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.
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.
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.
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!