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Hard Times and Family Bonding

Today wraps up a long and more eventful-than-I-would-have-liked Winter school break for the kids. Normally, I am one of those moms who loves the breaks. I like the relaxed flow of the day. I enjoy not being stressed about getting each child from one place to another and actually remembering which one goes where at what time. Yes, for us, a couple of weeks without strict structure helps each of us unwind a bit.

I admit that I had great plans for our break from school. I was going to take the kids on adventures. I was going to read more with my 7 year old. I was going to watch more movies with my teens. We would do things as a family. Together. I pictured Norman Rockwell’s eyes brimming with tears as he watched our beloved family bonding. It kind of reminds me of the age-old saying, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.”

It started off with an emergency trip out of town without the kids because my dad was in the hospital for some tests on his heart. Once we got the all-clear from Dad’s doctor, I raced back home in time to finish shopping, pack for all of us, and head back to my Dad’s house. With two of the three kids in tow as well as our sick Doberman, we finally unloaded (or as my Dad calls it “exploded”) at his house and tried to find the Christmas spirit among the chaos. Christmas Eve and Christmas day we were all together as an extended family -- cousins, aunts etc. The day after Christmas, as my husband and oldest teen drove off to visit other family members and then head home, my Doberman decided it would be a great time to have a severe allergic reaction to an unknown substance.

Let me tell you something right up front. Being out of town and finding my dog who has cancer with a face swollen to twice his normal size did not sit well with me. Panic ensued, but calmer heads (my sister) prevailed. I sat up with him all night as if he were my child, to assure myself he was breathing and had his medicine every four hours. (Not the best time to read the book Marley & Me, by the way.)

Because of the state of the dog’s condition and my need to get him back home to his own vet, we cut the trip a bit short and headed home. Somewhere between my Dad’s house and my own, my body decided it would be the perfect time to come down with the flu. As I coughed, sneezed, and wheezed my way down the highway, all I could think of was getting home. Home would be safe and make it all better.

But home didn’t make it all better. I became sicker. My dog became sicker. The kids became restless. The house erupted into chaos. All of my plans for family fun and bonding flew right out the window. To be perfectly honest, I lost about six days to fever and sleeping. However, it did manage to slow everyone down.

I would pull my sick and medicated self out of bed and snuggle under a blanket and watch movies with my daughter. Between naps, I would play video games with my boys. When things were at their quietest, I would curl up in bed while my daughter read her favorite books to me.

As I emerged from my illness, I realized my dog had sunk to the bottom depths of his. His cancer had won. He passed away this past Saturday.

Those events certainly were not in the plans I had made for a super fun Winter break. The final few days were spent in a family lock down. We stuck together, fighting off the world. The phone went unanswered. The emails went unchecked. We all took refuge in each other, tightened the ranks, laughed, cried, and spent our time together.

Again, this certainly was not the bonding I planned. It was not a bonding I would ever ask for. But iIt was a bonding that drew us closer and held us tightly for a few days.

Now? Now we are back on a schedule. My husband is back at work. The kids are in school and will soon be running this way and that with afternoon plans. I will be back into the groove of work and volunteering. The routine will do us good. But for those few days when we shut out the rest of the world, it was priceless – a blessing from a tragedy that helped me remember that you can’t always plan bonding time with your family, but you can take advantage of it when it hits you between the eyes.

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