As a child I remember loving the summertime. Friends, pools, summer camp and beach vacations. Summer could go on and on and I would be one happy little girl! Even as I got older I still loved the idea of hot summer days, sunshine until 9pm and the first sign of lightening bugs. I couldn’t wait to be tan, snow cone runs and late nights with friends at our local grocery store parking lot with a Sonic cup and making plans for lake weekends. It was the life! Not long ago as I put away the swimsuits in the bottom draw of “until next summer” and carefully folded the beach towels, stacked them neatly in the swim bags and placed them on the top shelf in the closet I smiled and thought to myself, another summer gone and a new season begins. I love fall, as I think this has been well documented. For most a new year begins in January. The idea of starting a new year, resolutions made and the promise to keep them. Out with the old and in with the new …. but for me, my new year always seems to be the change from summer to fall. I often wonder if it’s because of Elizabeth. Being admitted to UAMS just as summer was getting started and bringing her home in the heart of the fall and all that happened in between I felt as if my life had somehow started over.
I remember the day Elizabeth decided she was going to begin her debut into this world as if it were yesterday. Summer was just beginning. Nathan was in his last few weeks of school, we were making plans to take one just one more vacation as a family of three. At 4 months pregnant I could still travel, play and enjoy Nathan as an only child. It was the beginning of tornado season for the South and as the storm clouds rolled in on that warm and muggy afternoon of June I had no idea later that night I would be in Little Rock listening to a team of doctors tell me that Elizabeth was on her way. Over the next month as I watched summer pass by me from my hospital room I began to convince myself that summer and I were no longer friends. Sleeping in was no longer the start to my mornings, doctors would come and go as early as 5am; lazy pool days were replaced by an army of nurses who found it necessary to be by my side all the time. Room 502 became home with a bedside table that looked much like my own back in Fayetteville. My favorite pillows and blankets had replaced the sterile white sheets that come standard with every hospital stay. Summer movies consisted of watching Elizabeth move around every 2 hours on a screen that had been permanently placed in my room. I watched summer turn into fall from those same hospital windows I had been staring out of for the last few months. Nathan started a new school year, the Razorbacks were playing their first home game of the season and for the first time in I don’t know how long I was missing our annual tailgate party. Friday nights on the porches of Dickson had been replaced with 2 hour feedings and a schedule of treatments, therapies and medications that I could barely keep up with. No, summer and I were no longer friends.
As the days passed and the seasons changed and the news that Elizabeth and I would be going home soon I found myself in a very unfamiliar place in life. I was starting over; everything would change. The weeks before we made that drive home was filled with meetings, classes, teaching and preaching on how to live life with a micro preemie. The first lesson … I was not going to be able to leave home with her for the first year unless it was to see the doctor. And even then we were ushered in back doors and into rooms that were reserved for those like Elizabeth who still could not be a part of the outside world. Life was truly starting over for us, the life I had known before Elizabeth no longer existed. It became a life of pictures and memories that I wouldn’t allow myself to dwell on; instead I tucked them all away and fall became my new year, my new beginning, my new life.
Over the last few years summers have truly proven to be my least favorite season and my dislike for this time of year has continued to grow. Death, divorce, heartache and breakups … hospitals stays, surgery after surgery after surgery and every new diagnosis has taken place during the hot summer months of a time that should be filled with days of fun, cameras full of pictures and memories of sun filled days. The summer of 2015 proved to be the hardest summer of all, even topping the summer of 2003 when Elizabeth made her oh so famous appearance into this crazy world. By July of last year I could have done away with summer all together. I was considering boycotting this season from here on out. At the first sign I would pack the kids, the dog and everything we would need for 3 months and head to somewhere summer did not exist. By the time fall finally made its way back into our life we were overly ready for our new start, our new year. Only summer found a way to extend itself well into December. We couldn’t seem to escape the gloom and doom of hospitals, doctors and surgeries. As winter closed in on us and the first signs of spring began to appear I was already dreading what was coming. Candid talks with God had become a daily practice as I prayed for just one good summer. I needed it, my kids needed it, I needed faith that this time of year could be restored for our family.
So, here’s what happened ….
God proved to me once again that He is in total control. That everything falls under His plan, not mine. We had an amazing summer! We celebrated birthdays, we traveled and played with no limitations. Not one single day of summer was spent in a hospital room and I am sure that we smiled more over the last few months than we have in years! We came together as a family and decided that summer could be fun again. But even with the oh so amazing and fun summer that we are incredibly very thankful for …. fall will always be my favorite time of year. It will forever be my new beginning, my fresh start and this year it will be filled with memories of times not to be forgotten and the sounds of laughter carried over from summer days.