[I am trying to find photos from this time of life… back in the film age of photography. Renee? Rebecca? Do y’all have any? Mine are down in the basement behind seven years of children.]
Early in 2002, I found myself in a hospital of my own free will preparing for surgery on my face. My nose, specifically. I simply could not make it more than a couple of weeks anymore without incredible sinus infection and the ‘simple’ thing to do was put me under, clean things out, break my nose to make things a little straighter inside, and then send me home.
But I was 3000 miles from home, living in California, single, and maybe slightly not excited about any of it. Fortunately, my stand-in family the McKenzies were outfitted with a nurse as Mom and a cook as Dad- not to mention the four children who alternately provided humor and angst. I would recuperate with them. There was not even a question.
The surgery went long but well, and soon enough Renee and I found ourselves making our way back through San Diego, El Cajon, and finally Ramona- back to Julian, or ‘home.’ We were in the McKenzie passenger van, not my little red truck. We learned a month earlier when Renee (mom) borrowed the truck to bring John (dad) home from his own surgery that a little S-10 pickup with non-reclining seats is simply not ideal for a 1-hour post-anesthesia ride up the mountain. Passenger van it was, and remarkably I was completely fine.
The van began to sputter or jump or something not awesome as soon as the windy double-lane road appeared in front of us, signaling the last quarter of our trip. An omen. We pulled over and called John. “You’ll have to come and get us,” she said, “I don’t know if we can make it safely the rest of the way without blowing up.” And so Saint John loaded up four wild Young-Life-bred children in a borrowed vehicle and headed down the pass to retrieve us.
It was at this point, in the quiet of waiting along the side of the road with everything still, that I began to puke in earnest. If we had just been able to keep moving, surely I would have made it home before completely losing my mind. Instead, I lost I lost it all- right there on the shoulder of Highway 78. All. Aaaaaall of it. Lawd. Y’all, I absolutely HATE to throw up. And throwing up after having surgery on your face is just, well, uncomfortable. It was one of the lower moments of my life.
Not surprisingly (have you met me?), the van started up just fine once John and the tribe got to the bottom of the hill. No smoke, no sputtering, no nothing. So we loaded all the children- which would be Camber (about 10), Conner (about 7), Jonathan (about 4) and Kylie (about 2)- my sick self, and both parents back into the van to pray the next 10 miles home and please, Lord, bed.
“What’s wronged with Katie?” Jay wanted to know. “I fought you was in the hospital.”
[to be said with a perpetually congested voice, as most 4-year-old speech is]
“Katie is fine,” Renee explained. “She’s just really sick from the medicine and needs to get to bed.”
“Hi, Jay. Thanks for coming to get me, Bud.”
“You’re coming home TODAY?!” he asked incredulously.
“Yep.” I replied, green and trying to keep the rest of my stomach in tact as the van bent around hills.
“THIS IS GREAT!”
[Jay was always known for his enthusiasm.]
“NOW YOU CAN COME TO MY BASEBALL GAME TONIGHT!”
It is such a joy to be wanted, is it not?
In a spectacular reversal of roles thanks to the marching on of time, one of the McKenzies will be here in Grand Rapids this weekend. Post-college and well on her own… just stopping by for a visit with truly old family friends.
She is now the age I was when I first joined her family. I have children who would fit in Jay’s clothes from that memory. My heart- it’s exploding.
I only wish we had a baseball game to drag her to or a broken vehicle to fix. Maybe there will be no drama is this chapter of our story. Doubtful, as both our families are known for creating their own.
I’m just glad she’s here.
I’m glad for the chance to practice the hospitality that was once shown me. I’m thankful God has seen it fit to keep our families together over all these years of moves and children and change. And I’m blessed to know that there… I am wanted and loved and even liked.
Such great, amazing, simple, kind, and ridiculously true examples of love I’ve been given in my life. May they lead me ever closer to the Cross.