In Memory of a Deer

First of all, Memorial Day is upon us. My grandfather landed on Utah Beach D-Day+2 and fought in Normandy. His brother enlisted before his 18th birthday and was killed fighting in the Pacific. Their toughness and bravery, along with all who serve, humbles me. 

We also feel especially connected this year to our people who have gone on. They are around. We feel them close when we need them. 

But this isn’t about that.  This is about yesterday. 

As avid readers of letskickthispig (we call them Piggers) know, we had a wild hair a couple of Sundays ago to bomb it to the Tetons on a day trip. That was an abject failure, but fun, in a masochistic way or something. 

Well, yesterday Payson woke up, and something from the underworld possessed him, and he came running upstairs and announced that he wanted to go to the Tetons reaaallllly bad and also could we get some cantaloupe on the way?? So, we went for it. WE WENT FOR IT. We dropped all responsibilities and common sense and the advice of professionals and WE WENT FOR IT. 

It was a perfect, epic day. So good. That part of the world is the most beautiful. Such a stunning, calming, breahtaking place. And this felt like a way of giving Leukemia the proverbial bird and making sure it knows that it isn’t the boss of us and we will keep living our lives, thank you very much. And also, we hit three Maveriks on the way up. 

Side note, we are pretty sure that we bought Maclayne a shirt that espouses drinking wine all day long, but ignorance is bliss!

Payson wanted to use the fishing pole that somebody gave him for his birthday, except we didn’t bring any actual bait or hooks and we didn’t technically have a license, so instead of fishing we tied a stick to the line and practiced casting and reeling. We didn’t, to our utter shock, catch any fish. But Payson seemed about 65% satisfied with the whole thing. 

Everything was idyllic and perfect, and we actually had the gall to start talking about other day trips this summer and where we want to travel during Payson’s treatments. And then reality, as it so frequently does, cold cocked us something good. 

Right before dinner, Brigham spiked a fever of 101. If there’s one thing we are terrified of, it’s fevers. We are afraid of fevers right now like Oprah is afraid of putting someone else’s face on the cover of her magazine. Fevers mean there’s a bug or infection, and Payson can’t, you know, fight bugs and infections really good right now, so fevers make us skittish. And the prospect of Brigham sitting around in his own juices right next to Payson for four hours on the drive home wasn’t super duper exciting. But, up yours Leukemia, we are living our lives!

So, we ate an awesome dinner and then we got loaded up for the drive home. Fifteen minutes into the four hour drive, Payson gets hit by severe pain in his belly, like out of nowhere and gear down big shifter. When I say “severe pain,” I mean this is a kid that had a Manwich sized kidney stone a few months ago and is currently having treatment for chemo, so when he says his pain level is a 10, he knows what he’s talking about. 

When our kids were babies, Wendy knew what they needed based on the type of cry she heard. It was uncanny. I always thought she was a little full of it, but she was always right. Hungry cry, tired cry, wet cry, stinky cry, bored cry, I hate this outfit cry, whatever. Wendy knew it. To be totally honest, I also knew what every cry meant, but it was always the same – take me to my mother immediately. 

So anyway, Payson starts wailing in the car, and Wendy says “that sounds like a kidney stone.”  It’s this high pitched, uh, warble, and it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, especially when he’s saying stuff like “Please make it stop,” and “I’d give away every bit of my money for this to stop hurting.”  He’s the toughest kid I know, so we know this is for sure a thing. 

We get the PCMC doctor on call on the phone and there’s no fever, so he thinks it’s a kidney stone, which I guess isn’t uncommon during the Induction phase of chemo, as if the cancer and chemo aren’t enough, but whatever. I’m no scientist. So he tells us to give some Tylenol (rub some dirt on that kidney stone) and if he can bear it try to make it home. If not, stop at the hospital in Afton, about 25 minutes away. 

So, like any good father, I floor it and start driving that 2004 Honda Odyssey like it’s the Batmobile while Wendy sits on the floor of the minivan and says prayers with the kids and sings to Payson. And Brigham tries not to infect him, and Maclayne, of course, has to pee like Iguacu Falls even though we went right the moment when we left the restaurant. 

Anyway, we are making progress, the pain goes down to a 7, I’m wondering if there’s a senior NASCAR circuit, Maclayne is ready to hang her backside out the window and free the fluids, Brigham has a hoodie wrapped around his head and he’s trying not to breathe, and we get pulled over doing 90 in a 65. Of course we do. But up yours, Leukemia, we are living!

So, the officer hasn’t even started talking and I tell him I’ve got a kid with cancer who has a kidney stone and for the love of all that’s holy we are just trying to get to the hospital in Afton and could you please just go and arrest some cattle wrestlin’ varmints or whatever??  And he buys it, WOO!!!, and we are off again. 

We stop at Maverik (4th time!), buy some Children’s Tylenol and assorted juices, give Maclayne 60 seconds of free bladder activity, tell Brigham to breathe outside, shoot Payson up, and get rolling again. Five minutes out of Afton, Payson falls asleep. So, we decide to keep bombing it. And everybody in the car is sworn to silence with the seriousness of the vow of a Franciscan monk. Seriously, can it!!!  This kid is asleep, and if you wake him up with your giggling and sibling kindness and such, we are selling you to a sugar beet farmer. 

We do the math, and the next closest hospital is in Evanston, so we’d never be more than an hour away from a hospital, even if we have to turn around and head back to Afton. I mean, one of those hospitals is in Evanston, and I wouldn’t trust a hospital in Evanston with a feral cat, but it brings some solace. 

Two minutes past Afton, we come up fast on the rear of a speed-limit-driving SUV that’s another freaking cop. Lots of varmints out today near Afton, evidently. But rather than pass him and be forced to give him the rigamarole, we decide to cool the jets and follow him until he, by the grace of heaven, gets the hell out of our way. 

Right before the climb out of Star Valley, the Sherriff pulls over, we zoom past and gun it, and now we are really rolling!  Kid with a fever, kid with cancer and a kidney stone, Maclayne’s bladder only about 80% refilled, cops dropping out of sight like my girlfriends in high school, so up yours Leukemia, we are living!!!

And then we hit a deer. With our car. 

A freaking deer, standing in the middle of the road as if the asphalt were perfect for grazing. 

We actually didn’t hit the deer. I, being the experienced and devastatingly safe driver that I am,  slammed on the brakes like they had insulted my mother, swerved wildly into the empty oncoming lane, and screamed like a celebrity being scared on Ellen. That idiot deer took this as a sign to bolt over directly into the path we had taken, smack its face into our fender, break our mirror, rip off our antenna and leave a DNA sample of its hair in its place, and cause our passenger door to be totally incapable of operation. 

And you know what?  We didn’t even stop.  We accelerated back to a borderline unsafe speed and just kept on trucking.  After about 30 seconds of stunned silence, Wendy started giggling, and that was that. 

I spent the rest of the drive giggling intermittently with Wendy, making inappropriate roadkill jokes, and listening to the silence of the van, which was broken in frequent outbursts from Isabelle that included:

  • Mourning the loss of that poor, innocent deer
  • Asking if anyone has a tissue. 
  • Lamenting that humankind had created machines fast and strong enough to wound wildlife. 
  • Begging to turn around and apologize. 
  • Questioning my humanity, as clearly I hate animals and orphans. 
  • And also does anyone have a tissue?

I told Wendy in a quiet moment before we got home that if the Good Lord himself were sitting in the minivan with us, he’d give us a smile and a shrug and say “Yep, that’s a lot of crap at one time.”  And then he’d laugh. 

So, we got home without further incident. Payson hasn’t had the pain again although we think the stone is just waiting for the right moment, Brigham beat the fever, Isabelle is founding a gofundme for the families of roadkill, Maclayne is in awe of the easy access of modern indoor plumbing, Dad is watching NASCAR and sort of liking it, and Mom is giggling intermittently while waiting delivery of the Mother of the Year award. 

So, to recap, we had:

  1. A kid with a bad fever chilling right next to a kid who simply shouldn’t get sick, with 300 miles between us and our doctors. 
  2. A kid with cancer who was four hours from home because his parents are idiots. 
  3. A kid with cancer who was passing a kidney stone. 
  4. A kid with a bladder the size of a tiny, flaccid balloon. 
  5. A cop. 
  6. Another cop. 
  7. The possibility of a hospital stay in a hospital where horses take priority over people. 
  8. A dead deer. A very innocent, kind, remarkable in every way dead deer. 

So, up yours, Leukemia. We are going to keep living our lives!!!

We are just going to do it at home for a while.