February 17, 2005
Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Our little Miss Hayley-monster will be turning 3 on February 22. Where did that time go? So much has happened to us all in the last 3 years...a trip I never anticipated but could not imagine time without. I wrote back in November a bit of an abridged story of The Little One, but I thought it deserved a little expanding given this auspicious occasion.

Shannon has always been headstrong, and knew what she wanted. From the time she was a little girl, her life was about two things. Baseball and babies. Her parents had hoped the former would win out, but it was the second that would find her first. She had an amazing talent for pitching. Her skills were well-known in our area and she was scouted by universities across the US. Her cousin was actually picked up by the University of South Alabama, and it looked like Shannon was going to be following in his footsteps.

She had offers from 3 American universities when she graduated from high school in 2000. But every choice meant leaving her boyfriend and she just could not stand the idea. Tom had no interest in leaving Canada, and besides, would not have been able to work in the States so it wasn't an option. There were a lot of arguments, a lot of wringing of hands, but Shannon was adamant. She would not leave Tom, full scholarship or not.

They came home from a wedding in August 2000, deciding that it was time for them to move away to Tom's family home in Alberta. Being young and in love, they planned to move that night, but we were able to delay them for 4 days. Not having kids myself, I can only imagine what my brother and his wife went through, but I can say that we all felt like the rug had been ripped out from under us. The night they drove away was one of the few times I ever remember seeing my big brother cry.

One thing Shannon didn't count on was the cold. It gets absolutely stupidly cold in Red Deer. The moved just in time for the snow season and she had a very difficult time adapting. She was lonely and the only job she could get was working as a waitress. It was hard work, long hours, bitterly cold and she got very depressed that winter. We spent many many hours on the phone that time, and we bonded very deeply. I think it was over that time that she became less my niece and more my friend.

Tom proposed to her on Christmas Eve. He was so nervous and had phoned me half a dozen times that day because he was so worried that she'd say no. Tom, buddy, she moved away from everything and gave up everything for you, she's not going to say no!

By June 2001, she was pregnant. It was planned on her part. Not so much on Tom's. He had a child from a previous relationship that he had never seen and the thought of a second kid by 20 made him very nervous. But for Shan, she was lonely and did what so many girls do....and made sure that she'd have the little baby she'd dreamed of. Once the shock wore off the family, it was just a lot of concern for how they'd handle parenthood. The next few months took their toll on us all as we could only watch helplessly from far away, and not really be too involved.

We got the call at 2am on February 22 that she was in labour. She was 14 days overdue. I jumped in the car and was at my brother's house by 2:30. We chucked some stuff in the truck, and her parents, sister and I started off on what should have been an 11 hour journey. Looking back, I still don't know why we just didn't fly but at the time, it just seemed like driving was the right thing to do. Besides, first babies take a long time to arrive, don't they?

Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong on that trip. My brother had a work-related injury that left his shoulder very stiff and sore, but he assured us he could drive. We got just past the valley when we were detoured by a mudslide. The detour took us redirected us nearly 5 hours from our main route. But we were happy, we were excited and it was just a small blip on the radar. Something I learned though is that Timmy Ho's puts their fresh donuts out at 5am and there is nothing better than warm Timbits on a road trip.

My niece, Jamie and I found out rather quickly that the backseat had a serious draft. Not something you want to find out as you enter into the northern climes in the middle of winter.

Around 6am, we got a call from my Mom. Things had progressed very quickly and Hayley Joleen Mary arrived at 5:43am, weighing 8 lbs. 2 oz. Cell coverage was sporadic so Tom had not been able to get a call to us, but was able to get Mom. We were bummed we couldn't be there for the birth, but thought we'd be in Alberta soon, so weren't too worried. Still, the mood in the car was jovial and excited.

The 5 hour detour made it slow. Consider a main highway being shut off and you can imagine the volume we encountered. 174kms this side of Revelstoke, we were stopped by an avalanche. It was about 11am by now, and we were getting hungry and tired. We'd been on the road since 2:30am with only a box of Timbits as our friends. It was a very large avalanche and nothing was coming or going. So we sat. And we sat. We told lame jokes. Then the highway patrol came by and told us the situation. We were actually blocked by not one, but three serious slides. Not only that, we were sandwiched in...there was no in or out and they couldn't tell us how long it would be. 3 hours passed, then 4. The highway patrol came by again, and told us they were considering choppering in supplies as it looked like we were stuck for the night.

Now, you can probably imagine the mood in the car. We were not happy campers and the thought of having to spend the night in the truck, especially with the frozen breeze whipping through the back doors was not a comforting. All the time, knowing the Little One was here and we couldn't get to Shan. To top it off, we were out of cell service so we were unable to get word to anyone that we were stuck. No one mentioned that we should have flown but the thought was there.

Just as it was getting dark, the police came by with good news. They had succeeded in blasting through the avalanche and we were able to get through one lane at a time. You would think that would have made us happy but considering now it was about 5:30pm and we hadn't eaten all day, not so much.

As we got into Golden for a long needed dinner, I was able to get through to my Mom and tell them what had happened. She had seen the slide on the news and had been worried, but she was more worried about the storm that was brewing in the Rockies. I assured her that the weather looked fine. A little cloudy but after what had already happened, I was sure we were through the worst of it. Heh. Yeah, don't speak too soon.

We entered the Rockies at around 8pm. It was dark. At first, the snow was beautiful. Hypnotic, even. Strangely calming. But it worsened within an instant. We hit a true white-out. I have never been, nor do I ever want to again, in such a blizzard but it was terrifying. My brother said little, but gripped the wheel with a ferociousness I had rarely seen. Through gritted teeth, he assured us that as long as we could see the car in front of us, we were fine. I am not a very religious person, but I did find myself praying in the backseat, huddled under the blankets. Then it worsened again...there was no car in front of us, not even the hood of our vehicle was visible. It was 10pm when we passed a truck we had seen earlier tipped upside down on it's roof. That was the final straw. It became obvious, that although a valiant effort, we were not going to get to our destination any time soon.

Canmore was just up ahead...the 'poor man's' Banff. At this point, we didn't care. As long as we were off the road. At 10:30, we pulled into the most beautiful lodge I think I have ever seen. To give you an idea of how deep the snow was, we had difficulty opening the doors of the truck to get out as it was about 6" higher than the bottom of the door. The lodge was just interested in getting people off the road, which in itself tells you how terrible the road conditions were. For $79, we were able to get a beautiful 2-bedroom suite.

Although we were heavy-hearted not to have been by Shannon's side, we were just thankful to be alive and off the road. My brother left for a bit and came back with a big bottle of tequila. None of us are tequila drinkers, but it didn't matter. We had been on the road for nearly 20 hours, through hellish conditions and we still had another 5-6 hours to go. We watched out the window as the snowstorm continued, but knew that Mother Nature had truly beat us. It was a tough fight but she wore us down.

The next morning, a little fuzzy headed and stiff from being in the car so long, we jumped back in for Round 2. The plows had been out and the road was cleared but snow piled up about 6' on either side of the highway. I had never in my life seen such large amounts of the white stuff and I didn't care to ever again.

It was uneventful as we drove through Calgary and then up to Red Deer. We arrived at the hospital at noon, just as Shannon and Hayley were being discharged. Of course, we had the carseat so they had to wait for us anyhow. There were a lot of tears, of relief, of joy, of just pure emotion when we entered that hospital room. I was given the honour of filling out her birth certificate and as I did, I felt very proud of my little niece. She was no longer a little girl but a Mom and she looked so incredibly happy. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said 'She's here...my daughter that I've dreamed of all my life is in my arms.' That moment is one of the most precious I've ever experienced, and even just writing it now makes my heart smile.

Holding Hayley that night in the hotel room, I was overcome with the feeling that my life would change too. That everything was somehow a little more colourful now. And I was right. I can't believe it's been 3 years, but in other ways it seems 20.

They now live back with Shannon's parents, which is a 45-minute drive from me. She and I are very close and every night I get a call from her to say goodnight. Her Mom and I speak several times a day on the phone and since I've been off work, I've been with them almost constantly. Sunday is her birthday party and she's having a Dora theme. Her present from me is the FisherPrice InteracTV, which likely will lose it's pieces within the month. Then next week is a new test....she will be staying overnight with me for the first time. I'm a little nervous but I think it's time to try. She's the closest thing I have to a daughter and I'm very very lucky to have her.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer, who looks forward to a better Canada. I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.

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Turning thirty and a half
  • July 2004
  • November 2004
  • December 2004
  • January 2005
  • February 2005
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  • January 2006

  • The WeatherPixie