antonio at around 3:30 or so, and it took several misturns to figure out how to get to the hotel. We could see it, but we couldn’t figure out how to get to it for a while. We unloaded everything and set the room up for the kids to be more comfortable because everybody was too wound up to just go to sleep.
We slept a few hours, then dragged ourselves out of bed for breakfast downstairs, and met up with Joyce and Dan at breakfast.