Chapter 2, page 4: home again

IMG_4886 by courtneydhoffman
It had been one week since Dad was released from the hospital and I was finally beginning to feel like life was settling down. I was happy to get back to applying for jobs and taking care of other tasks like wrapping family presents and cleaning out various parts of my room. The room cleaning project began a little over a year ago. One day I simply looked around my old bedroom and realized that it was silly to hold onto everything in it. Some things I will keep, but so much of it I hadn't touched in years. It held little sentimental value so I loaded up trash bags and deposited them in the garage to be donated or sold at a garage sale. Either would do, just so long as someone else got the chance to love the things I once loved. With Dad feeling better every day I was able to steal away to my room even when no one else was home.

Dad's transition from ICU to a hospital room had been smooth. I was happy with the move for his sake as well as my own. For Dad's sake it meant that he was healing. The nurses and doctors would not have moved him from ICU if things were going poorly. For my sake it meant that I could spend more time with him. We were finally done with the 2 hour waits in between visits. Those visits were also no longer restricted to 20 minutes at a time. It was a wonderful thing to have him in a room. Mom and I quickly moved in with him, leaving books and other reading material along with snacks, water bottles and other odds and ends in the room. It seemed silly to carry all of it back and forth daily when Dad had his own room. The nurses and their assistants were soon friends; we learned their life stories while they cared for Dad. Everyone was pleasantly surprised when the surgeon's PA announced that Dad would likely be going home Friday evening. We had just bought him a poinsettia and a miniature christmas tree to bring him some holiday cheer. In the long run though I would rather have only brightened the room for a few hours than to have Dad remain in the hospital for longer.

Saturday and Sunday were long for all of us. Having Dad home did not mean he was anywhere close to 100% healed. He would require 24 hour care for the next 7 days at least. Kara, Mom and I set to making him comfortable and caring for him. Mostly we worked in shifts and took turns running errands. After dinner we would play board games or video games, watch old family videos or watch movies or football games on TV. It was only a few short days before Dad began going on "outings." The outings were short at first: quick trips to the drugstore or Walmart, just to make sure he would be okay. Gradually the outings increased in length and exactly one week after bringing Dad home from the hospital he was able to sit through a sit-down dinner and go out for ice cream in addition to running errands earlier in the day.

That evening the family divided for the first time since the surgery. Mom and Dad stayed home to wrap presents from Santa, Kara went to spend time with friends and I went to the annual Christmas party. The Christmas party was a longstanding tradition among my dear friends. A core group of us had been inseparable in high school. Soon though we found ourselves attending different colleges scattered around the country. Christmas break was the first time we were in the same place again so we got together for a bonfire. The bonfire was a simple thing and not really a holiday party. It was such a hit though that it became an annual occurrence. At some point in time the bonfire became a Christmas party complete with a white elephant exchange that had netted me some interesting gifts ranging from bowling pins painted like Santa to a bottle of wine. For many of us this had become our only opportunity to see each other. Needless to say I had no intention of missing the party. I was glad for an excuse to get dressed up and socialize, something I hadn't done since well before finals. The party was just as fun as always and I returned home exhausted but grateful

So far it had truly been a wonderful Christmas.

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