Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirteen years

I am not normally too serious or morose, but today is a sad anniversary.  Thirteen years ago, my older brother Gabe passed away very suddenly.  I often find myself wanting to talk to him, so I decided that today, I would write him a letter.  If you like, you are welcome to read it too.  Maybe you will be able to get a glimpse of him and know how much he is loved and missed.


Thirteen years ago today, my life changed.  For the first time, my heart was truly broken, never to be the same. You left us.  Without a goodbye.  A part of me is still so angry that you are gone.  You were there for all these important events in my life and then suddenly, there is an emptiness. 
When Dad called to tell me, I couldn't even figure out what he was saying.
He was very blunt - "Gabe died."
I said, "Who?"
I was sure I had heard him wrong. He had to repeat himself a few times before it sank in.  He had to say "Gabe, your brother," before it registered. 
The next few hours, days, weeks, are all just a blur.  Trying to get a hold of people who should know, comforting others, being comforted.  It was all in a daze.  Having to plan your funeral (which turned into an ugly family fight), figuring out how to explain to your little girl, joking about how many women were going to show up at the funeral and throw themselves on the coffin.  The shock, the pain, the disbelief.  I would look around at everyone - the aunts, uncles, cousins - and I kept looking for you.  There was a blinding rage in me.  I was mad at you, I was mad at God, I was mad at the EMT's for not saving you, I was mad at your girlfriend for not taking better care of you, I was just MAD!
Of course, mixed with all the anger was a healthy dose of denial.  The phone would ring on my birthday and I would expect to hear your voice apologizing for forgetting to get me a present.  I would see someone in the mall that looked like you and I would hesitate and do a double take.  I would make up outrageous stories in my head, stories where you never really died.  But, denial is short lived.
I often wonder what you would think of my life today.  Would you be shocked that I have FOUR kids? I know you would adore them.  Sebastian reminds me so much of you.  You would have so much fun playing with them, teasing them, teaching them, just like you always did for me. 
Would you be surprised that I came back to the Church? Who would have thought that the know it all college girl who didn't have a need for religion would end up married to a future Deacon? You may be surprised, but I think you would also be happy.  You were always a man of great faith and you tried so hard to get me to understand how important it was. 
It is because of your great faith that I can write this letter, write the thoughts and feelings that are inside me, and know that our Lord shares them with you.  I know that we will meet again, in our eternal life.  But be prepared - I will probably need to give you a good punch on the arm since I am still mad at you for leaving too soon. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Unexpected Adventures

It seems that someone in the Schalow family must have recently prayed for some patience or strength or something that involved us all being sorely tested.

On this last Tuesday morning, we set out for a small vacation up to the Mineral King area of Sequoia.  Jason and I had camped there about 15 years ago and we loved it.  This time around, rather than camping, we stayed in a cabin in Silver City, just a few miles from the end of Mineral King road.  Our cabin check in was for 3:00, but with Jason driving we got into the area much earlier than expected.  We decided to go into the main park and take the kids to see the General Sherman tree.  A few miles up the twisty mountain road our transmission started to slip.  It happened maybe once or twice then quickly shifted into gear.  Then, it stopped wanting to shift into gear at all.  We pulled over as soon as we found a turnout.  As soon as we stopped and turned the car off, smoke started seeping from under the hood and transmission fluid was pouring out the bottom.  Not good, to say the least.  And of course, no cell signal. 

After a few minutes, a nice couple pulled over to help and offered to find a ranger for us.  Once the ranger arrived, they had to arrange, via radio with the dispatch, a tow truck plus something to do with all of us who won't fit in the tow truck. It was finally decided that Jason and Darian would ride with the tow truck and the rest of the kids and I would catch a ride with the rangers down to the visitor center at the bottom of the mountain.  Once there, we waited, and waited, and waited.  After about an hour and a half, the tow truck was nice enough to drop Darian with us on the way out of the park.  They had to take the van all the way into Visalia.  The driver was very nice and even called the garage ahead of time to ask them to wait for him since it was getting close to closing on the day before a holiday.  Our tentative plan was for Jason to accompany the van, get it dropped off, and hopefully find a car rental (with a car big enough for all of us) to come get us.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Still no cell signal, so no way for me to know what was going on with Jason.  The Visitor Center shop closed.  We were still waiting.  I sat there imaging worst case scenarios - The garage was closed and they had to find somewhere else, the car rental place was closed, they didn't have any cars to fit all of us, something was wrong with Jason's credit card and they wouldn't rent him a car.  After about 4 hours, Jason finally showed up in a very nice rental van and we were able to proceed to Mineral King.  Not an easy feat in itself, since the road to Mineral King, although only 24 miles long, is so steep and poorly maintained that it actually takes at least an hour and a half to get up there.  A nerve wracking drive, but completely worth the stress.

At this point, we only had reservations to stay until Thursday.  But, we weren't going to hear anything on the car until Thursday and they had already advised us that it would take a day or so to fix.  Fortunately, they were able to extend our reservation through to Saturday, so we got a few extra vacation days.  We had a wonderful, peaceful cabin to stay in and we all fell in love with the area.  We went hiking (even me!) and saw so many beautiful things.  On Thursday, we got the bad news that the transmission had burned out (not a surprise considering the amount of smoke we say coming from under the hood).  Our cheapest (and for us only) option was to have them rebuild the transmission.  A cost of a couple thousand dollars and four business days.  A disappointment to say the least, but we did our best not to let it ruin a great vacation. 

On Thursday afternoon we took the kids into the main park to see the Sequioas.  Since nothing is easy, there was road construction that caused hour long delays.  Four excited kids parked in the road on the side of a mountain waiting for construction delays - not fun! Once we made it up, it was beautiful.  My family often camped in Sequoia when I was younger, but I hadn't been to the main park since I was maybe 12.  It's still gorgeous! We parked and took the tram out to Moro rock.  Jason and the kids climbed to the top.  I only made it halfway when my knees decided they would go no further.  Once back down, we hopped back on the tram to the Giant Forest area and did a little over a mile hike.  By the time we were done, we were all exhausted and ready to get some dinner.  Once we got back down the mountain (with "only" 20 minute delays) we stopped at the first restaurant we saw.  Way more pricey that planned, but delicious food.  A quick stop for gas and back up the other side of the mountain to Mineral King.  Finally arrived back at the cabin around 10:30. 

Friday we decided to hike from one of the nearby campgrounds to a bridge over the Kaweah river.  It was a nice hike, not to steep, all through forest.  We kept watching for bears and deer, but all we saw were arguing squirrels.  Quite the disappointment since some other hikers we ran into had seen a bear on the trail earlier.  We made it to the bridge and decided to do a little rock hopping to get closer to the water.  All was fine, until Jason slipped on one of the rocks and fell into the water.  The water was rushing quickly and we were fairly close to the edge where there was a waterfall.  The water wasn't deep, but very cold.  Jason needed help and in my rush, I also fell, fortunately on my very padded behind so no injury to me.  But, my feet and ankles got in the water and then the girls and Sebastian all started freaking out and screaming hysterically.  Darian and I were trying to get Jason out of the water, the little ones are in hysterics and I'm yelling at them to calm down.  I can't imagine why we didn't see more wildlife.  I can look back and laugh now.  I don't think Jason is laughing yet though.  His shoes may still be wet.

Thank goodness for rental cars with unlimited mileage.  We had a nice drive home in our very nice rental van.  Tomorrow, we will go pick up the dogs from the Schalow grandparents and sometime Thursday or Friday Jason will drive the rental back up to Visalia and hopefully pick up our newly fixed van.  So goes the Schalow adventures for the summer of 2012.  Pictures to follow when I have time to post them all.