We had an annual holiday tradition (among many) where the family would pile in the car and head out to look at Christmas lights. We did this every year, until 2009, when Ryan was so badly harmed. That Christmas was spent in an ICU room in Atlanta with Ryan teetering on death. Unfortunately, 2010 found us back in the ICU for a full two weeks as Ryan battled pneumonia over Christmas and New Years.
In 2011, we were just happy not to be in a hospital and spent the season at home.
Then last year we were able to resume our annual outing. My daughter, Kari, secretly wrote to practically every car dealership in Northern Virginia asking if there was anything that could be done for Ryan and my family to help us take him out. All her letters were ignored, except one. Koon’s Tyson Toyota took it on as a community project. Last December they donated a brand, spanking new van, fully equipped for Ryan’s wheelchair. Because of Koon’s and Kari the tradition returned in 2012 with much fanfare.
This year was more private. Absent the cameras and media stations, we went on our outing last night. We made our way to the van and drove throughout the county without anyone even noticing… and that was just fine. It was one of those special nights that will stay with me forever.
For the trip I made a thermos of hot chocolate and put together a plate of Christmas cookies and Chex Mix that Sue spent the better part of the day baking (while Ryan, Kari, and I sat around the kitchen table being noticeably unhelpful). It was a wonderful day! One filled with traditional Christmas music and hours of conversation and reminiscing. The entire house had that aroma that is unmistakably festive and Ryan was right in the middle of it all.
I wish that day, and night, would have lasted for longer. The reality of our family’s situation didn’t allow for it. We had to get Ryan back home for is medications, shower, and eye and oral care.
Besides, the hot chocolate was gone and I had a hankering for more Chex Mix.