AKA: the month of September.

As many of you probably already know, Garrett and I spent the month of September back in the states between our parents’ houses. As you also know, that wasn’t the plan. This is the story of how that all went down.

While I’m not emotionally ready to write all that I could say about my Grandma, I will explain a tiny bit about her, as long as you keep in mind that this little blurb could never do her life and legacy justice.

Although I only ever knew her as a grandmother, I heard plenty of stories of her as a proud big sister, hardworking daughter, loyal wife, and loving mother. She was a farmer’s daughter, then a farmer’s wife, then a military wife deployed with her husband to Puerto Rico, and shortly after that a mother. 

She worked tirelessly to care for her four rambunctious children. Though they didn’t have much, they’d all tell you they didn’t know the difference because she and my Papa made sure they had what they needed and were grateful for what they did have. She took the family to church and impressed on her children the importance of a relationship with Jesus.

She went back to school after starting a family to finish her teaching degree – I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to attend classes far away from her family – and proceeded to become a well-beloved elementary school teacher in her little town of Paducah Texas. I barely remember when she taught, she retired when I was small, but I do remember her helping me sound out my words and encouraging my love of books when I was small.

When I was barely two years old her husband, my Papa, passed quickly and unexpectedly. I didn’t understand what was happening then, and for a long time didn’t realize why everyone was so worried about her. Looking back, I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for her to carry on, living by herself in the house she and Papa designed and had built early on in their marriage. Somehow she did. She always did.

She had many health problems throughout the course of the next twenty years, and I watched the woman I so admired become homebound, needing a walker and suffering through pain each and every hour. Even so, she remained strong of mind and spirit. Never have I seen such determination and stubbornness in a person. She refused assisted living, again and again, insisting she could care for herself, and she could.

Many times I had the privilege to see her evening routine; after getting ready for bed (which was a feat in and of itself) she would sit on the edge of her bed and pray. Sometimes for an hour, she would pray for her family, stating each one by name, her friends, the leaders of the country, and the people in her church. When she couldn’t sleep she liked to sing hymns until she fell asleep. She read her bible every day and memorized chapters of scripture at a time.

She made the best chocolate milk, gave the best back rubs, and was a master at crochet and embroidery. She loved to play piano before arthritis took its toll, and opened her home and heart to anyone that would stop by to visit. She took care of her mother and her children, and then her grandchildren. She loved telling stories and was so good at telling them, and in telling her stories she taught her children and grandchildren to appreciate their ancestors and history.

She took care of her mother and her children, and then her grandchildren. She loved telling stories and was so good at telling them, and in telling her stories she taught her children and grandchildren to appreciate their ancestors and history.

She was so excited that Garrett and I were going to travel; she’d always ask us about the places we planned to go and reminded us to “stick together” and not go anywhere without the other. She often referred to us as “the travelers” when she asked for an update on us from my mom.

She led a simple life in every way, loved fiercely in every situation, and always put her faith in Jesus.

She was and is the woman I want to be.

On August 24 while in the hospital recovering from surgery on a broken femur, Ernestine Amanda Wilson went to meet her Jesus. Recovery had been going well, the doctors couldn’t explain why it happened. I can. She was ready. She had told me many times in the last few years in not so many words, but had flat out told me the last time I visited her before our travels.

Heartbroken, Garrett and I booked tickets back on the first flight we could find and made it back just in time to attend her memorial service. I am so grateful for the time we got to grieve and heal with family, and I covet your prayers as I continue to selfishly grieve my loss as my lovely grandmother dances with Jesus.

You’d think that would be almost the end of this article. Nope.

After the memorial, we went home with my parents to Ranger. The next evening, Garrett’s throat started feeling tight. This was alarming because 1) it’s his throat 2) we are already exhausted and stressed 3) he had been to two emergency rooms over the summer for the same issue. Both doctors had diagnosed him with an allergic reaction, treated him for he reactions, and we had gotten an EpiPen to be safe when traveling. Since he hadn’t had any other problems we’d assumed it was a one-time freak thing.

Instead of rushing to the ER (because hello, we still have two ER bills to deal with), we left straight away from church, got the EpiPen from the house, he took a Benadryl, and we decided to drive back to Eastland to be near an ER in case the Benadryl didn’t work. About an hour later, he began to feel better so we drove back home and resolved to be vigilant but optimistic about his condition. The next day came and went without much to worry over, until evening came around.

Garrett said his throat felt swollen again, and we were both scared.

I tried to talk him into going to the ER in Stephenville (if you live in Eastland County or read the rest of this post you’ll know why), but he thought it would be too far for comfort so we continued on to Eastland Memorial Hospital, where we were the only patients, yet the staff, doctor, and nurses moved unconcernedly like slugs to assist us. When the doctor finally did come to see us, it was obvious he was half asleep, had not looked over the information it took thirty minutes for the nurse and receptionist to take from us, and spoke very little English.

When I snapped abrasively that Garrett’s throat was closing and no one was doing anything about it (and maybe muttered something about a lawsuit) the doctor finally began the examination and decided to administer a steroid shot. Although this seemed to help (it was hard to tell because they make him so sleepy), the doctor did not prescribe any additional follow-up medicine or additional steroids (ugh).

The next day went well.

Garrett’s throat was sore as to be expected, but overall he seemed to be doing better. Until about midnight. More Benadryl and an hour later, it was decided that another ER visit was imminent. My kind mother volunteered to drive us to Stephenville to a decent ER, and by the time we arrived around 2 AM everyone was exhausted and stressed. The staff, nurses, and doctors were much more professional and prepared, and confused as to why no follow-up prescription was given by Eastland ER, (moral of the story, DON’T ever go there… told ya so Garrett ;P ) administered an EpiPen, and prescribed steroids and Benadryl to keep the reaction away.

Two days later, Garrett was still experiencing tightness in his throat. I had now been keeping him high on Benadryl for about a week, making ALL of us miserable, and after two ER visits, we were no closer to solving the problem. We decided to make an appointment with his primary care physician in Lubbock and go stay with his parents for a while, in case he was allergic to something at my parents’ house. Frustrated and ever more exhausted, we headed to Lubbock.

His doctor confirmed my worst fear.

It was most likely not an allergic reaction since he had not been responding to the EpiPen, steroids, and Benadryl combination. She ordered blood work, an ultrasound of his thyroid, and referred him to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) who is also an allergist. Thankfully the ENT was able to get him in quickly. The part that concerned me most was the ultrasound – Garrett’s mother has battled thyroid cancer in the past and it can be genetic.

Through all of this all I could do is pray, cry, try to catch up on sleep, and distract myself. My sisters were so wonderful to me in this time, and I don’t know what I would have done if they wouldn’t have been in Lubbock and made themselves available to me. Garrett was also so strong during this time (once he was off the Benadryl!). He spent hours reassuring me after my anxiety-riddled mind had me looking up rent houses and apartments as well as jobs hiring in Lubbock. The week waiting for the ultrasound and results was the worst.

Thankfully, the ultrasound came back clear, the blood work came back normal, and it was time to see the ENT. Since Garrett’s nose was and had been completely clear, he guessed that the problem could be – wait for it – reflux! Apparently, reflux is the #1 thing people see their doctors for, and most people don’t know it’s that big of an issue. The ENT told us he thought Garrett had been having excessive reflux, which doesn’t always have to be accompanied by heartburn and is often brought on by stress. This caused the muscles around his larynx to spasm, making it feel like his throat was closing up.

After a Barium swallow and a visit to a gastroenterologist, the diagnosis was confirmed. We were SO relieved! This meant we could continue with our travel plans, and Garrett doesn’t need any major treatment. We simply have to watch his diet and keep Prilosec, Zantac, and Tums at the ready. This was truly the best diagnosis we could have hoped for, better than a random allergy, and we feel so blessed that nothing more serious was wrong.

At this point, we had about a week left of September. We spent a few more days in Lubbock seeing friends Garrett hadn’t felt like getting out to see then went back to my parent’s house for a few days since we hadn’t gotten as much time with them as we’d have liked.

So that’s how September went.

Heartaches, stresses, blessings and all. Through it all I’ve noticed a few things. Had we not come back to the states, we would have faced a much more difficult situation when Garrett’s throat began to feel tight again. I wouldn’t have gotten time with my family (I was beginning to feel homesick) and we wouldn’t have been able to see the lovely autumn leaves of Tallinn.

As I sit in our tiny studio overlooking the Acropolis I am grateful for so many things in my life, but am especially grateful for how the past month played out. Stressors proved to be strengtheners and blessings in disguise, and Garrett and I are all the more stronger and closer for it.


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