This post tells the story of my seven months at home. Life and death, work and family, floods and friends, Sonic and speeches; so much happened during this time. I’ll try to summarize as best as I can.
Important Note: Something went wrong with my WordPress plan so advertisements are showing up right now. While this is not good, I have to at least appreciate the irony, given that I make a joke about being a corporate sell-out in this post. Please excuse the ads while I figure out what is going on.
I think rather than going chronologically, I’ll just divide things up into categories. We’ll see how this goes.
A good way to lead off this post! One of the reasons I was hurrying home from South America was in order to be present at her 95th birthday party. We had a great turnout, from all corners of the continent, Alaska included.
(I think we’re beyond a platoon, heading towards a company)
She continues to amaze me with both her character and capabilities. She has been an amazing support to us while Dad was on hospice and after he passed away. If you don’t keep an eye on her, pretty soon all of the dishes are washed….
…and all fussy babies have been rocked to sleep.
You’re the best, Grandma!
Dad on Hospice
At the end of November, the doctors said there was nothing more to do medically for Dad. It was at this point that I decided to “officially” delay my trip until the spring. I moved back home so I could provide a hand in caring for him.
Though these months were difficult, there were some special moments.
Still doing some artwork:
(Don’t worry, we’re not in some strange cult. This is St. Lucia Day, a Swedish holiday.)
My sister Elise and her husband Brad had a really tough decision. Elise was already very pregnant when they came to say goodbye. Dad kept hanging on though, longer than the doctors anticipated. Elise and Brad live in Vancouver and had no insurance in the USA. Because of this, they needed to be back home for the birth. I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to leave.
A Beginning and an End
On January 10th, this little ray of sunshine burst into our lives:
Sage made me an Uncle for the fifth time, which is undoubtedly his most proud accomplishment. 🙂
The delivery was difficult for Elise, so they didn’t return to Nebraska as soon as they would have liked. We did get to have a number of video chats though.
On January 22nd, while I was on my way to pick up Brad and Elise from the airport, Dad passed away. I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster for my Mom this day. She said a final ‘goodbye’ to her husband of 49 years, then a few hours later said a first ‘hello’ to her grandson.
Elise and Brad were able to stick around for more than a month, since Canadians get about 300 weeks of maternity/paternity leave (or thereabouts). This was a special time and it was great to be able to support each other after losing Dad.
I was honored to accept the role of Godfather to this little guy. I’m still not sure exactly what responsibilities this entails, but I’m practicing my Marlon Brando accent just to be safe.
Yes, it gets its own category. Don’t judge me.
I was fortunate enough to be present for Scott Frost’s first win as Huskers head coach. (Thank you Cherise and Mike).
I don’t know anywhere else in the world where 90,000 people in a rural location show up to support an 0-7 team. I think I could mathematically prove that Nebraska fans are the best.
Speaking of the best, this was without a doubt the best year of my Kansas City Chiefs fandom. Getting to watch their playoff victory with my Dad was something I will never forget.
I was able to get a small smirk from him when I told him that if they scored another touchdown I would be jumping onto his hospital bed. 🙂
The next week, my friend Adam and I journeyed to Arrowhead Stadium to support them in the AFC Championship game. It was too cold to take Annie, but her windshield at least made an appearance.
The game ended disappointingly, but I got to experience for 5 seconds the feeling that we were going to the Super Bowl (before I saw the penalty flag). That alone was worth the trip.
Finally, Tottenham Hotspur has made a remarkable, improbable run to the UEFA Champions League final (European soccer, in case you are confused). Be sure to tune in on June 1st!
After Dad passed away, I was approached by Warren Garage Door about joining their team until my journey resumed. The founders, Jeff and Carolyn, are members of our church and good friends of my parents.
Over the course of 20 years, they’ve adeptly built this business to an impressive level. Their daughter, Andrea, is taking the reigns and doing a great job as well.
I can’t say enough about what a blessing this job was. It was fascinating work done with wonderful people.
These guys were such a treat to work with:
The number of complex problems I saw them solve and their diversity of knowledge meant that I learned something almost every day on the job. My vocabulary has expanded to include words like “zerk,” “stile” and “dipswitch.” 🙂 They were all really patient with me and made me feel so welcome.
I did very little work on what you would normally think of when you think of a “garage door.” I mostly worked on larger, commercial doors. This meant that I got to see the inner workings of a lot of interesting industries. From steel mill to corn processing plant to tractor factory to beverage bottler. I really got to experience it all.
Trading the twist of the throttle, for the flick of a joystick:
The interactions with clients were almost all positive, save for one location. I don’t mind if someone wants to watch me every second I do my job. But pooping right where I am working? That’s crossing a line!
I can’t say enough about what this job meant to me. Not only was it nice to see my bank account increase for the first time in a year and a half, getting back to work was almost therapeutic for me. It was just what I needed.
Broken spring? No worries! Annie and I are on the job!
So if you are in Northeast Nebraska, please do me a favor and support this awesome company with your business.
But, wait! Through this special online offer: Mention that you are a friend of this quality publication and receive $10 off of your next order of $1,000 or more! This deal won’t last (and was definitely not cleared with management) so call now!
(Do you guys remember when Brett wasn’t just a corporate sell-out? Yeah, me neither.)
During this hiatus, I gave my first formal presentations about my trip. The first one was at my childhood elementary school. My 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, invited me to come speak for their Dr. Seuss night. I wish I could go back in time to tell my 1st grade self that one day I would ride a motorcycle into the gymnasium. My mind would have been blown.
It was great to reconnect with Mrs. Baker. She is an awesome teacher and is in no way responsible for the grammatical errors which occur in this (semi) quality publication. 🙂
Just a couple of weeks ago, I did a presentation for the Spanish classes at Pender High School. The teacher, Mrs. Flores, was supervised by my Mom as she was transitioning into teaching. She is originally from Mexico and provided some good information for me while I was in my planning phase. Even though she is not Salvadorian, she made me some delectable pupusas!
I tried to emphasize to the students that courage is the most important quality in language learning. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
Something pretty serious has to happen for Nebraska to make the national news. The floods in March were unlike anything I had ever seen. Lots of people in the state, especially the farmers, will be affected by this disaster for years to come.
Some pictures from the Niobrara area:
She’s ready to get back on the road! In addition to the mechanical work I’ve done, I made an important cosmetic upgrade. Flags!
(yeah…I totally forgot Honduras in the order so I had to sneak that one in next to Brazil.)
In my last post, I mentioned that I got over 31,000 puncture-free miles from my last front tire. Would you believe that my new one got popped after less than 1,000? The culprit? A toothpick.
If ever there was a use for this gif:
By the way, thanks Grant and Sarah for this awesome shirt:
I consulted a lot of pictures to try to replicate the signatures I lost in the Great Colombian Wash Bay Disaster of 2018 (too strong?). I think there are just a handful I couldn’t recreate. After this is all over, Annie is going to get a nice clear coat to preserve them for the long haul.
The poor guy was looking pretty rough by the end of Chapter 3:
I re-printed him with some sticker paper which allowed me to use a higher ink setting. I also sealed him with a UV resistant coating, so hopefully this will be his last iteration for awhile.
No, I don’t want to talk about the Sonic movie….
While Dad was on hospice, I added another item to my already way too long list of hobbies: Art. I hadn’t drawn anything in over ten years, but my first attempt at a portrait came out looking like this:
In a way, I almost feel like it is a way of connecting with my Dad, even though he’s not here anymore. I almost learn more about his personality as I’m struggling through a piece. I’m not sure if I will continue with this hobby, but I know Dad would be so happy to know I was even dabbling with it. A few more:
Open with Grandma, close with Mom. Talk about some solid bookends.
This woman continues to amaze me. The way she has carried on after Dad’s passing is truly incredible. Spending so much time with her during these months has helped me to further appreciate what a remarkable person she is. Her depth of faith, perpetual perseverance and awe-inspiring attitude are second to none. She’s the best Mom and Grandma anyone could ask for.
As stated previously, she will be joining me for the beginning of Chapter 4. We will complete my three remaining Iowa places together and then we’ll see.
I think we finally found a winner for a helmet.
Thank you to Andrea, Joel, Grant, Karen and Kevin, respectively.
The path we’ve walked together during the last seven months has not always been easy, but we’ve always had each other. I’m glad that we will get to be together as this final chapter begins.
Keep it brief, everybody
Welp, I just proved that I can write about seven months in less than 2,000 words. Accordingly, I think I will stop trying so hard in this account and just put out another update seven months from now. See you then!
We are less than 24 hours away from the official beginning of Chapter 4. Are you stoked? ‘Cause I’m stoked, and Mom is definitely stoked. Some parking lot practice from last night:
I think the rough plan is to spend Saturday and Sunday nights in Des Moines, Monday and Tuesday in Oskaloosa, then from Wednesday on our home base will be in Cedar Rapids. It surely has required an improbable mixture of events for me to be this excited about visiting Iowa. See you on the road!