Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Two days after the Marathon (which had left me thrilled and giddy), we had a Happy Hour to celebrate it and for my friends to see me before Duke. I had made an open invitation through facebook to Black Sheep Lodge, a restaurant I loved. I was, to say the least, blown away by the number of people who had shown up. A few dozen people were there hugging me and being kind, wishing me well, one brought a painting with three hearts representing me, my wife and Kiana. The compassion which people had poured out had become the touchstone of my life of the last few months. Nurses, friends, coworkers, practically strangers had continued to comment on my “fabulous attitude” and they never quite grasped that this was being handed to me; the lack of discouragement , frustration or even fear had been because life had given me so many people that had touched me and each one reminded that even with all this life was very, very good. I sat with two friends, Will and Todd, going over financial details and possibilities and begging them, trusting them that if something went wrong they would step in and make sure that my wife’s life would not be too complicated. If I needed help I would take it but above all else, they had to make sure Kiana and her mom were taken care of, that my goddess and my princess were treated the way they deserved.
I tried to spend some quality time with Kiana the last night I was there but something went wrong after a little while of playing with and I crashed hard after just an hour or two. This would sit heavy on my mind for quite a while. We dropped her off the next day and my wife and I headed to Barbados, with me feeling off. The first day in Barbados I was feeling so bad, had a fever and my throat hurt incredibly to swallow. Usually I would disregard these things for a while thinking I had a cold or something but with surgery the next week, the first thing I did in Barbados was go to the doctor. This was the icing of my medical bills and problem cake (not as good as cookies and cream ice cream cake) because my insurance didn’t apply there and I got a huge bill for less than 5 minutes with the doctor to tell me I had strep throat and a prescription, both of which were fully priced. I found it a little amusing that the first thing I did on my vacation was start out on a medical adventure and medical bill.
This was a very different trip than any vacation we’d ever taken. There was a lot of happy moments, some with just each other, others with a friend who was also there, others with strangers we met. There was a lot of walking on the beach, more quiet time than any vacation we’d had. I was greedier than usually about the vacation and some of the expectations I’d had for it. This was both ironic and stupid since I’d picked Barbados because my wife grew up in Hawaii and loves the beach but at some level I just was afraid this was my last normal week and I was unfortunately too self-centered about it. This was not completely so and my wife and I still had the majority of time as happy hours but that 20/20 retrospect made me wish that I’d turn that switch off and spent “my last few days” completely focused only on her happiness.
We did some old things like snorkeling; we’re both scuba divers but I’d been told not to do that since it affects brain pressure. We tried some new foods and did fun fast things like jet skiing. My wife said that my approach during that appeared reckless, as if I was watching out not at all for my safety, an approach that made her nervous. Still one of the things we did there was fulfill one of the things from our dreambook, windsurfing. my wife, like in life, showed quick ability to stay balanced on something unstable, to keep it moving forward, to do it with a smile when there was difficulty and to delight in a challenge and overcome it. I, as usual, struggled to learn something new but by the end had accepted the change and actually stayed up beaming at a novel event. If something went wrong March 3rd, at least the last thing I had done elsewhere was fulfill a dream with the love of my life.
The last couple of days were quiet, calm, at some level awkward because there was some level of fear that my wife would not be married to the same person she had said “I do” to. I bought some cards to send to work to send them after the surgery, planning, hoping, daring to dream that I would be able to send them and have them be sharp and show that they should let me back. I bought a few things for the people of the Ship of Fools who had organized the fundraising for this trip and then I got on a plane to go to one of the most significant chapters of my life and yet one I had no control over: brain surgery. While glad that the last few days before there were good ones with my wife, it was still tough to turn off the idea that the day I was flying to Duke was the day I should have been flying to Brazil. This was definitely a step down from Carnaval but more meaningful, right?