In 2001, Bobby and I followed the journey of our dear friends, Bill and Ruth, as they boated their way around the United States on this crazy thing called The Great American Loop. We followed along as best as we could with no Facebook and limited internet access at the time. During the course of that year, we lived vicariously through their intermittent posts and waited anxiously for sporadic emails. By the end of their travels, what was born in us was a desire to someday take this same trip in a boat of our own... someday... maybe when we retired...
In 2011, our 4th daughter was born with a severe and critical complex congenital heart defect. She was given only a 10% chance of surviving. We were prepared to have only 20 minutes with her at birth if she survived long enough to be born. By God's grace, she lived long enough to be life flighted to another state where our family lived at the Ronald McDonald House for 11 1/2 months waiting for her to get well enough to bring her home. Since her first discharge, we have learned a lot. We have learned to live life to the fullest and to truly not take things for granted. We also learned that living in one room at the Ronald McDonald House may have in fact prepared us to "live" on a boat.None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but it is even more in our face with Mia.
In 2015, we had the crazy idea that maybe that "someday for the boat trip" should be now. We discussed our potential plan with Mia's cardiologist and he was on board as long as Mia's next open heart surgery went well. So for the better part of 2015, we cautiously made plans for our family to take The Great American Loop. We were planning, but careful to not get too excited because with Mia, anything can happen. So, with cautious optimism, Bobby took boating courses through the United States Power Squadron and we did lots and lots and lots of research. We even talked to Make A Wish to see if they could help us in any way for Mia's wish through them. She loves the water and boating so it seemed like a great fit for her wish, but it was out of their scope of wishes able to be granted.
As the end of 2015 approached, we stayed in contact with Mia's cardiologist and other doctors as well as her pharmacy to see what we would do about getting medications and medical supplies. The next big thing was obtaining a boat. With all Mia's expenses, we were very limited on our options. In a stroke of what can be nothing else than a huge blessing, the very couple that we followed their journey (and by the way are lifelong friends of our family), decided that they no longer needed the boat on which they cruised The Loop in 2001. Not only did they not need it any longer, they wanted to essentially "gift" it to us at an extremely reduced price! We met them at the bank one very cold day in early 2016 and signed paperwork for the transfer of "La Cigale".
The next big step was getting Mia through this next big open heart surgery. The plan was to do the surgery early in the spring to give her time to heal. The best laid plans.... you know the saying! Well, she has had many bumps in the road, complications and readmits, but it seems as though she is finally "holding her own", so we have decided to move forward with leaving on the boat trip, beginning August 14th, 2016. (Weather permitting).
In an even crazier twist of events, we were wondering what we would do with our home while we are away and a good friend of our family was moving back to Akron for schooling and needed a place to stay. What a fantastic way to hopefully bless someone else in this process!
15 years ago, we had considered doing this upon retirement, but after all that we have gone through with Mia, we know that tomorrow is never promised, and we find it necessary to experience this trip as a family. Some people save for retirement and never make it that long so if we need to dive into it in order for this to happen, we are ready and willing! If we don't do this now and we lose Mia early, we will always regret it.
Will it be easy? No. Will we have bumps in the road? Of course. Will we likely visit hospitals in states we have never been to? Probably. Will it be worth it? YES!
We realize this is completely crazy and some people will not agree with our decision to do this, but for those interested, you're welcome to follow our journey. We would love to have you along for the ride!