Whew... Another week is upon us. It's hard to believe there are only 10 days until Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to the holidays, although I'm fully aware of the emotional challenges that faces our family. But I feel strong, and ready to "enjoy" the experience. It will indeed be bittersweet. TJ just lights up whenever he sees a snowflake fall (it's been COLD here!), and he's ready to build snowmen and go to Mimi's Condo for Christmas. (We're going to be in Florida for Christmas. The "change of venue" should take some of the edge off that week-- it would have been remarkably difficult to spend it at home alone with TJ and without Leslie. So my parents invited us to hang out with them on the beach. Gee... it was a TOUGH decision, let me tell you!) :)
So I wanted to give a couple of updates... A lot has happened in the past week.
I mentioned I was traveling all week last week out on the East Coast. It was a great trip, work-wise, and actually served as a bit of a vacation of sorts-- as horribly as I feel having to admit it-- from the "single fatherhood" thing. TJ had been so needy lately, and I was really getting worn out. The work trip came at the perfect time. And it worked out well, because it was kind of a group thing, and we flew out of our plant in Ohio, which is in the same town where I grew up, where my parents still live. So it worked out perfectly, just dropping TJ off at Mimi and Papa's for the week. He was so excited. He loves staying there, and adores his Ohio cousins, whom he usually gets to see for a couple days when he's there.
There was a minor set-back, though... I felt rather guilty, arriving on Sunday evening to drop off a crippled 3-year-old. Earlier that morning, while I was setting up the sound equipment for church, TJ was at his friend Ryan's house, where he usually spends his Sunday morning pre-church hours, while I do the set-up routine. Well, while he and Ryan were playing up in the bedroom, they decided in their 3- and 4-year-old wisdom that it would be a good idea to jump off the bed onto the bean-bag chair on the floor. TJ missed the bean-bag chair, (he will be quick to proudly point out that he actually jumped OVER the bean-bag chair), and seriously injured his foot. I didn't learn about the incident until after church, as we were tearing down, getting ready to head to Ohio. TJ was unable to walk on it. Unable to even crawl on all fours, really, because it hurt his right foot so badly. So he was just kind of scooting around on his bottom, propelling himself with his arms and digging in his heals for traction. He wasn't complaining-- just scooting around, like he'd been doing it that way forever. So, Mimi had to take him in for X-rays on Monday, after I left for my trip. I'm ashamed to say, TJ knows Mimi's doctor quite well-- this was his 4th trip to Dr. Yoder at the Archbold Hospital. Stitches once, 2 trips for flu-related dehydration, and now this foot injury. He's been to Dr. Yoder more than he's been to our own doctor in Naperville. Feel free to pick on my mom about this, those of you who know her. :)
Anyway, the X-rays came back negative, but were kind of inconclusive, because of the softness of the bone tissue in a 3-year-old's feet and ankles. They gave us the recommendation to keep him on ibuprofen around the clock, and if he wasn't walking on it in a week, to take him to a specialist. He scooted around on his rear-end for the next 6.5 days. On day seven, he began to walk, and now, he's almost back to normal, except for the fact that his foot looks like he's wearing a black and blue sock.
Oh, and except for the fact that he now has the flu, or something, as well. Not wanting Dr. Millar's office in Naperville to feel left out, TJ came down with a fever of 103 as soon as I got him home on Saturday. So, since I had some X-rays to run by the doc anyway (I picked up the films in Archbold before leaving to come back home), I decided I could have the fever checked out. They prescribed some anti-biotics, just in case it's a sinus infection or something-- he had a sore throat and his frontal sinuses were a little sensitive... which is a symptom I try not to let freak me out, I confess. Yesterday, he was improving to the point he was playing and eating little more. (Between his foot and his fever, he was pretty inactive on Saturday.) So either the antibiotic is working or he's just kicking a flu bug. He was pretty miserable, and having some crazy fever dreams, to boot. He's still convinced that one of them was real-- "The Drink Bear", as TJ named him, came into his room and asked him if he could steal his drink, which was sitting on his bed-head. TJ yelled "NO! You leave!" (he really did yell it, I heard him), and, according to TJ's report, the Drink Bear proceeded to leave, get into his car and drive away. "No, he IS real!" TJ argues with me, every time I try to explain that it was just a dream, and there really is no Drink Bear. Miss Liz came over to babysit on Saturday night, and she and TJ made a sign before bed-time to hang on the front door: "NO BEARS ALLOWED!"
The sign has worked, apparently, because the Drink Bear has not returned. He's an obediant beast, at least, that Drink Bear.
I'm trying to roll with all of this, but now I'm feeling suddenly "worn out" again. Thankfully, Leslie's brother's wife, Margaret, came up from Indy with her two little ones this week to help out and play with TJ. I'd like to sit and argue that I don't NEED the help, but I'm glad to have it, regardless... and to be honest, I'm not sure my argument would be too convincing. I'm trying not to start second-guessing myself, with his injuries, sickness, and general neediness lately. "Just a bad couple of weeks," or something. Funny... my mind goes to that crucial scene of Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams' character is repeating those words to Will until they finally sink in and drive our protagonist to tears... "It's not your fault... It's not your fault..."
Oh! Some GOOD NEWS!! Mr. Stuart Strahl called me on Friday, as I was landing in Detroit, ready to embark on my return drive home to Chicago. Mr. Strahl is the Director of the Chicago Zoological Society. (The Brookfield Zoo.) The freaking DIRECTOR. Not the director of membership, or "Ms. Director", as I referred to her in my previous "Zoo Frustration" post. No, Mr. Strahl is Ms. Director's boss's boss. The Head Honcho. The Big Cheese. I had to ask for clarification... "I'm sorry, did you say you're the DIRECTOR of the ZOO? Not membership services, but the entire ZOO?" He seemed flattered at my awe, and kind of laughed and humbly answered, "...yes... the 'entire zoo'."
Mr. Strahl's tone was genuinely apologetic, as he assertively started to lay out his action plan to "make things right". "I'm trying to instill a sense that customer service is the #1 priority in this organization. Unfortunately, the ladies downstairs were abiding by the letter of the law a little too rigidly. Yours is a unique case, and we want to do everything we can to make sure you and your son have the same access to the zoo that you always have..." I was SO grateful, and humbled, even.
On Saturday, the mail man delivered a giant package from the Brookfield Zoo, with a thoughtful letter from the VP of Membership Services ("Ms. Director's" boss), and a nice little "care package": A membership card with TJ's name on it; 4 "caregiver passes" for Ms. Liz, Mommy Beth (Ryan's mommy, who watches TJ a lot), Gram, and Aunt Dana-- the 4 most likely to be taking TJ to the zoo; (I'm realizing I should have had one made out for my mom, as well, for when she comes to visit... but that's okay, because the letter also states that whenever I feel like it, I can call the member services department and have additional caregiver passes made out for whomever I please-- as many as I please); also, there were free passes to several of the attractions; free parking passes; and a stack of guest passes, should somebody besides one of the listed "caregivers" want to take TJ to the zoo one day. We're talking "above and beyond"! Fixed, and then some. Mr. Strahl assured me that as long as we were members, I could just call his office, and he would see to it that accommodations would be made for us, whenever we needed it.
Wow. Praise God for good people in positions of authority, amen?!
SO... now I have a request... I'm guessing a few of you sent letters. Mr. Strahl had the slightest undertone of "bravery in the face of terror" in his voice, as if there was a mass of rage awaiting him on the other end of the line. I get the idea he received more than just a forwarded version of my letter to Ms. Director's boss. So here's what I'd ask, now, to those of you who may have been compelled to write on my behalf: Write a thank-you note to Mr. Strahl.
As my mom and dad aptly point out (they asked for the proper address and contact info so that they could send a thank-you note), businesses and organizations get a whole lot of complaint letters, and not a lot of thanks or validation when they take the proper corrective action. It's like only spanking your kid when he's bad, and failing to reward him when he's good. So again, if you sent a letter, I'd ask you, send another-- this time in thanks and as a symbol of gratitude and appreciation for their willingness to accommodate and "do the right thing".
Anyway... There are plenty of other little stories I could share about the week... but that's the "big stuff". Just wanted to give an update. What a week! In the words of the Foo Fighters: "One and done, and I'm on to the next one..."
...oops, almost forgot. Here's that contact info for the zoo. :)
Mr. Stuart Strahl- President and CEO
Mr. Chris Panek- VP Membership
Chicago Zoological Society
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513