Monday, September 30, 2013

Making New Memories

For most kids, both native and visitors, a trip to the Audubon Zoo in NOLA would be a very welcome surprise on a Sunday afternoon.  That is exactly what we set out to do yesterday.  Getting up early for Sunday morning donuts, Conner beat Matthew to breakfast.  After an unusually busy and tiring weekend, Matthew slept in a while longer.  Billy got up from the table to ask what time we would be leaving for church.  I looked over at Conner with a trace of milk around his little mouth and said I would like to do something different today.  How about a family field trip of sorts.  Something we haven't done in a long time.  Something for a change of scenery and some family time together. 

Conner had a day last week that brought with it numerous memories of Matthew's hospitalizations and illness.  One of the books he chose to read for his nightly school reading log was filled with things that reminded him of how sad he was when Matthew was sick.  This particular evening he chose to read to Matthew.  Working in the office, I could hear how the reading was going.  About three pages into the book, I could hear Conner's voice beginning to crack, and by page five he was in full on sobs.  I went in to see what was wrong and his reply was how the little boy in the story made him think of Matthew.  To Conner, many of the wounds are still very raw and open, and will probably be that way for some time.  We worked through this occurrence and things were calm by bed time.

After looking over at Conner's sweet little face on Sunday morning, I felt overwhelmed by the need to just have my three boys close at heart on Sunday.  We needed a day filled with each other's smiles and some laughter.  We needed to be reminded that New Orleans is a city of culture and fun activities, not just where we go when Matthew gets sick. Sunday was forecast to be a great September day in South Louisiana. Perfect for some outdoor fun at the zoo.  Conner heard his daddy and I discussing the plans and his eyes lit up with excitement! 

The last visit to the zoo for Conner had been a couple of years ago when we went for his field trip in first grade, which was less than a perfect day.  The buses had been late in arriving from Baton Rouge, the temperature was FREEZING for Louisiana, and our trip was just hours before my daddy had to be rushed to the hospital. 

Conner had made one other trip to the zoo, without Matthew, over the past few years.  The previous one had been a distraction and aversion of sorts.  While Matthew was in Tulane Hospital in 2009 for nearly a month, Billy and Conner came for a visit one Saturday.  I needed some fresh air and some time with my little man, so he and I ended up at the zoo.  I was beyond exhausted from days and days of hospital life.  Conner's mind was 1,000 other places.  But we wondered around pretending to each other that we were having a great time.  The company was perfect, but our hearts just weren't into it.

Today would be different.  Conner wanted to make it even more interesting by letting it be a surprise for Matthew! After Matthew woke up and had his breakfast.  He dressed and got ready for the day.  We told him we would head out for a Sunday morning drive.  No questions were asked.  Everyone loaded up.  The route to New Orleans is nearly robotic for us.  We have had to drive it so frequently.  Rather than jumping on the interstate to get there in good time, we decided to take a leisurely drive into NOLA via Airline Hwy.  It takes about 20 minutes longer, but we were in no rush.  Since it was a different route than what we normally take, Matthew did not associate the drive with a trip to the hospital.

Matthew tried to guess our destination as Conner refused to give him hints.  As we edged closer and closer into the city, I could see Matthew become more serious in his thoughts.  He began to guess less and less as we started down familiar streets near the hospital.  I realized this area of the city is still associated, in his mind, with the hospital.  It wasn't until we were literally turning off of Magazine Street into the zoo entrance did he realize where our day would be spent!

We pass the entrance to Audubon Zoo every time we go to Children's Hospital.  CHNOLA is literally right around the block from the zoo.  We pass it so often, it's almost as though we forget that it's there, or that it is a happy place.  Our minds are usually on other things. But on this day, New Orleans would be bring happy memories to Matthew and Conner.  It would be a day filled with family, laughter, and a whole lot of clowning around!

Mission accomplished!  We live one day at a time, never knowing what is around the turn for us in Matthew's journey.  We live for the good days and embrace the bad.  This was one of the good days! Hopefully the next time we have to venture into New Orleans, this day will play in their minds, rather than have their thoughts filled with medical mystery.

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."  Matthew 18:20

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