The Rest of the Story

The 5 explorers with Greg's hat

(Dana) First, a HUGE thank you to all of our family and friends who supported Greg during his odyssey. The love, generosity and good thoughts clearly bolstered him through an incredibly challenging time. I wanted to share the feelings of the “other 5 explorers” as we continued around Antarctica without our team leader. I just wish I were as eloquent as he.

Greg’s ability to see the silver linings is what got us through that fateful day and the rest of that voyage. From the moment it happened, he focused on how fortunate we were that it wasn’t one of the kids or that the injury wasn’t life threatening. But despite his glass-half-full attitude, it was the darkest day of the trip. Immediately, we started to mourn his departure; after all, he was the explorer most looking forward to Antarctica. The final hours before his transfer felt like the scene from Dead Man Walking as we sat in our cabin, playing cards, crying, laughing and waiting for the phone to ring informing us that “it was time.” Emotions were raw as we hugged on the deck and wished him Merry Christmas and told him we’d see him next year. Other passengers out on the decks appreciating the incredible sunset (at 11pm) appeared glued to our scene just as drivers rubberneck at a car crash.

We would never had made it through the next few days if it weren’t for the complete support of the staff and other passengers of the KK. Concern was apparent as people continually asked how Greg was fairing. The two most memorable comments were, “the grace with which you and Greg are handling this crisis is the most important lesson you will ever teach your children” and about the fateful slide, “you weren’t being dumb; you were being spontaneous, and who wants to think that they are too old to be spontaneous with their children?”

But despite the support, the night before his surgery was torture. It was crushing to know that he was going through this without being there to hold his hand before or after surgery. Talk about teary. The relief was indescribable when I got the email that he was out of surgery in only 2.5 hours (a good sign according to Dr. Jo). But then came my next stress — relying on friends to nurse him through the god-awful first 24 hours of agony and knowing that other friends were stocking our house and keeping him company. Once his dad arrived, I relaxed, but concern for his physical and emotional state haunted me. I only relaxed completely once I knew he was well enough to go out for dinner and beers with buddies. Then it just became a matter of when he would meet us.

From the start, Greg was adamant that the five of us remain on the ship so that he could live vicariously through our experiences. It was the right decision, but the challenges became apparent over the next 3 weeks. Playing the combined roles of mom, dad, teacher, disciplinarian and entertainer shortened my fuse. Cabin assignments were rearranged, which caused all sorts of arguments. Schoolwork suddenly became a battle. And tempers flared in situations that Greg would have diffused with humor. Fortunately, our posse of surrogate moms and dads helped me divide-and-conquer child responsibilities. (Scuba diver!) But it merely underscored that I am a much better parent with him.

We definitely made the best of the incredible opportunity. When awed by the natural beauty, we often discussed how best to describe it to Greg. We took his AREA baseball hat with us on all outings so that Greg could fly in a helicopter, walk on the Ross Ice Shelf, soak-in Emperor penguins on the Phantom Coast or laugh-out-loud at the antics of Adelie penguins. We even called him on the satellite phone from Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds since he is a big fan of the explorer.

But despite all the fun, it was still bittersweet. I downgraded our A+ day with the Emperor penguin chicks to an A; how can you give it top marks when your best friend doesn’t get to experience it with you? Overall, I am thrilled that the kids had such a fantastic time and now rank Antarctica in their top-three, but it still rings slightly hollow to me.

In the end, Greg was right. If this had to happen to one of us, he was the best candidate. Only he would have the physical strength to be back with us now, the emotional strength to see all the silver linings and the acceptance of seeing that incredible place through our eyes. He certainly had us going with the diversion of “definitely not Hobart; maybe Sydney but definitely Cairns.” So our reunion was indeed the best day of this crazy journey so far. Thanks to Dr. Kocher and our new best friend Dr. Gill, we are settling back into our optimal roles. And we can continue, albeit at a slightly slower pace. I guess, as our dear friend DL says, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

“Now,” as Paul Harvey used to say, “you know the rest of the story.”

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6 Responses to “The Rest of the Story”

  1. So glad the explorers are back in full strength! I have been obsessively checking the website since I heard Greg was on his way back on NYE. The reunion brought tears to my eyes and a few laughs. Those Aussie beagles are tough! Caught an apple on my mom and I thought she would be hauled away! Enjoy the beautiful land “down under,” have a stubbie in celebration of being together and relax on those beautiful beaches. My AFS sister and hubbie are in Brisbane and they would be happy to help with anything.

  2. Dana, those are some fantastic Antarctica photos. Looks like we know who the real photographer in the family is. Even without Greg’s “help,” you were able to get some great shots. Or were they Emma’s?

    So glad it all worked out well, and thanks for lending Greg for Christmas.

  3. Hello to the 6 explorers! John and I are home and back to work, but Epic Antarctica has left its trip of a lifetime mark on us and it’s hard to redefine “normal.” It was a pleasure to meet you all and share the experience. I’ve been staying tuned in to your web site and loved the new posts on the reunion and on the cruise. I’ve uploaded my photos to my website, but I don’t think you will need even more sensory overload anytime soon. Best of luck on your remaining itinerary. I’ll check in from time to time, and we would love to see you, or hear from you if you pass through our part of the country,or other opportunity presents. Best Regards, Carol

  4. Dana, An incredible adventure that brings me to tears. Your bond as a family is the breathtaking, beautiful. I look forward to the next tale. Happy New Year! Coco

  5. All 6 of You, That reunion on the dock was the perfect ending to a great adventure.
    To see the surprise on your faces and the pure joy was just fantastic and I am so glad we had the opportunity to enjoy it with you. A shame it had to happen, but we were so glad Greg is on the way to total recovery and was spontaneous enough to surprise all of us.
    Thanks to the staff and the drug searching guys for their cooperation.

  6. Holy smokes, what a story! You just can’t make this stuff up. So glad you are ok, Greg; that’s a serious injury; I can’t imagine how scary that must have been writhing in pain at the end of the world knowing you needed a really great doctor really fast. Dana, great job keeping the show going without your leading man; you are a special person!