A Hard Lesson That I Learned Through Experience

My entire family travels, we always have. My grandmother retired from American Airlines after over 20 years of work and, because of that, everyone considered her child legally flies standby, for free. During my mom's childhood, they would spend Thanksgiving in Hawaii because it wasn't a popular idea to travel during the holidays for fun and flights were easy to get on. It was pretty common for my mother and uncles to spend time in Las Vegas together when they legally couldn't do anything for fun, from driving to gambling. So when my uncle's company asked him to open a satellite office in Las Vegas in 2015, he immediately accepted and started on moving plans.

He left at the end of the May. TQL (the company he worked for) paid for moving trucks but his two Alaskan Malamutes and the Jeep he owned forced him to drive across the country from Cincinnati, Ohio to Las Vegas, Nevada. He and his girlfriend decided to stretch the 28 hour trip into a week, eventually stopping in Amarillo, Texas to see extended family. I took my first trip to Vegas that summer, during the desert's hottest months.In 2016, after missing one year of a true family thanksgiving together, we decided to fly across the country to spend a thanksgiving together. Staying two nights on the strip and another three in his four bedroom loft, we spent a usual chilly holiday in 80 degree weather. Enjoying that experience and the time spent with family, we decided to spend 2017 thanksgiving away from home as well.

In the days leading up to our trip, I was overcome with stress. Leaving on a Tuesday, I was going to miss school and subsequently a test in my APUSH class. I had less time to study and less time to complete work. My mother had plans to move from five minutes away, to thirty minutes away. My father's birthday came and went, and I had no way to contact him due to a falling out we had. This emotional and mental stress all sent me to a breakdown that lasted three hours and left my eyes sore the next morning in the airport. My eyes felt five times bigger than they should have been and after googling it, I got my answer as to why they were in so much pain: emotional tears were saltier. It was simple science, osmosis. They were extremely dry, which caused my inability to admire the pinks and oranges of the sunset as we took off for the DFW airport.

After a three hour connecting flight to Vegas, we finally landed. Despite the fact that I've grown up completely in the midwest, walking through the airport gave me a sense of being home. I felt comfortable in the city known exclusively for crime, prostitution, gambling, and overall biblical sins. Walking through the airport, my sudden relief to be away from the stresses of my life juxtaposed the advertising for legalized poison and signs marking Vegas as strong and united.Within an hour, we were driving down the strip, which was the emptiest we had ever seen it. Usually, the sidewalks were packed. You would feel an overwhelming sense of being suffocated if you tried to walk through the crowds of tourists before a massacre that killed 59 and injured over 800 people. Even just driving felt easier, there was less traffic. Granted it was mid-afternoon on a weekday and the ride from McCarran to Caesars Palace hotel wasn't long.

If you wanted to define luxury, you could use the Caesars Palace. It was decorated in gold, marble, and stone white Roman statues everywhere you looked. The receptionists were all formally dressed, one man wearing a suit and referring to every guests by their surnames. Once we were handed the heavy plastic cards decorated to look like grey marble and the golden Caesars Palace logo, we made our way to our hotel room that overlooked Las Vegas Boulevard.As soon as we entered the room, I ran into the bathroom. The bathroom was the main reason we decided to stay at Caesars instead of the other hotels that littered the city. The bathtub was deep enough to completely submerge yourself in and sat below a mirror that took up the size of the wall. Grey and white marble tiles covered the floor and ran up the shower walls and behind the mirror above the tub. The rest of the walls were painted a light gray, contrasting the white double vanity. My grandmother and I have discussed renovating our bathrooms, but we both differed on what kind of design or color palette to go with. We both immediately fell in love with the hotel bathroom, but I was more eager to draw inspiration from it more than her.We stayed on the strip until Wednesday night, we when went to stay at my uncle's house. Logan bought his house in February and the value of his home had increase to $250k. Even though it was just him, his girlfriend (Lyndsey), and his two dogs, it was a 3 bedroom home with a first floor you could play football in. When Thursday morning came, Thanksgiving cooking started early.

Logan had invited a couple of friends from work over who had moved to Vegas from Cincinnati and didn't have family to spend the holiday with. He spent most of the day leading up to the dinner frying a turkey, doing so with the coworker he invited over since he had experience. I worked with Lyndsey to make the sides, bake a few of the pies, and formally set the dinner table. Once all food was made, we laid it out on a table separate from the dinner table to avoid clutter and began eating.

"Alexa, play Christmas music," Lyndsey shouted before stabbing her turkey dressed in gravy with her fork. Without missing a beat, Logan shouted "Alexa, stop" and got up to unplug his Amazon Echo before George Michael could begin crooning over his lost lover. This interaction immediately started our dinner with an argument answering this question: when is it too early to start playing Christmas music?

The night was full of laughter and story-telling, and ended in me treating myself to more pecan pie than I could probably handle. Once all the leftovers were either put or given away, I started to get ready for bed. After running through my night routine, I walked out into the living room to lay down and relax. That's when I overheard my grandmother on the phone. "No, don't use any towels. We'll need them when we get back. Just...don't try and get rid of the water. If it's already in the kitchen, there's too much water. What do you mean the toilet won't stop?" My stomach started to flip, and I could feel the nausea. A lump formed in my throat, and my chest got tight. I knew exactly what had happened, the tank in my forty year old toilet flooded and seeped through my floor, causing a waterfall to come out of the laundry room ceiling light and soak the floor. This had happened before, but we were always home and able to stop it. The water never got past the laundry room, and it had never seeped through the laundry room wall into the kitchen on the other side.

My suspicions were confirmed when she put the phone down, and explained the situation to me further. When Logan came back downstairs, he was told the events of the last fifteen minutes. "We need to leave early and get back. I don't know how good the flights look, but I can't be here," my grandmother spoke rapidly, already pulling her computer out of her carry on bag.Of course, left to my own devices, my thoughts started running at a 100 miles per hour. I thought of my cat, who left alone and my mom was supposed to be watching. If the water had gone anywhere upstairs, potentially causing destruction. How much damage there really was, what could have been destroyed, if we could move on from this event.

Instead of leaving on Sunday as planned, we would leave the next day on a mid-afternoon flight. Connecting through Dallas to Cincinnati, we would get home sometime past midnight. I could see the stress weighing down on my grandmother almost immediately. She was the woman who raised me for most of my life, and I could tell when she was letting things get to her. When feeling nostalgic, she would repeat the same story of her childhood home that she shared a room with her older sister in, how she would be able to share clothes with her older sister because they were the same size and their family was too poor to buy an entire new wardrobe each year. That's why our home was so important to her, it demonstrated her hard work through blood, sweat, and tears. Any form of attack against our home was an attack on my grandmother's wellbeing. She didn't simply own the house, the house represented everything she was proud of.

So, when the next morning came I packed my suitcase and carry on backpack. Logan gave us Thanksgiving leftovers that were less likely to go bad in the next twelve hours for our flights, and we packed his Jeep full of our bags. On our way to the airport, we made a pit stop at a casino buffet to get food into our system before the long day of traveling ahead. "You don't have to leave today, you can stay here. The damage is already done, just stay here and relax for a couple more days." Logan had spent every moment he could since the call to convince us to stay. I didn't need convincing, I loved this city. On the other hand, my grandmother wouldn't budge.

For some unknown reason, my boarding pass was the only one with precheck for TSA. I walked through TSA by myself, knowing that after this my time in this city was done. There was no "maybe we can take a later flight" left to let me savor my time. Staring at the back of my boarding pass telling visitors to come again, tears started stinging the corners of my eyes as the metal seats dug into my thighs. Before the floodgates could open, my grandmother walked out of the other TSA line and we were on our way to our gate.

Our flights went by quickly, I kept myself distracted with music and movies on my phone. The entire time felt like a calm before the storm. My chest felt tight, but I was still able to take deep breaths and take in the events around me. Getting back into our SUV once we were back in Cincinnati gave me a sense of relief, but made my homesickness for Vegas worse.When we pulled into our garage, we both looked at each other. The brown door was the only thing separating us from a world of hurt. "Are you ready for this?" I took a deep breath and turned the doorknob. "It's now or never, I guess."

Immediately walking in, we were welcomed by water. Turning the flashlight on our phones, we saw a thin layer of water covering every surface about half a foot up from the floor. We noticed the already buckling wood floors in the dining room that my grandfathered surprised my grandmother with a year before his passing. The brand new carpet in the living room was soaked, squishing with water every time you tried to take a step in.

After twenty minutes of flushing the toilet in my bathroom, the water finally came to a stop. Despite arriving home promptly at midnight, we didn't go to sleep until our clocks read two AM. Waking up earlier than usual at eight AM, I heard our carpet shampooer in the living room soaking up water. When I finally ventured back downstairs, calls were being made to our insurance company. By the end of the day, we had industrial drying fans set up in every room affected and a humidifier in my bathroom that caused countless nosebleeds.

The end of the flood didn't come until late February, when my bathroom was done being renovated and we had no floors laid down. Everyday of our lives, we're told not to take things for granted. Appreciate what you have, appreciate your privilege, realize that anything can be taken away. This lesson isn't truly learned until you have your material possessions taken away because of forces you can't control. After the flood in my home that took four long months to overcome and repair the damages, I found myself focusing on the relationships with the people around me. I realized that the material things I surrounded myself weren't the end all, be all, and I shouldn't make the focus of my life my possessions. I took the pain I was forced through and learned to grow. It's a hard lesson that can only be learned through experience, and I feel for everyone forced to learn this same lesson as me.


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