the great divide
driving back from the hospital early this afternoon, the first thought to cross my mind when I saw the mountains was "I'm almost home". but before the thought was even complete I realized it didn't feel whole and true. because there's this division regarding what home means to me right now. there is my physical home, my home with my people, the family I've brought into my life and helped create. the typical adult version of home. but then there is the other home as well. the one measured by my proximity to her. to my mom. usually these days, it's pretty clear which one is truly my home now. but at the moment, not so much.
a sharp, stabbing exhale of regret, a sense of leaving home hit me hard as I pulled out of the hospital parking deck today. and yet a deeply calming inhale of the comfortable home I left behind greeted me as I pulled into town this afternoon. into our neighborhood. back into the day-to-day world that extends beyond 8, 10, 12 hours spent sitting in a chair in the ICU holding my mom's hand, waiting for her to stir, to open her eyes, to squeeze back. to anything. indeed, there is a divide. a grey area of where I want and need to be right now. my disappointment upon getting to her Tuesday morning, with books and pictures and photos and music ready to share and help her through this all tucked away in my backpack.... and realizing (again) that the picture in my mind was not at all the picture of reality.... that was hard. one of those lessons in letting go. let go, let go, let go. and trust.
so I sat. I took it all in and tried to make sense of it. saw the machines and tubes for the wonderful medicine that they are and gave thanks for them while hating them all the same. more than anything I just don't want her to be afraid and in pain. but I have to release the idea of me having much control over that and just be with what is. two days passed, her hand in mine as I sat reading next to her. I'd talk to her, rub her feet, ask the nurses lots of questions. advocate for her as best I could. I admit that in my mind I'm her best advocate, whether that's the reality or not.
so. two days as such. then this morning, some stirring. just slight. but enough for me to have no doubt. I knew she knew I was there. I talked to her more, so much, for hours. I stroked her forehead, checked and then double and triple checked that her long hair wasn't tickling her nose or caught in any tubes. I switched from rubbing her hand to running my arm under her hand over and over as though she were rubbing my arm. I thought that'd be comforting for her, maybe feel good to in some way have it feel as though she were the one doing the comforting.... I don't know. it just felt right. I hooked my iPod up to a little sound dock I'd brought and played some music I knew she loved. Eva Cassidy, Etta James. I realized that I'd listened to the same Eva Cassidy songs while I was laboring. and again there was that connection. that generation-to-generation time-surpassing, cradling connection that hit me like it did when I saw Claire's name scribbled across her clipboard that first time I went to see her after she'd been intubated. I still don't have what I feel like are the right words for it. but shortly after that hit me I felt it. the rising, splintery knot moving slowly up my throat. the one that threatens to turn into that stinging sensation midway up the nose, that gives way to the burning behind the eyes right before they let lose all of the emotions that have been safely stored away in there for a good while. which isn't to say that I've held myself back from feeling all that I have been, because I'm not. but maybe in the hospital, feeling empowered to care for and look out for her, I had been pushing it aside more than perhaps I should have.
for a minute, I felt broken. I knew I had to leave shortly to get back to get Claire and go to work. that I'd come back as soon as I could but dammit the rest of life just refuses to stop even though it'd be immensely convenient for it to just halt for a while, until we get other things figured out. the wanting to be there when she woke, for her and for me, and the pain of having to let that go when it felt so close...... it was heartbreaking.
I safely packed the mass back into my throat, coaxed away the nagging tickling sensation in my nose and cut off the flow. for I needed to get it together and love her up as much as I could before getting on the road. plus, I find it much better to be together while listening in while the docs do their rounds than to be a shivering pool of sorrow in the corner. I stayed a bit and spoke with the doctors, spoke with my mom's husband and my grandparents, hugged the CNA, Verna, who had come to be such a comfort to me, and got on the road.
and so we wait. wait for pathology to find an answer from the biopsy tissue samples, wait for the right treatment while guessing at others (what kind of pneumonia? is it histoplasmosis? etc? etc? etc?), watch the X-rays, watch as they search for that elusive balance of pain meds and consciousness. wait to get back to her side.
and just in case she wakes up more fully before I'm back, I covered the television screen hanging from the ceiling above the foot of her bed with photos (Claire, me, her mom, the beach...) and pictures and paintings of Claire's.
and so, I left my mark.