The arrival of cancer in our lives has brought significance to things that I barely registered before. I see an elderly couple and notice the privilege of growing old together. I wipe down my kitchen counters and think, "This is a day when I had time and energy to clean up the kitchen." And sometimes, when the house is quiet, and I'm sitting close to Chris, I can hear his heart beat. So much depends on that steady rhythm.
This weekend we had hoped to meet Chris' family at his parents' lake house. But this latest chemo has been complicated, and we still have to be at the hospital every day for blood work and new fluids. We told the boys that they were going with their grandparents, but Chris and I would have to stay home.
Bryan: (disappointed) Oh. I prayed that you'd be able to come. (Pause, then with fragile hope) So, maybe.
The boys left that evening. Chris and I consulted and decided to get to the hospital early and hope that we got a flexible nurse.* If we could get out of there by 9:00, we'd go out to the lake house for the day and surprise everyone. Otherwise, we'd have to stay home.
We got a rock star nurse, really the perfect nurse for Chris. He doesn't need a friendly nurse, a gentle nurse or even a good bed side manner. What he wants is an efficient nurse who will minimize the time he has to spend inside the hospital. She walked in our room, and, while working on changing out his fluids, said
They asked if you would rather let your first bag of fluids completely run out before changing them for you, and I said, 'No. I know this guy. He was here yesterday. What he wants is to get out of here as quickly as possible.'
By the time she finished saying that, she had already changed out the IV bags and was pointing us toward the closest exit. We walked out of the hospital at 8:45 and started driving north.
They weren't expecting us. Chris' sister, Amy, cried when she saw him. His parents and the boys were thrilled. It was a beautiful day. I let it soak into my bones.
My father-in-law pulled his grandchildren all around that lake on an inner tube. Bryan, Rand and I were riding on the tube when we fell off, and it scared Rand. He clung to me in the water while he cried.
Me: Do you want to get back on the boat?Rand: (crying ceases immediately) No. I go back on the tube. You hold my hand.
David and Nathan flew off the tube and skipped across the lake like stones. Amy managed to go tubing without ever submerging more than an ankle in the water, partly because she's married to a man who adores her, and he carried her from the boat to the shore. Chris sat on the patio and talked to his family and watched his boys play in the lake with their cousins until they shriveled.
My mother-in-law presided over a perfect Memorial Day spread - barbecue pork sandwiches, homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh fruit, Bluebell ice cream sandwiches...
There was even something soothingly, beautifully normal about rinsing mud out of Bryan's hair and settling a bedtime argument between David and Jacob,
Me: (suppressing a laugh) No, David. Crunching Cheetos onto Jacob's pillow is not a good joke. That's obnoxious.
and determining the precise angle to open Bryan and Rand's door so that it was bright enough for Bryan to sleep in safety but Rand still felt like he had influenced the decision in some way.
It was a beautiful day.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17
* Exchanging IV fluids is a crap shoot. Sometimes the stars are aligned and I convince everyone involved that it really doesn't matter if he finishes every last drop from the old IV bag before we start the new. But often, we have to wait until every last drop from the old bag is gone before they'll start a new one. Waiting an extra hour at the hospital may seem like no big deal, but it's not when you're there... Every. Single. Day.