Not Exactly How I Planned to Spend Grandparents Day

DSCN7083We were all set to go up north on Friday after work to help Jonathan’s grandparents take the dock out of the lake just like we did last year. While I waited for Jonathan to come home, I packed and texted back and forth with Jonathan’s grandpa, giving him our ETA, letting him know that yes, we would stop and pick up taco shells on our way, and telling him I loved him too. After about three hours in the car, we arrived, at a late taco dinner (pretty much a tradition), visited with Grandma and Grandpa, and went to bed really late, but not before Grandma gave us her customary, “You get up when you get up.” The plan was for us to catch up on sleep, get up, have brunch, and maybe take the boat out for one last spin around the lake. Then the boys would go take the dock out of the lake.

But this weekend did not go as planned.

We woke up sometime after 8:00 a.m. to Grandma knocking on the door, apologizing for waking us and asking Jonathan if he could please go talk to Grandpa because he thinks he might be having a heart attack.

The night before, Grandpa had said more than once that he wasn’t feeling well, but he didn’t give details. Turns out that meant he had been having some pretty classic heart attack symptoms since Thursday. We got up, threw some things together, and Jonathan drove quite a ways to the nearest “hospital” (basically a glorified clinic with an emergency room. When you’re that far north, hospitals are few and far between). On the ride, Grandpa was acting like himself, asking Jonathan to slow down and did he go through a lot of tires and could he please go a little faster?

Grandma was just in awe of the way God had worked it out for Jonathan and me to be with them on this particular weekend. We had made plans for a different date and had switched those plans twice, finally landing on this weekend at the last minute. Since Grandma doesn’t drive much, it would not have been easy for her to drive that morning especially. It really was a blessing that we were there to do the driving and help where needed.

Having never experienced a real emergency before, I was surprised I was able to remain calm. (Jonathan is what one of my friends calls a “steady Eddie,” so I expected him to be that way, but not me.) My first instinct was to pray. So I started praying and I spent a good bit of time texting people I knew would pray for Grandpa. Since I had gone to bed without brushing my teeth or showering, I made sure I packed my toothbrush and makeup bag. I kept quiet nearly the whole car ride, not really knowing what to say. While we waited for news, Grandma sent us to the vending machines, where we looked for some kind of breakfast. We ended up with a bag of peanuts and a diet coke for her and pink lemonade, pop tarts, and cinnamon Certs (that’s what happens when you push the wrong numbers!) for us.

They did some tests, told us Grandpa had, in fact, had a severe heart attack, and prepared to airlift him to Minneapolis. Grandma couldn’t ride in the helicopter, so we drove her all the way back to the house to pick up our suitcase and car and pack for the hospital stay.

We collected the typical things you’d think to take, like clean underwear, things for Grandma to work on, and quarters for Grandpa’s Sunday paper, but since it’s a three-hour drive to Minneapolis and since Grandma was expecting bypass surgery and therapy afterward, we brought other things too. Like an entire box of tomatoes. And another box of green peppers. And a bag of cucumbers, an entire pumpkin pie, a few peaches, and two coolers full of food that Grandma thought would go to waste while they were in the Cities.

It took us about an hour to get back to the house, load everything, and leave for the hospital. Jonathan drove Grandma in her van and I followed in our car. I think it was hard for all three of us to know that we wouldn’t see Grandpa for several hours. Grandma busied herself with phone calls to and from loved ones, Jonathan drove and offered support when needed, and I prayed a bit and listened to shows on public radio for the entire three hours, not really wanting to think much about what was going on. I calmed myself by remembering that Grandpa was in exactly the right place to get the help he needed.

When we stopped for gas and lunch at Subway, Jonathan told me Grandpa had made it to the hospital, had a stent put in, and was already out of surgery, doing well, and expected to go home on Monday (which he did!). Jonathan’s mom was with him.

When we finally arrived, around 3:00 p.m., I sank into a chair in the waiting room and almost lost it. The stress of the day and the utter relief that Grandpa was okay finally hit me, and it was all I could do to not burst into tears. But Jonathan doesn’t have a weepy family like I do, and I wanted to keep myself in check. After Jonathan’s mom gave us a few more details, we got to sit with Grandpa. Other than being in intensive care and connected to a bunch of machines, he was his normal self, and I was so relieved.

I was surprised how many people thanked us for “everything you did.” What else would we do? I wondered. We love Grandpa just as much as you. But I realized that just like me, everyone else was just grateful Grandpa was okay. They were grateful, just as I was, that we were there to help. But we weren’t the ones who should be thanked—I have no doubt that God made sure we were there at just the right time.

This whole experience made me realize that how you respond in an emergency isn’t too far from how you respond in a non-emergency (maybe it’s different with others, but that was certainly the case with us). So often we think that it’ll be different when it matters, but is that really true? Do the things you care about most really change in an emergency? Despite the circumstances, your behavior and the things you care about might not change as much as you’d think—Jonathan still kept his cool and made sure he had a book to read; Grandpa still won the award for best backseat driver ever and worried about us (“Tell the kids not to worry about the dock”); and Grandma still kept everyone in the loop and wanted to make sure her food would be enjoyed. Me? Well, to my shame, I realized I care too much about how I look (who needs makeup at the hospital?), And I discovered prayer is my go-to in any situation.

The most important thing I realized is just how much Grandpa and Grandma mean to me. We went back to the hospital to visit on Sunday, and I must say, there’s no better way to celebrate Grandparent’s Day than with your grandparents.


This is us this time last year—with Grandma and Grandpa and Jonathan’s brother Christopher.

To all of you who prayed for us this weekend, thank you! Your support and prayers meant so much to me and the rest of the family. I truly believe your prayers are part of the reason Grandpa is doing so well.

One thought on “Not Exactly How I Planned to Spend Grandparents Day

  1. Dawn

    Very nice story, Sarah. I like how you tied it together at the end! I’m so thankful Neil is OK. God is so good to have put you in the right place at the right time.

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