Sunday, September 9, 2012

London Calling

London calling to the faraway towns
London calling to the underworld

London calling, yes, I was there, too
An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won't you give me a smile? 

London calling

When I was a senior in high school I had this outlandish idea.  I wanted to celebrate the upcoming step into adulthood (aka graduating) by gathering a few buddies and driving across the US.  I’d read a few books in English class about young men and adventure and I felt it was our time.  I could picture my friends and me cruising along Route 66 at daybreak, visiting distant cities, staying at strange motels, meeting interesting people, and eventually overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  For a kid that never left California, it seemed magical.

Like many things at that age, excitement can somehow get in the way of reality. Despite immediate promises and energetic planning, realization of college requirements, parental concern with teenage boys on their own, and a little something called gas money got in the way.  Graduation came and went and life moved forward. I told myself that the opportunity to throw caution to the wind and go somewhere outlandish was not lost, just postponed.  And then, many years later, the opportunity returned.

It was the summer of 2008 and we were sitting on the sofa enjoying the Beijing Olympics' Closing Ceremonies when the phone rang.  A bit irritated by the interruption during this family time, I abruptly picked up the phone.  I assumed it was someone asking for us a political donation or that guy that kept trying to sell me lawn service. Fortunately for us it was neither, but a good friend.  Before I could so much as say hello, the question came.  "Do you want to go to London for the 2012 Olympics?"

At first I had nothing to say.  After all, I thought driving across the US was outlandish, but this seemed crazy.  Don’t get me wrong, by this time I was a seasoned European traveler for work, but the challenge in such a trip seemed too large.  First off, my family had never been on such a trip.  They didn’t even have passports.  On top of that, I wondered how in the world we could coordinate a trip for two families to the Olympics and how much would it cost.  All the caution I didn't have as a teenager was thrown to the wind when I asked the family and received a resounding, “YES!”

A few weeks later, we held our first “war room” meeting so the adults could outline our plans.  As we sat down, I saw the same wide eyed excitement that was in the eyes of my former high school friends.  This trip was a wonderful opportunity to not only see the Olympic Games.  It was an opportunity to see incredible sites, meet interesting people, spend time with great friends, and watch life long memories develop in the eyes of our children.  There was no turning back and I was thrilled.  

Weeks became months and months became years and war room after war room, we prepared.  Planning a trip like this for ten people seemed a bit daunting at times.  However, we quickly realized that the planning was not a chore, but exciting in its own right.  It was fun to talk about what we may do and what we may see.  It was fun to use Google Maps to explain the world a bit to our kids.  And, it was fun to imagine how this one trip may impact their lives forever. 

Along the way we did our best to integrate the girls’ needs vs. potential challenges in London.  First off, we worked with our IV nurse and the insurance to allow the girls to receive their treatment just before we left and as soon as we got home.  Because of the way our trip fell, they would be going longer between treatments.  Second, we anticipated a lot of walking during the two weeks, so were sure to find an apartment close to a tube station so they could spend more time on the train and less time on their feet.  Finally, we were sure to allow them as much rest as possible as we assumed they would get more tired with time. 
So, how was it?

The trip was fantastic.  That’s a lie.  It was beyond fantastic.  It was amazingly fantastic!

It was amazing to stand in front of Big Ben, ride the London Eye, cruise the River Themes, tour Buckingham Palace, walk across Abbey Road, visit Stonehenge, and also watch some of the best athletes in the world compete at the top of their game.  It was simply everything we had planned for, everything we had hoped for, and so much more.

Because of some good connections, some hard work, and a bit of magic, we were able to attend a lot of events.  As a group, these ranged from soccer, to tennis, to indoor volleyball, to beach volleyball, to basketball, to gymnastics, to swimming, and a few others.  On top of all that, we were able to experience so many moments which may never show up in a tourist guide book, but will be saved in our hearts forever.

When we arrived home, we learned that the recovery time for our girls would take a while.  Despite receiving their Myozyme treatment the day after flying in, it took at least a couple weeks for them to get back to normal.  We all fought through the exhaustion that comes with jet lag, but theirs was a bit more challenging.  All those days on their feet, climbing up and down tube station stairs, and not being on their regular diet, had an impact.  However, you would not have recognized it in their face or their attitude.  They embraced the opportunity to be in London and were not going to let Pompe slow them down.

So in the end, life is funny.  Years and years before, a young man read about adventure and wondered what lies beyond the California shores.  While a trip on the road with his high school buddies seemed like the best way to quench that desire, he was wrong.  Years and years later he was to find out that a trip across the ocean with his family and wonderful friends was the best way to do something outlandish.  Now that the planning is over, the Olympic flame has been extinguished, and normal life has returned, that same man is so very happy he picked up the phone when it was…

London calling!


Credit to: The Clash, “London Calling”

Day one with the 2012 Olympics Mascot

 First event at Wimbledon...Tickets anyone?

USA vs. Brazil in Volleyball

Two dads at the end of a successful trip...Happy as Larry!