Before I jump into this week’s post, I want to share a fun interview we did with one of our favorite local media outlets back home. We spent almost 45 minutes chatting with Bill DeYoung about everything from parenting, to VEDS, to work and life on the road. Having pretended to be a journalist more than once, I can attest how hard it is, and Bill DeYoung makes it look easy. Check out the interview on Facebook:
Long before we found ourselves doing a Zoom interview in a waterfront park on Mackinac Island in the extreme north of Michigan, we thought our summer travels were coming to an end. After a stop on the Jersey Shore six weeks earlier, we pointed our bumper toward Florida and we had a moment of crisis. What are we doing? It’s still a billion degrees in Florida! Summer doesn’t end in Florida for another three months! The kids aren’t going to be in school!
We weren’t sure why we were going home.
Monica takes great pride in her body surfing prowess. But it was our son who won the surfing trophy in the family.
I give it a 10.
We hadn’t even pulled up to our house and we’d already booked several more destinations for August and beyond. Then we ordered a metric ton of homeschooling material. Could we study the Lost Colony of Roanoke at the site of their disappearance? What would it be like to read immigrant stories in the halls of Ellis Island? Imagine studying the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk and the Founding Fathers on the steps of Independence Hall.
Amazing right? Yes it is. You can go ahead and start engraving the “Parents of the Year Trophy” for 2020 now.
But make no mistake. It’s not all about providing wonderful, nurturing, enriching, educational memories for our two feral children. We just couldn’t face three more months of summer in Florida with no place to go. Indoor baseball game? Nope. Movies? Sorry. Museum? Closed. Without traditional school, our sanity was to be found back out on the road. If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s how to take the stress out of family travel. Our kids are in their element when they’re looking for America, and Monica and I love the routine of the road. It brings us all closer together.
Before you get too jealous, here’s a reality check. The challenges of life at home don’t disappear when we start the engine. It is a great privilege to be able to pull back from work and other obligations to bring some normalcy to our kids’ lives during a pandemic. But trust me, I would trade my mutated COL3A1 gene and our beloved RV for a 50 hour work week in a heartbeat. Our lives would be so much more normal. This blog isn’t about the things we don’t do because of VEDS and you’re not going to get pretty photos of the rough patches. Migraines, dizzy spells and fatigue are going to happen whether I’m at home or taking a walk in the woods.
I want people to see that life goes on after diagnosis and it can be very good. No one is given any guarantees, but my life goal is to be around to meet some grandkids and be the partner my wife bargained for when she said, “I do.”
Friends, the Cleveland Clinic may be one of the best hospitals in the world. But even here they have to prevent people from stealing the model human heart like a pen at the bank.
There’s the old saying, “You don’t really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Monica responded to this adversity by becoming an expert on VEDS and it’s not hyperbole to say that I’m still here because of her. Most wives don’t have to plan so realistically for the loss of their husband, and Monica has had a couple of moments that she thought would be our last. And it’s not just losing me – it’s raising kids without me and wondering how far a life insurance policy will stretch. It isn’t for the faint of heart. I never thought I’d find myself half joking, telling her things like, “If I die, you should marry a guy like that. He seems cool,” or, “I’ll come back and haunt you like Patrick Swayze in Ghost if you date a dope like that.”
Cue The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.”
Like anyone, we have to take life as it comes. It doesn’t matter what has happened. The only thing that matters is what happens next. It’s my goal to be one of the many VEDS people I’m connected with who get to live into their retirement years – because many do without fanfare. And I say this at the risk of the words taking on a tragic tone with my untimely demise – I hope in 20 years a 66 year-old (Pulitzer Prize winning) Jon Kile looks back at this old blog and says, “Hey, what do you know! I made it!” To which Monica takes a break from polishing her latest marathon first-place medal and says, “You’re welcome.”
When we named this blog, it referred to the ubiquitous threat that Dad will turn the car around if the kids don’t stop misbehaving. But this crazy summer of 2020, turning around means going back out for more. At one point in the Catalyst interview, Bill DeYoung alludes to wishing we all had the same attitude toward life. It’s my hope that people won’t need a near-death experience, or the fear of a sudden loss to live life to the fullest. More than just vacation photos, I hope I make you laugh and give you something to take away and apply to your life. I highly recommend starting out with a beautiful and brilliant companion with irresistible curly hair, but that’s up to you.
“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Jon’s 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monica is a non-profit consultant, grant writer, marathoner, baker, tour guide, and prolific bath taker.