Monday, November 17, 2008


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
Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513


Bekah said...

Good for Mr. Strahl! Yay! Hooray for the zoo!

Tyson, we are praying for you....for strength and peace as you begin a new week. Parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done and I can't imagine doing it alone (though you are obviously not many lovely family members who love you). But to not have your precious wife there to help and comfort and discuss things with is just plain hard...especially when TJ is sick and hurt. Ugh. We think of you daily and are praying.

I laughed and cried at the Mr. Drink-bear story. I love kids. Love the sign idea! :)

Sarah said...

Yeah for Stuart and Chris! Chris was very nice when I spoke with him last week. Sending off a thank you card now!

Organized Chaos said...

Yeah for the zoo! I didn't write any letters but I'm so glad to hear that they got the message and changed their minds on how to handle your situation and treat you as a person, not as a policy.

Our prayers for TJ's health.

A Musing Mom said...

Sooo glad to hear things worked out at the zoo. I like the place and was hoping they'd come through for you. Woo hoo!

Ben, Michele, Claire & Anna said...

See... you can be a good christian and complain nicely when there are obvious injustices committed (especially when committed against a sweet, precious little boy!). I am so happy that the letters and calls were effective!! What an answer to prayer. Sending out my thank you right now!

Thanks for keeping us updated on your life, Tyson! You and TJ are always in my thoughts and more importantly... my prayers!!

ann said...

Go to the beach, go to the zoo, go out of town, go visit with family! Live your life, show TJ how to live life fully and abundantly. Grief endures...but joy does come.

everydayMOM said...

It's so good to hear about all of the wonderful friends and family in your life that are helping you with TJ. Parenting is such a tough job, and it's so tiring for one person to do alone.

Just do the best you can, and rest assured, that if you are like the rest of us, you won't ever do it perfectly. =] I so wish Leslie could be there with you, but it's good to hear about so many others who are helping, too.

Glad to hear about the zoo, too. That's a great story.

shoutingforha said...

It brought tears to my eyes knowing that TJ will be able to enjoy the zoo just like always. Way to go Mr. Strahl!

Still praying for you here in Tennessee.

Busy Mom said...

I've read your blog for sometime and like to keep up with ya even though I dont' know you. I was so overjoyed to know that Stuart and Chris did this! I never wrote a letter the first time but felt the need to write one now. It's in the mail today! Praise God we can be renewed in spirt by something like this! Marie

Allison said...

Tyson--I am so glad that you and especially TJ will be able to enjoy the zoo as you always have. Bravo to you for your perserverance. TJ will probably not even know how hard you worked for that little bit of normalcy but that is what makes a fantastic father!
I laughed out loud about the foot injury only because the same thing just happened at our house (our son Jackson is the same age as TJ) only the injury was MY fault! I thought it would be fun to go down a twisty slide with Jackson at the playground only his foot got caught and his leg twisted and was broken in two places. So we are familiar with the scooting and I was certainly feeling guilty! But all that to say---kids will be kids and they are much tougher and resiliant than we are! :) Hope TJ is back to his full 3 year old self soon! Thanks for your continued postings. You are doing a great job and inspire the rest of us!!!!

The Moser Fam... said...

So glad to hear the "happy ending" to your zoo story! I'm so glad to know that there are people out there who really do CARE and want to do what is right! God bless are doing a great job of being TJ's Daddy...don't be discouraged!

Sarah1978 said...

For some time now I have been following your journey, both with and without Leslie. And since I have been touched by your honesty, faith, and hope in the Lord time and time again, I wanted to finally let you know. My friend Jilli recently shared with you what an impact your lives have made upon my heart. So I thought I would tell you myself first hand. I do pray for you and TJ often (prayers from a stranger still count, right?). And though we have never met I am so deeply moved by your story... and mostly Leslie's life.
I just wanted you to know so many hundreds of people have been blessed to hear what you have to say. And what God has to say through you.
Bless you for sharing.

Henny said...

Hi Tyson,
Great stories. Both the drink-bear and the zoo breakthrough made me smile. You are doing a great job w/ TJ. I will pray for you during the holiday season. I know it is hard. Sometimes a change of scenery is the best medicine so enjoy the palm trees and christmas lights:)

JudyBright said...

Hey, is there a paci bear? Or would that traumatize the little guy too much?

Sarah Schieber said...

Tyson - A friend of mine told me about your blog. My name is Sarah. I am 34 years old and was widowed 13 months ago. My husband, Chad, actually passed away while we were running the Chicago Marathon. I have three children ages 12, 10, and 7.

I just wanted to let you know that I will be praying for you and your little guy. I KNOW it is the prayers of God's sweet people that have gotten us through, and I commit to pray for you as you journey this road called grief.

I am a Christian recording artist. Chad died in October, and I am actually in Nashville (I live in Michigan) right now recording a new album called "The Long October Road." You see, October will last forever in our lives . . . it will always be a part of who we are.

Well, you can read about all of that on my blog, if you would like. But, I just wanted to let you know I am praying - and that you WILL make it. I told my children the morning after the marathon, when we awoke them to tell them about their beloved daddy, that God is Good. Period! There is no 'but' after it. If He was good on October 6th, then He was still good on October 7th (the day Chad died.) My circumstances don't change 'who' God is. So, I choose to trust Him. May God richly bless you and TJ as you trust in your Heavenly Father.

All my prayers ~ Sarah

Anonymous said...

Hi Tyson,

New to your blog, really enjoy reading it. Thank you for your transparency.
I know Leslie's mom from Washington church (where my husband grew up). We just adopted a little boy from Ethiopia and i so appreciate Vicki's "fighting spirit" when it comes to adoption.
So now we have two boys under the age of 3, very loud, very messy.
Parenting is so hard, but thank goodness for stories like "Drink Bear" those are the things that keep us going!
All this to say, hang in there. I'm so sorry for the loss of Leslie.
Praying that the Lord fills your days with peace.
in Him,
Grant & Deb DesCarpentrie

Auntie Gayle said...

Hi,Ty, what inspiring stories are shared on this blog in addition to your own! These are pretty dark times for many people in different ways. How cool is it that we can encourage each other by transparently sharing our lives and challenging each other to PRESS ON, NEVER GIVE UP and ALWAYS TRUST GOD! God is always up to something much bigger than we can see with our natural eyes! Keep looking UP, brother! Love you, Auntie Gayle

Jen Sass said...

Im just so stinkin happy..what else to say?