Preface

Everyone’s got a dream… and we’re all waiting for the “right” time to live it. A few get lucky and the right time comes up and taps them on the shoulder. Most run out of time. As a twenty-something year old I was pretty much fed up with how people put off their dreams – waiting for some future event to signal that it was time. But as a forty-something year old father I’ve gotta admit… I’d become something of a waiter myself.

Dreams are crazy and waiting is just so… rational. Max out the 401k first. Pay off the house first. Just wait until the kids are in 7th grade, or 8th grade. And on… and on… and on. Everyone around you nodding their heads in agreement. All unwilling to admit that they’re drowning too. “Yeah, that’s the smart play,” they all say. But what’s so smart about trading the reality of today for the fantasy of tomorrow? There will always be another reason to wait. Another smart play to make. Because real plans for the future simply can’t be made by those who haven’t the ability to live now.

As for us… well, we thought we had it all. The big house, land, and lot’s of things. But that ownership thing is a bit of a greased melon and somewhere along the line our things pulled a jui-jitsu move on us and we ended up being owned by them. If life was about comfortable… we had it in spades. But if experiences and adventures are the pulse of life, we barely had a heart beat. My little voice was warning me… telling me that my life had a carbon monoxide leak. That the smart play was a trap. But I could barely hear it. I was asleep in the poppy fields outside Oz. My twenty-something year old self threw up his hands in disgust.

Contrary to what your financial planner will tell you… the real world isn’t tomorrow, it’s now. We have never, nor will we ever experience anything other than now. And on Nov 21, 2013… a night like any other… the real world completely obliterated our illusion of tomorrow. Dinner, homework, movie, bed by 10:00. A cycle we’ve repeated thousands of times without incidence. But on this night, or more accurately very early the next morning my sleep was interrupted by a sharp, extremely loud noise that seemed to me… in my comfortably bedded state to be the sound of a heavy object hitting the floor. I rolled over, turning my pillow to the cool side, in hopes of quickly returning to sleep… and then I noticed that Malia wasn’t next to me.

You have strange thoughts when you’re torn from your sleep and although I can’t remember mine at that moment, I’m sure that I’d come up with something that explained the noise. But when I saw that Malia wasn’t in bed… well, something just didn’t feel right. So I pulled my sleepy carcass from between the layers of my great white biscuit… and leaving our bedroom I ran into our boys leaving theirs.

“Did you hear that Dad?” “What was it?” Before I could attempt an answer our attention was hijacked by deep, rasping, guttural noises that were coming from the next room. Noises that I immediately took to be coming from a badger. Why a badger? I’ve no idea. I’ve never seen one in person and we didn’t even have them in our neck o the woods. But nevertheless as I turned the corner and entered the next room I was fully anticipating an encounter of the badger variety. TV had taught me not to take such a meeting lightly. That badgers can be rather fierce when cornered so I did what any other caring parent would do… I sent the kids in first. C’mon that’s a joke! I told them to wait in the hallway until one of us… hopefully me, came out.

The scene that greeted me shook me to my core. Malia was laying flat on her back. Her eyes stared upwards… fixed and lifeless, like a dolls. She was irregularly gasping for air… this was the source of the noises, and she was twitching. I froze. The kids had entered the room… and for a moment we just looked at each other. I wish that I could find the words to explain the intensity of the moment. The complete and total despair, isolation, and fear that surrounded us. But I doubt that even the great Earnest Hemingway himself could… so I won’t even try.

My next words I remember clearly… “Holy Fucking Shit!!!” Our daughter Kaila who had now joined us… corrected my language. “No bad words Dad!” “Really!?” I asked in amazement… “not even now?” “No Dad!” Man, talk about zero tolerance… I sure hope that she doesn’t become a judge. And I imagine that it may sound a little weird… but that exchange actually happened. And it brought me back into the moment.

But where to start? Slowly some training was kicking in. “Start with what you know.” But… what did I know? She must have fallen. I knelt down and felt the back of her head as I loudly called her name. No head injury. No response.

I checked her pulse at her neck. It was visibly and chaotically throbbing. Like her veins were dancing to some wild and discordant beat. Now what? I was impotent. The only action I could think of was to stay next to her and yell out her name… hoping that she would open her eyes and this would all end…or at least she could have the decency to tell me what to do. And as I knelt there, yelling her name… trying to figure out what in THE HELL to do, she… stopped breathing. Silence. It was the loudest, most awful silence that I’ve ever heard. “She’s breathing”, I thought. “You just can’t see it, she’s gotta be breathing.” THIS CAN”T BE HAPPENING! But it was, she wasn’t, and in just a few seconds, to completely round out the nightmare, Malia began to turn a very bright shade of blue. My past and future collapsed into a singularity of time and focus that I’ve never before experienced.

Elapsed time from discovery to this moment… less than five minutes.

The throbbing of her neck had ceased. No pulse. No breathing. I finally had something concrete to deal with… and… I cursed myself for wishing for something concrete to deal with. This wasn’t what I had in mind. Somewhere in the back of my mind a timer started an ominous countdown – two minutes. Two minutes to brain damage, to death, to… I had no idea, and I didn’t want to find out. I don’t know where I got that two minutes from but I was damn sure gonna make sure that we didn’t hit it.

And then… more training availed itself to me. I had recently been re-certified for CPR and as my mind slowly rebooted, the structure to handle the crisis came flooding upon me. 1. Get help. I sent Wyatt, our oldest at eleven to retrieve my phone and call 911. 2. Begin compressions. As I was administering CPR I gave the 911 operator the vitals. Sitrep, address, cross street. The operator stayed on the line and I continued compressions.

To my everlasting relief the blue tinge quickly left her skin. I called the boys into the bathroom and told them to go to the end of our driveway and meet the ambulance. We lived some miles outside of town and have a very long driveway. They didn’t want to be down there alone. I brought them in close and tried to look them directly in their eyes as I continued compressions. I breathlessly tried to explain to them the gravity of the moment. if I stopped what I was doing their Mom would die right now. So it couldn’t be me waiting down there. “We’re a team that’s got one shot of beating the odds.” “But everyone’s gotta perform.” “If I don’t keep this up… or if that ambulance misses us, if it’s delayed by just a few seconds, we’ll have missed our chance… and the window will close.” A look of seriousness crossed their faces. “Ok Dad, we’ve got this”, I heard them say as they left. Even though they were only eleven and nine years old at the time I would trust their efforts over those of many adults.

That left me with Kaila, who was all of five… and a HALF years old as she reminded us daily, quietly sitting behind me holding onto my leg. “Kaila, go into the big bedroom.” “No Daddy, I want to be here.” Conversation over. I had no more energy or time to talk about it. There she stayed as I focused on the rhythm of compressions.

When I was re-certified I learned that the rules had changed. The recommended compressions per minute had been increased to 100. So my world was now reduced to two numbers: two minutes and 100. Since she wasn’t blue it seemed that I had thus far delivered on my two minute promise. Now to just keep up the 100.

It was exhausting. The 911 operator was still on the line periodically encouraging me. Sweat dropped from my face onto Malia’s shirt. I looked at the elapsed time of my call to 911 – seven minutes…seven minutes thirty seconds, eight minutes…My knees were bloodied by the tile floor beneath them as I propelled myself up and down. My mouth was so dry that my lips were stuck to my teeth. At eleven minutes and twenty seconds I heard the engines coming up the drive way. At eleven minutes and thirty-five seconds Kaila tapped my shoulder. A paramedic stood over me.

I slumped to the floor totally spent behind them as they moved Malia into the foyer for more room. It was actually worse having nothing to do but watch. There was still no pulse. They got oxygen on her, cut off her shirt and applied an AED. Nothing. More compressions. AED. Nothing. More compressions…

Somewhere in the midst of all that had happened the complete fallacy and impotence of money became clear to me. All this time that I’d spent chasing it… collecting it… as if it in and of itself had worth. And here… in the key moment of my life, it was totally worthless. The only things that I had that had any real worth on that night were brave and capable children and the knowledge of CPR. The realization of so much wasted time exploded inside of me.

I took the kids outside into the cold. Anything was better than to stand there and watch. And truth be told… I didn’t want those to be their last memories of their Mom.

Twenty minutes after we called 911 they transported Malia to the hospital. Her heart would still not beat on it’s own. When the fire engines, paramedics, and sheriff had all gone we silently set about cleaning up. All of us robotically removing the macabre reminders of the night. Her cut tank top. Needle wrappers. An oxygen mask wrapper. An EKG strip with a flat line.

We got in the car and drove to the hospital. I knew she wasn’t going to make it. Twenty minutes without a pulse? Or worse, what if she made it and was brain damaged, or crippled, or….? I turned into the emergency room parking lot and my sense of dread peaked. I wanted to drive away so badly. I can’t describe how much I didn’t want to walk in and hear that she didn’t make it.

They were waiting for us. My head was buzzing. My skin hurt. The doctor pulled me to the side. “Is this how it goes?”I thought. “Is this how they do it?” “It’s not like the movies at all.” “This guys not even good looking!” Then he started talking at me. “When your wife got here she had no pulse.” I steadied myself. “We initiated hypothermic protocols… throbiblgongy… blah… blah.. shmongindingalob.” I couldn’t focus on what he was saying. “Golliwobby… her hearts beating on it’s own now…” “WHAT?!!” “Say that again please.” Him… “Ahem, Oh Yes, her heart started, but she’s still very, very sick and we have A LOT of questions for you.” And with that he introduced me to the intensivist. “Intensivist” – you gotta love the names they come up with. I mean do you have to kneel when you meet with an intensivist? Is it ok to look them in the eyes?

The “intensivist” turned out to be a VERY bright woman who asked what seemed to me to be good, direct questions and no… I didn’t have to kneel. Unfortunately, she did quickly disavow me of much of my optimism by telling me that the odds were long indeed against Malia’s survival. My ears started buzzing again. The floor tilted and I was standing on pudding. At some point you just give up trying to pretend that you’re keeping it together. She kept telling me things but I couldn’t retain any of it. She might as well have been shooting a firehouse into a thimble. I put my hand up in the universal symbol for help. She stopped talking and looked me in the eyes. “Take the kids home.” She said. “There’s nothing that any of you can do here.” “Take them to where they’re comfortable.” Finally, words I could understand, steps I could follow.

It was 4:45 in the am when I tucked the kids into our bed. I waited until they went to sleep, and knowing that sleep wouldn’t come for me I went out into the great room and waited for THAT call to come. I remember sitting in my chair, putting my feet up on the coffee table, putting my phone on the arm rest and staring at it. First I celebrated every minute that passed without a call. That was too emotionally tiring. I graduated to five minute increments, then ten. Feeling confident I went to make a cup of coffee.

The phone rang. Holy shit! Why did I let my focus waver? I ran over. Afraid to read the caller ID I answered the call without checking. A VERY RARE move for me! It was my brother. I had forgotten that I called him and Malia’s Mom after the ambulance left.

It went this way for the rest of the early morning. Calls from friends and family but not from the hospital. I wasn’t going to jinx it. The kids got up. Breakfast. Still no call. At 9:30 the hospital called. I confirmed my identity and held my breath. Malia was stable… ish! She was being transported to another hospital that specialized in all things cardiac.

The culprit: sudden cardiac arrest. The most common cause of death… in those over sixty, not in 40 year olds. Here’s the odds: Ninety-nine out of a hundred people who have a cardiac arrest die. Of the one in a hundred who make it…ninety-nine percent of them are permanently damaged. When I asked her cardiologist if they track the survivors he told me that there are basically none to track. Incredibly, outside of a temporary inability to form short term memories that we all had great fun with, she had zero neurological damage… well… no more than she already had. C’mon that’s another JOKE… ummm, mostly.

After only a week in the hospital we got her home, just in time for for Thanksgiving. And what a Thanksgiving it was. I doubt that I shall ever have one quite like it again…and that’s ok. When the guests were gone, the kids were in bed, and the dust from the night had completely settled, I looked at her standing there wearing the portable defibrillating vest – that she had to agree to wear to get out of the hospital. And for the first time since it happened… I allowed myself to take a deep full breath… and I completely and totally broke down.

There is no tomorrow. There is no “right time”. And as for the smart play… well it seems to me that it would be to make the best use of that knowledge..

  21 comments for “Preface

  1. Lyn
    April 17, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    You made me cry. Enjoy each and every moment. Malia is a miracle.
    ❤️

  2. Bill
    May 1, 2015 at 3:57 am

    Mary Sue and I met all of you in Cottonwood Az. What an interesting gang. We’re looking forward to sharing your journey with you. Good luck and stay safe. Bill

  3. Brad Parker
    August 8, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Enjoyed meeting Malia and the boys in Missoula. Hope your adventures are memorable and you get to see the world. If you ever make it to western Canada we’d love to show you around. Our boys are upset we didn’t have time for the tennis lessons. All the best and safe travels.
    Brad, Crystal, Gavin and Thane Parker

  4. Bryson Tacbian
    August 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I was brought here by your camper trailer. Im looking to get a Fort as well!!! But Im so glad I stopped to take a look at your content. You are a great writer!! Ive basically gone through every emotion reading your blog. Life is crazy and its short. Im inspired by your drive to make incredible memories and spectacular photos. Please please please let me know if you ever find yourselves in the PNW. Washington has some great places to explore. Myself and my 4 year old daughter would love to join you guys on an short expedition.

    I love what you are doing here! Keep up the good work! You are a very lucky father with a beautiful family!!

    • tro@me.com
      September 5, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      Thank you for the VERY kind words! We just may be headed your way…we’ll keep you posted. Oh, and if you do get a FORT you won’t be disappointed. Feel free to ask us any questions you may have.

  5. George Fogelson
    September 21, 2015 at 2:25 am

    It was an honor to meet you and your lovely family at the Lair. Safe travels and I look forward to keeping up with you on this blog.

  6. Linda
    October 16, 2015 at 2:45 am

    What a family!!
    It was truly a blessing to have met this family a couple weeks ago while on a Morgan Car Club run through the Sierras. We were at a friends cabin when Tim and the children were looking at the cars parked among the trees at Pinecrest. After short introductions and a conversation about cars, we said our good-byes, not knowing anything about this family, except that we ‘liked’ them!
    In the following weeks, we visited Pinecrest again and got to know this family even more. They are living their life, day-to-day, and sharing all of life’s treasures through travel, reading, writing, blogging and photography. They are so much fun and have such an appreciation for life, in more ways than one, just read the Preface.
    Wishing you ‘safe journeys’ and looking forward to reading more about your travels and life’s experiences.
    Linda, Mike, Kathy and Carol.

  7. October 24, 2015 at 12:25 am

    i don’t know you folks,
    i may never know you folks,
    i hope and pray i meet you folks,
    i cried for ten minutes after reading your preface,
    i have always tried to live my life like this, and lately i have got off track. Similar traps,
    Thanks for sharing this.
    You guys are truly awesome.
    w

  8. March 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Oh shit! I’m trying to hold my self from crying, what a wondeful story… thanks god you just got re-certified on RCP.

    Now I’m following you and your family in this awesome trip.

    Thanks for share, greetings from Chile.

    • tro@me.com
      March 19, 2016 at 2:30 am

      Thanks for reading it! We’re headed your way…

  9. Melody bender
    March 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Oh my, what a story. Just feel so happy that you are living the dream
    Barnes and I sure loved spending time with all of you. You have a beautiful family and I love them dearly. Soooo very glad that our paths crossed. Hugs. Melody and Barney Bender

    • tro@me.com
      March 19, 2016 at 2:29 am

      We enjoyed it too! The kids are still talking about you guys… and the ice cream. Safe travels!

  10. March 18, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    My oh my ! What can I say ! Meeting “The Family” was the highlight of my trip in Mexico ! I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years our paths would cross. Maybe it was meant to be, but then again, maybe it was just plain luck

    Little did I know when I went to the pool” that afternoon” a little girl would ask me to swim with her. Normally, I wouldn’t have said “OK”. Why did I say “OK” this time ? Was I bored? Was it because she has this innocent front teeth missing smile or was it because she just has a special way of bringing people into her world. Not long after meeting her, I met her brothers and parents. Dang, they all had that special way of bringing people into their world.

    We spent a lot of time together and had a blast !

    I still think it must be hard for Tim to be in his own head. Of course that is our joke! We had a lot of interesting conversations which I enjoyed very much.

    I didn’t see too much of Malia. She was like an endangered species. Aloft and in hiding. lol

    Wyatt was the event planner, social director and the business manager.

    Carson was the house comic that ALWAYS had a “SMART” comment and a smile.

    Kalia just just stole my heart and I don’t want it back !

    It was very hard saying goodbye! Will our paths cross again, most likely not! I will never forget the brief time we had.

    My life has been enriched by meeting and getting to know “The Family”. Thank You !

    Preston

    • tro@me.com
      March 19, 2016 at 2:27 am

      …and you said you couldn’t write. Until our paths cross again… que te vaya bien mi amigo!

  11. Andy Woodburn
    March 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I finally got brave enough to read this as I knew it would make me cry. I obviously knew the end result as I just spent two weeks with you guys, but I had to keep reminding myself as I was reading there was a happy outcome.

    What a life changing event and fortunately you all took that seriously and changed yours lives. As you said, there really is only now, because you never know.

    I know I told you all just about everyday from the time we met how much we enjoyed you and the kids. That is an understatement. You have the most amazing kids and they only turn out that way because of the parenting. I’ll always treasure that very special time together, and who knows…maybe our paths will all cross again. Safe journeys always!!

    Andy

  12. May 4, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Wow. Fantastic. The open road is lucky to have you guys.

  13. Ruben
    June 1, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Itd be remiss not to acknowledge the inspired and the inspirational family from Cali that we met in Mexico (Manuel’s hidden gem) this past week..

    Kaila for sharing your Da Vinci like talent during the the sand drawing game, the dudes for teaching me a bit of bird and marine life, the Mrs. for opening up and conveying her story of triumph, Senor Timoteo for uniquely genuine conversation, copper for the chill and max for the crazy (there may very well be a method to his madness)……we thank you. Although short, the opportunity to have been path-crossed neighbors certainly made our experience more special. Your family exudes hope, humanity, honesty, …simply put, you all are breath of fresh air…

    Will stay connected. Eyes open, take care & keep enjoying!

    Ruben + Michele

  14. June 23, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Wow.. if ever there was a story to make one understand the fragility of life. What an enormous blessing that she survived and that you all have taken on the goal to lead life NOW instead of waiting for some mystical day in the future when society deems it the “right time”. Travel well and I am sure our paths will cross down the road.

  15. September 6, 2017 at 9:16 am

    Well written and a poignant story. Because we’ve woken up every morning until now we assume that the next morning is ours as well; such a false sense of invincibility.

    Travel well, hope one day our paths may cross.

  16. Dave Murray
    September 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    If you’re looking for a unique experience that might include a secure place to camp and an opportunity to contribute to a very worthy cause, consider the Ara Project at Punta Islita on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The Ara Project raises captive scarlet and great green wing macaws for ultimate release into habitats where their populations are severely depleted. Their efforts have resulted in a significant increase in both populations. My guess is that they could use some short-term volunteer labor and the experience would be worthwhile for adults and children alike.

    You could contact their general manager, Sarah Williams, at sarah@thearaproject.org.

  17. Tim
    September 7, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Dave – that’s a great recommendation. I just sent her an email… we’re on our way to Costa Rica today. Thanks very much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *