Richard and I are home tonight. We left Salida last Monday night for Denver at quarter to six on a surprisingly balmy winter evening, not knowing what was ahead (no pun intended) except that Richard would be checking in to the medical ICU at the VA Hospital when we arrived. And that the fluid on his brain had returned, once again threatening his ability to function as the amazingly creative, sweet, and deep-thinking human being he is. (Not to mention the threat to his juggling ability.)
As we cruised back into town tonight at five-twenty, I pointed to our local hospital and said to Richard: “We came out of that door marked ‘Emergency’ almost exactly six days ago.”
He shook his head and said, “It’s all still a bit of a blur to me.”
It is to me too. We’ve been talking about how long it’s been since we’ve been home for enough time to reestablish any semblance of normal routine. (Whatever ‘normal’ means when you’re living with a chronic illness like brain cancer. That’s a subject for another post.)
I cast my mind back to the last time it felt like we were home for long enough to do more than catch up on laundry and bills, and get settled in for more than a few days. Mid-December, I decided, and Richard agreed. Before my mom broke her hip at home while in hospice care and we began going to Denver every ten days or so to help, and then every week, and then every few days.
Before she died. Before Richard said, “I have a headache” that first time. And we drove home anyway, not knowing that the headache was something much, much worse than a sinus infection. Before that first scary trip to Denver with him riding in ambluance over the mountains in the middle of the night. Before the temporary drain that seemed to do the trick.
Before he woke last Monday morning and said, “I have a headache.” And he was six beats slow, with some confusion that got worse as the day went on. Before this last trip to Denver, where at least I got to drive us over the mountains together, and he walked into the medical ICU, astonishing the staff there. Before this week’s craniotomy, his third brain surgery in 18 months.
When the neurosurgery team decided that Richard could go home today, I knew that it didn’t matter that I’d had a spotty night’s sleep in his very comfortable but not very restful hospital room. It didn’t matter that the forecast for South Park, our mountainous highway challenge on our route home was not so great. It didn’t matter that we wouldn’t actually get released until noon, that we had city errands to do after that plus a stop to help my dad, so we wouldn’t be home until late in the day.
None of that mattered because home was where we both needed to be. Home to whatever is left of our normal routines, the work that sustains us, the kitchen garden, home to the yogurt we were making last Monday when we left for the Emergency Room and then for Denver, the yogurt which might be a gallon of sour milk or might have had enough time to transform itself. Home to whatever waited for us.
Home to relax, recover in all senses of that lovely word, home to recapture the grace and comfort in the simple routines of daily life. Just home.
Having a home to come to feels like a great gift. Having this specific home in this specific landscape, a house heated by the sun, framing a view of the peaks over the roofs of town, full of sculptural features built by Richard, and the opportunity to share it feels like some kind of miracle.
As does sharing our journey with the community of all of you. Thank you for cheering us home to find our normal again.
PHOTOS: The top photo is Richard at home tonight. The lower photo is my love this morning in his room in the palliative care ward, reading an impossibly thick art theory book which he maintains is a page-turner, his head with that tidy new line of sutures freshly washed and shaved.