Here it is almost midnight. I was lying here in bed thinking about tattoos, just about to dose off to dreamland when memories came rushing through my brain at record speeds. The memories were that of the weekend before Payton passed away, when we were at Great Wolf Lodge. I tried to fall asleep but then fear that I might forget some of these memories brought me to sitting position; I have to document these details which are so vivid in my mind right now.
My sister and I worked together to figure out a good weekend to take our kids to GWL. We had to work around Payton’s chemo treatments and my sister’s step-daughter being with them that weekend. We decided to go the weekend of March 17th. The few days before that, Payton started having trouble swallowing and was in quite a lot of discomfort. We talked to his oncologist about having a feeding tube placed. We told Payton that it was an option, but we would need to reschedule our GWL trip since he would need to be in the hospital for a couple of days. He was not having that at all. He wanted to tough it out, so we allowed it.
We arrived at Great Wolf Lodge on Friday, and Payton was in a good mood. All of the kids were excited. We checked in and pushed Payton in his wheelchair to our room. The kids went back and forth between our rooms which were across from one another. Everyone wanted to go to the water park but everyone was also hungry. We ordered pizza. Jason went down to the hotel restaurant to get Payton some mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese since he could not eat pizza. Payton ate a few bites of each, but it was very difficult for him. We finished eating and took the kids down to the water park. Payton and I got in the pool, I felt everyone staring at me helping him walk. I did wonder what they thought of my precious, obviously over weight little boy who could barely walk himself, but it didn’t bother me. Payton would have never thought twice about taking his shirt off at a pool before, but he wanted to keep his shirt on, which made me feel bad but I respected his decision. He held onto me so close in the pool. I just held him and carried him around in the water, loving the closeness. A pool basketball came our way and Payton grabbed it. He backed away from me and we started playing catch. Alexis and Alivia soon joined us and we all had fun throwing the ball to each other. Then Payton decided he wanted to go do something else. We walked over to the built-in water guns and shot at each other for a second. Then I suggested we find my sister and her kids. They were in the small kiddie area. I asked Payton if he wanted to go down one of the slides, which he did. I walked him up the stairs and he went down. He didn’t show much excitement and wanted to go on a bigger slide. I was trying to avoid the big slides because the stairway is very tall with a lot of steps. Jason walked him up to go on one of the medium slides instead. That may have been more difficult, as it is sort of an obstacle course to get to the slides. They got all of the way up there and the slides closed as some kid had pooped somewhere. My heart broke for Payton because I knew how hard it was for him to get up there. We went in the hot tub for awhile before heading back to the room to change clothes to go to the arcade. Payton loved playing games there and won a lot of tickets which he made me hold. He got frustrated choosing a prize, and the attendant was very nice and along with the pair of Spider-Man sunglasses he picked, the attendant gave him a Spider-Man hat.
All the while, we were struggling to get Payton to take his pain meds because it hurt him so bad to swallow. He woke up the next morning in so much pain he didn’t want to do anything. He cried as we practically begged him to take his pain medicine so he would feel better. He got upset and went over to the bed, trying to get up on it. I went over and helped him up and lied there beside him. I finally got him to take his medicine and told him he could take a nap and maybe he would feel a little better when he woke up. I felt so helpless. I knew he wanted to have a good time and the stupid cancer was trying to stop him from that. He won that day for sure though. A bit later he was ready to go to the water park. He was still in pain, but we helped him get his swim stuff on. I could see him pushing himself through the pain. He hadn’t eaten yet and wanted mashed potatoes and macaroni again. When we got to the water park I sat at the table with him while he tried so hard to eat. He only managed a couple of bites before he fell asleep in his wheelchair. I sat there just looking at my little boy. I hated this trip to GWL so much and I hated DIPG more than anything. Eventually Payton woke up and I asked him if he wanted to go play yet. He did, so we went into the pool. A lot of kids were climbing on this big floating caterpillar in the water. Payton walked over there and I followed. He asked me to help him up. I tried to help him and he groaned “I can’t” and got back down. Then we went to find Jason so we could go on a big slide. Jason carried Payton to the top of the huge staircase to the big slides. I joked with them “It’s a good thing you have a strong daddy”, and I think Jason asked Payton if he was going to carry him next time. We went on the biggest slide, where we could all 3 ride together. Payton loved it. Then we went in the hot tub again and Payton sat next to me. I remember he was holding my hand under water. He had to go to the bathroom so I took him. He refused to come in the women’s restroom and I hated letting him go into the restroom by himself with the wet floors and his bad balance, but I crossed my fingers and prayed to God he’d be okay. He was. Then he wanted to go on another slide so Jason took him on a 2 person slide. After that we took a couple of laps around the lazy river.
Walking around the water park was really hard for me. I saw all of these kids running around playing, and Payton could barely walk. When we were there the year before, Payton was all over that place. He went on the slides over and over again the year before. He and Trenten would have been out of site the entire trip, had DIPG not fucked with our lives.
After the water park we took another trip to the arcade where the attendant gave in to Payton’s wants again and allowed him to get both the huge blow up microphone and the blow up mohawk hat. Then we went and let Payton pick a Magic Quest wand and took him around to check out all of the things you could point the wand at. He really liked the treasure chests with crystals in them and said he wished he had all of those crystals.
This was the last fun thing we ever did with Payton. When it was over, we asked him if he had fun and he said “Yes”. When we asked him what his favorite part was, and he replied “everything”, so I guess he didn’t let cancer ruin his fun time. It was a trip I never want to forget but I wish there was no pain involved for my sweet boy. I miss him so much.