Stepping Through a Time Portal

Seven days after leaving my house unexpectedly, I return home. It’s like stepping through a time portal, one in which Thanksgiving was yesterday. There is still pumpkin pie in the refrigerator, and gravy. Cranberry sauce. A roasting pan atop the stove, serving platter in the dishwasher. The turkey is gone – no endless leftovers this year, nary a battle over the last remaining slivers of dark meat versus white, all else discarded, but in hindsight I froze the carcass and can resuscitate that into a hearty, steaming turkey soup this weekend. The holiday is not dead.

Not quite yet.

Sydney is happy to see me. She has had visitors – Tara stayed here three nights in my absence, and my mom stopped by occasionally – but it is obvious she is delighted that a human has decided to stick around for a while, finally.

There are stacks of newspapers from last week, flyers advertising canned pumpkin and stuffing mix and Black Friday deals. And, the occasional telltale sign of trouble to come. The bottle of Pepto Bismol on my kitchen counter, the first portent of an unexpected change in the course this holiday would take, regrettably worthless in the end yet for one brief moment my bright, pink beacon of hope.

Those first few days in the hospital, I grieved over the unfortunate turn of events the holiday had taken. The excited countdown leading up to Tara’s visit, the rush as days dwindled to hours, the perfect airport greeting. Five glorious nights together, I had posted on Facebook, chock full of plans including a trip to Seattle and a lot of down time. We were excited to not have to be on the go the entire time this visit; we wanted to take it easy and relax. And while I apologized for ruining this much-anticipated holiday visit, Tara would have none of that. “Everything happens for a reason,” she insisted. “I would much rather be here by your side than three states away, worrying about you.” And in the end, I could not agree more. This will always go down as a bummer of a holiday – but at the same time, I will forever see it as the one defining moment in which our relationship took a newer, stronger turn and our love grew exponentially. You don’t go through something like this together unless there is a real, solid, permanent connection. “We make a great team,” she kept telling me on Thanksgiving Day, and I echo that sentiment wholeheartedly.

I kinda felt like The Terminator after awhile.

There. Maybe that’s what Fate had up her sleeve the whole time. Showing us that, through thick and thin, we will be there for one another. We will persevere, no matter how bad things may get at the time.

I can’t think of a better prescription for a relationship.

My blood pressure was falling steadily into what the doctor deemed an acceptable range yesterday, and with each reading my hopes increased that I would finally be discharged. Sure enough, about 4 PM, it became official. Stepping outside for the first time in almost a week, I was struck by the chill in the air, and how clean it smelled. I wanted to drop to my knees and kiss the ground, but the pain in my incisions would have made that a foolish move. My mom drove me back to their house, and I marveled over all the Christmas decorations that had suddenly popped up since the last time I’d been out. I didn’t even know what day it was. You truly do lose track of time in the sterile environment of a hospital.

My bed for six grueling nights.

Back at their house, I got cozy in a chair with a blanket, and felt more relaxed than I had in ages. My mom made spaghetti, and it tasted absolutely delicious. Here’s the thing about hospital food: it all looked good, and I was impressed with the variety of the menu. I was served, among other things, salisbury steak; macaroni and cheese; pot roast and mashed potatoes; cheese blintzes; a pulled pork sandwich; and a salmon salad. The trouble is, everything tasted bland, and I was never hungry enough to eat very much. A few bites would fill me up. They also went kinda crazy with lemons – lemon bar, lemon custard, lemon yogurt. I’m wondering if the local hospital is somehow in cahoots with the Lemon Grower’s Association of America. So anyway, as good as the meals looked, they were mostly tasteless. The coffee was awful. My best meal there? That first sip of ice water after being on an IV-only fluid drip for 24 hours. I have never craved ice water like that before. That first day there, they gave me a sponge on a stick that I was allowed to dip in water to moisten my lips and tongue. Talk about one big tease. I loved that little implement, though. Any spare drops that happened to trickle down my throat were heavenly.

This sponge, dipped in water, was a huge treat during my first 24 hours.

After dinner – my first real meal with any sort of flavor – I talked to Tara and watched a little TV, then decided to turn into bed early. My six nights in the hospital were constantly marred by interruptions; it’s very annoying to be jolted awake with bright lights and nurses stabbing needles in your stomach, taking your vital signs, and making you swallow pills when all you want to do is sleep – which is, of course, next to impossible in the first place, thanks to the strange atmosphere, the noise, the lights, the pain, the fear. Being able to sleep, uninterrupted, in a soft and cozy bed felt amazing. I probably got a good 9 or 10 hours of rest. And then, this morning after breakfast, my mom finally drove me home.

2011 has been a year of homecomings for me, and this one was no less special or dramatic than the others. Best of all was the card from Tara, reminding me again that we make a great team and that, soon enough, we’ll be together again.

23 more days, to be exact.

I should be nicely healed by then!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

30 thoughts on “Stepping Through a Time Portal

  1. I love it when they give you something to help you sleep and then wake you up every two hours to check your blood pressure. One doctor upon hearing my complaint admitted “Hey, a hospital is nowhere to expect to get any rest.”


  2. Sweetie…the leftover turkey, stuffing, mash potatoes and gravy are all in the freezer. πŸ˜‰

    Sorry I didn’t think to wrap up the pies. And in a moment of weakness, I ate your cookies. But I promise to make more (and then some!) at Christmas.

    I can already hear the difference in your voice now that you are out of the hospital. You know have three weeks to get all better, and really, it should only take a couple more to be completely healed from surgery. Christmas and New Years will be awesome. It has to be!


    1. Ahh, yes. I’ve discovered all the leftovers now. Thanks, babe! I may yet get to enjoy a delayed turkey feast after all. Minus the cookies, of course. πŸ˜‰

      I will be better then…I promise!


  3. Ah, Tara, packaged up the food and froze it for you. How sweet. You are one very blessed man, my friend!

    I’m glad to hear you’re home and finally getting some rest. Hope you have a relaxing weekend. Take care———–



  4. Glad to hear you are home and on the mend. I must say I am extremely grateful that I had a simple gall bladder surgery and not something like this. It sounds awful. And I agree wholeheartedly with Tara, everything does happen for a reason and you two seem to make a wonderful team. You are lucky to have each other. I wish you a speedy recovery and hopefully a little less eventful visit the next time you see each other!


    1. It’s funny how much I was dreading the surgery…and that was the easiest portion of the whole hospital stay. Sigh. Glad it’s over, and looking forward to seeing her again under less stressful conditions!


  5. This is a lovely entry, Mark. Love the way you write!

    The only *really long* stays I ever had in a hospital were after c-sections. I remember not only being woken up throughout the night by nurses taking my vitals, but also to feed a baby. How is anyone supposed to recover with no rest? I remember the beds being hugely uncomfortable — and that’s not even counting being sore from surgery. I don’t, however, remember the food being bad, though. Maybe it’s our great CA produce, etc. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t have to prepare it.

    Anyway….Tara — total keeper. So glad you two found each other.

    Happy healing.

    I’ll see you in early January. Don’t forget.


    1. Well, in all fairness they had me on a “lowfat” diet while there. Kinda puzzling, since several of the meals contained cheese – but that lack of creamer could be what doomed the coffee.

      The lemons were all good. Obviously they came from California. πŸ˜‰

      Looking forward to hanging out with you guys for a day next month!


  6. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! So glad to hear you’re out of the hospital and back home!!!

    I bet it felt awesome to finally walk out those hospital doors and into your own home.

    “Everything happens for a reason,” she insisted. β€œI would much rather be here by your side than three states away, worrying about you.”

    Aw…what a sweetheart Tara is! And she’s right, everything happens for a reason.

    I remember when one time when my father was in the hospital and had to use one of those ” sponge, dipped in water thingies” and I would swap his mouth every half hour to give him some moisture. It reminded me a tiny popsicle – HA!

    Anyway, you take care, buddy! And heal. Before you know it, Tara will be back!

    P.S. love the snowfall on your blog. WAY cool!


    1. I kept one of those sponge-on-a-stick things as a souvenir. Not that I really want any reminders of my hospital stay, but it’ll help me appreciate the simple things in life…like ice water anytime I want it. I swear, I’d have committed foul play for a glass at one point.

      Glad you like the snow. It’s an annual WordPress tradition. The forecast says it’ll stick around until January 2!


    1. Oh, absolutely. I did more mending in an hour today than I probably did over the course of four days in the hospital. There’s a lot to be said for relaxing in the comfort of your own home!


  7. I was anticipating a great entry and you didn’t disappoint.

    You brought tears to my eyes.

    Let me explain.

    Actually, I probably don’t need to explain but I can totally understand the feeling of stepping back in time. Such a weirdness about it. Yes, you are excited to finally be there, but also there is a sadness. And nothing can ease that sadness. Damn!

    I’ll be so happy when you and Tara finally get to be together with nothing separating you.

    (And what is with the snow?)


    1. Aww…glad I was able to coax an emotional reaction out of you. I think, lol. The whole time-standing-still thing was very surreal to me. It reminded me anew of exactly what I had lost while being away for that week, Tracy…but it also served to remind me of everything that I gained. In the end, I’m better for the experience. Plus, I weigh less! That gallbladder was a real gut bomb.


    1. I do love snow! I had it up on my blog last year, too. Makes me feel festive, since the townhouse still is decorated for fall/harvest. I’m going to have to try to get the Christmas tree up sometime this weekend.


  8. I also have to ask, did you say or do anything funny as a result of the wonderful cocktail of drugs they give you to knock you out? I was a riot (at least in my own mind). They gave me the pre surgery cocktail and then thought that was a good time to try to talk to me about the surgery proceedure. I started performing parts of Bill Engvall’s stand up act, hit on one of the male nurses then when they gave me the rest of my cocktail and were strapping me down in surgery I looked at the Crucifix (Catholic hospital) on the wall and realized that I was in pretty much the same position as our good lord and savior and promptly said “I feel like Jesus” giggled, then passed out.


    1. Pre-surgery drug cocktail?! Your hospital sounds better than mine – I had nothing like that to calm me down. The upside? No, I did not perform stand-up comedy acts or compare myself to the Holy Savior.

      Personally, I’d have rather done those things if it meant a nice, relaxing preoperative blend of happy drugs.


  9. I loved this post. Then I read some of the comments and saw that Tara had packaged up your leftovers.


    I can only imagine the utter loss of having Thanksgiving leftovers thrown away. I am so happy for you.

    Oh, and happy you are better. That too. πŸ™‚

    PS: I feel like a total jerk for not commenting earlier – I’ve been absolutely swamped and am now catching up on all the old posts. Hope you don’t hold it against me. πŸ™‚


    1. I’m almost afraid to reply to this comment, lol. Let’s just say Tara is definitely a keeper. I couldn’t have gotten through my ordeal without her love and support.

      And again, don’t feel badly for missing this…we all have busy lives and get caught up in other pursuits. Hey, I’m just happy that you found – and read – my post eventually. Better late than never!


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