Our Thanksgiving Getaway: Abundant but Unlikely God-Winks

Thanksgiving has always been the most important holiday for our family. In 47 years, I can only remember 2-3 times when my dad’s side of the family didn’t get together at my parents’ house. This year, with my mom’s passing, we all felt like we should go somewhere else, so we planned to go to Watercolor. Our house was still under construction (will be for the foreseeable future, given how slowly work gets done at the beach), and we needed to be there to move furniture and get things into final shape for the renovation.

Our side of the family would fly down on November 20, a Monday morning, and we would stay until November 27. You cannot imagine how popular a destination that region of Florida has become. Once you’ve got your flights settled for a busy holiday weekend like Thanksgiving, there’s no going back. There just aren’t any open seats.

We had an amazing time on Monday and Tuesday. My dad’s brother and family rented a home right near ours, and we had an incredible dinner at Café 30a on Monday night. Café 30a was hands-down my mom’s favorite restaurant in the area. She loved the old Southern vibe, and she loved the food. So it felt right to have a huge party of family eating there together during our first holiday without her. The next night, Jamil and I went out with my cousins to Ambrosia while my dad, uncle, and aunt watched the kids. We had martinis and oysters, shrimp cocktails and steaks. We laughed and renewed our sense of camaraderie, something that  I needed more than ever since I’ve lost my mom.

With those two great nights under our belts, we felt optimistic about the entire week, and on Wednesday, we got out of our comfort zones by taking my dad on a bike ride for the first time in a long time. We have an adult trike that I bought just for him. He loved it so much that he was talking about buying one for the house in Houston to get more exercise. Later, he and Jamil played tennis, and although my dad was VERY rusty, he had SO much fun. On a high, we set out to make a run to Target. I think that’s where we were going, at least. It’s all a blur of euphoria now.

As my dad made his way out of our house, the door to the screened porch hit him in the knee. I will never know if that’s what caused his injury or if the shock caused him to fall, which caused his injury. All I know is that within minutes, he went from up and running to lying flat on his back in the driveway, screaming, “My KNEE!”

It was clearly bad, especially for an 82-year-old, but let me begin by saying that there were blessings at play when my dad hurt himself.

First, Jamil was right behind him, and he caught my dad as he fell. My dad didn’t hit his head. He didn’t cut himself. He didn’t break a bone. That was my mom looking out.

Second, it happened on Wednesday BEFORE Thanksgiving. If it had happened Thursday or Friday, or even over the weekend, nothing would have been open; we would have had to go to the emergency room.

Third, it happened at 2:30PM, and our physician’s office in Houston had not yet closed for the holiday weekend. The doctor, who happens to be both a primary care doctor AND a certified sports medicine specialist, called right back and set an appointment for my father immediately upon his return, which was amazing. Furthermore, the urgent care by our house had not yet shut down; it would be open until 4:00. We made it just in time for the sweet staff at Doc Smiley’s to give him a quick x-ray, confirm that nothing appeared to be severely broken, but warned us that from what they could tell, he’d ruptured his quadriceps tendon. That sounded grim. It’s a pretty big, pretty necessary muscle… But real treatment could wait until we returned to Houston.

Fourth, it happened while we were all in Florida together. In Florida, we have a bedroom on the first floor, so there was no issue with him needing to go up the stairs. Additionally, we were all staying in the same house, so we could run up and down and all around to help my dad whenever and however he needed. If we’d been at home, we might not have understood the level of care he needed; he might have even convinced us he didn’t need us to stay with him.

Fifth, my mom wasn’t around to see the accident happen. She lived in dire fear of my father falling. I think she would have had a heart attack and died right there. Then, who KNOWS when my dad would have been able to get surgery?

So, as awful of a scenario as it was to have my father in pain and helpless, it was, in many ways, the best way for that scenario to happen.

It also gave me an opportunity to identify what my dad would need when we returned home. In the time we were together, I lined up a company to install bars in his bathrooms and to reorient his door hinges to allow a walker or wheelchair to pass through. We also arranged for a caregiver to stay with him to help him go to and from the bathroom and lined up an RN service to use if he needed surgery.

Also, the accident happened on November 25, the DAY BEFORE our most expensive hotel reservation for our Christmas vacation became nonrefundable. Even without an official diagnosis, I could tell by looking at my dad that a trip to Vietnam on December 17 was probably off the table, and I decided to cancel the reservation preemptively. If it turned out he could go, we’d just pay for more expensive rooms and say words of thanks to the uazniverse for letting him accompany us. The cancellation went through just hours before the deadline.

I’m sure this sounds like a nightmare of a trip, and in many ways it was. However, it was also pretty freaking amazing. It reminded us of what a champ my dad is. Despite the pain and inconvenience, my dad gutted up every day, got dressed, and participated in life. He continued to work at his little spot in the dining room. He joined the family at each dinner. He hung out at Thanksgiving dinner. Was he, himself, difficult? Absolutely, but that had nothing to do with the injury; that’s just who he is. And we still love traveling with him. We love him, always.

Author: Jessica Givens