Home We Go to Heal

I’m writing this post from our very own living-room love-seat, with my back against one arm and my feet touching the other, trusty MacBook Pro in my lap (it is, after all, a “laptop” computer). We’re home, which I think on the whole is a good thing. Richard got his discharge “orders” (this is the Veterans Administration healthcare system, after all!) late yesterday afternoon. Molly graciously drove us home last night after a quick stop to check in on my folks, who are also home, doing their best to manage on their own with my mom’s broken arm and, of course, refusing any help. (But that’s another post. And that’s Molly and Richard in the photo below, saying goodbye before she got on the bus to go back to Denver this morning so she could catch her flight home to San Francisco.)

We arrived home last night in the midst of a wonderful lightning-punctuated thunderstorm, with rain coursing down all around and cool air ready to blow in the windows and doors as soon as we opened up the house. Richard carried his briefcase inside and turned to head out to the car to get another armload of stuff, only I said, “No. Go rest your eyes. That was the deal.”

He headed to our bedroom, curled up atop the old Pendleton blanket we use as a bedspread and was almost instantly asleep. So deeply asleep that I had to wake him an hour and some later to take his evening meds. He took them and then said sleepily, “I’ll be up in a bit.” Another hour and some later, I roused him to get undressed and go to bed. He passed out again, but I couldn’t sleep. Fears crowded my mind–there’s only one of me to meet all of his needs and mine, hold together our household, manage our finances, harvest the garden, cook our meals, put up summer produce in the freezer–oh, and try to get in some writing time. I needed to talk. He woke and tried to be comforting, but I wasn’t in a be-comforted mood, and he couldn’t stay awake.

It was a long night. I paced and thought and paced and vented silently–Molly was asleep in the guest room–but couldn’t wind down enough to sleep. At a few minutes before midnight, I woke Richard to take his next round of meds. I climbed into bed next to him and he sleepily rubbed my back. I finally fell asleep, only to wake an hour later when he began to snore, something he rarely does. But then again, he’s never on so many drugs, and has never had this kind of hugely invasive brain surgery. I lay awake until he stopped snoring, fell asleep for another hour until he began to snore again, and was still awake at five-thirty when it was almost time to give him his next round of meds…

Did I say it was a long night? While it’s wonderful being home, and Richard is clearly able to rest here in our familiar, quiet surroundings in a way he couldn’t in a busy hospital, all of the load formerly carried by a 24-hour-a-day hospital staff is now on my shoulders. Yes, I know I could ask friends to help or hire caregivers, but this is my house too, and after all the hours I spent in the same hospital monitoring his care, I need peace and quiet as much as he does. So I’ll stick it out by myself for now because I cherish our solitude. Richard’s medication schedule lightens up in a few days when he tapers off one drug (the one I have to wake him up at midnight and again at six am to give). That will help. Some. I’m still responsible for keeping him in recovery mode, making sure he doesn’t try to do too much–not a problem right now since he is sleeping about 20 hours a day–and monitoring his incision with its 38 staples and the under-the-skin sutures that mend his temporalis muscle (the one that runs up the side of your face and attaches your jaw to your skull, among other things), watching for changes in his mental state, speech, cognitive abilities or any of the other things indicating a change in his surgery-stressed brain.

If you’ve been a care-giver, this will all sound pretty familiar, I bet. It’s a hard job, and the pay stinks. Let me revise that: the monetary pay stinks. I get paid handsomely, actually, in helping the love of my life recover his strength and stamina, and his steps on the path we’ve shared for 27 years. Oh yeah. That’s why I’m doing this. Uh huh. Almost forgot. And that’s what makes it worth the effort to bring him home. Home is where my honey needs to be, as you can see in the photo above, where he’s stretched out on my outdoor recliner in the living room, fast asleep by the sunny windows with the view of town and the peaks rising in the distance, a view that is at once deeply familiar and stunningly inspiring… Home is where we go to heal, to restore ourselves, our balance, our energy for the path ahead, whatever it may bring.

(Thanks to Nancy and Dave for the gorgeous orchids in the photo.)



On a different note, two small brags: I mentioned before that Richard and I were featured in an ad campaign for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado. If you happen to see Denver’s glossy 5280 Magazine, check out page 88 in the August issue and there we are. The text is a quote about our decade-plus of working to restore the block of urban creek that borders the reclaimed industrial parcel where we live. 

If you live in the Rockies and garden, landscape and/or are interested in local food, pick up a copy of Zone 4 Magazine. Page 67 of the fall issue features my first “Whole Life” column, on dining out–as in setting a table in your garden to celebrate local, fresh, flavorful food and those who raise it. (I shot the photo too, in our own kitchen garden.) Enjoy!