I watch the hospital as we drive away. I just hugged my day nurses, and one of the therapists. The therapist came out specifically to observe my husband as he transferred me into the passenger seat. My daughter is in the back seat.
My baby boy is at home with my sister-in-law, so maybe that’s why I feel so anxious. I had just been home a week ago for one day. That was the day that I was to get a little taste of what it would be like to be home. I didn’t like to think about it and deliberately pushed it away from my thoughts. When I had entered the house my sister-in-law was holding my baby. He was close to being two months old then.
Still so tiny, I watched him intently as my husband pushed me inside the house. I recall the disappointment of not being able to hold him properly. I had maneuvered my wheelchair to the side of our loveseat. I had to use a pillow to anchor my arms in order to securely hold my baby. My husband sat next to me to ensure I wouldn’t drop the baby. It wasn’t the visit I had hoped for, but I was able to see my baby nonetheless.
So, sitting in the car while my husband drove us home felt unnerving. We had hired a home health nurse who just recently came to the rehab facility to be trained by my attending nurse. She was only used to taking care of seniors, but was very willing to help us. So, tonight I would have her come over to put me to bed.
It was a pleasant drive, but as we turned on the main highway that would lead us to the subdivision to our house, we suddenly heard a siren behind us. I felt a knot in my stomach as I my husband peered through the rearview mirror to look at my daughter. “It’s okay, Jazzy," he said.
The officer at my husband’s window told us we were speeding. To be honest, I don’t even remember that. The only thing I could focus on was my husband. He immediately explained to the office that we were returning home from the hospital after an injury left me paralyzed. My husband looked as though he wanted to cry, and I was confused at the sudden discord. Going home was what we both wanted the most after my injury.
Then, I remembered the time when the therapist was teaching him to transfer me in the car. He was the only spouse that made sure he had a back brace on. I never said anything, just like now, but the feeling was the same, guilt.
We pull into our driveway and I look at the house. The front yard looks lush and beautiful, and the plants are so perfectly symmetrical. The windows beyond the front porch appear big. It takes me back to the time we were having it built. We were truly excited to have built our dream home. We had worked so hard, saved, and planned our future well. After our second child, we knew we were done having children, and so now we could enjoy the rewards of all we had accomplished.
My husband had already mentioned that there was a new subdivision being built, and that they have single story homes available. So this dream house was now temporary.
My daughter had already gone inside the house. My husband came to my side with the chair he just assembled from the trunk. I slowly scooted my way across the sliding board as he helped me by shifting my weight. As he safely deposited me on the chair, I pushed the wheels of my clunky, large rental chair up the smooth terrain that lead to the front door of our home.
Next time I go to TIRR, they’ll be measuring me up for a custom chair that fits me well. I still don’t know what that means, but if it were smaller than this I would imagine it would be much better.
I notice the wooden ramp that sits right at the edge of where the step up to the porch begins. My husband points out that the man who built the deck in the backyard made this for me as a gift. How nice I think, but suddenly feel anxious again. I hope seeing my baby helps calms my nerves.
I wheel inside the house and down the hallway to the living room. My sister-in-law and her husband are sitting on the white, three-seat sofa that is in front of the large window. Behind that window that separates the house from the backyard are the two large, wooden posts that support the balcony; I look away quickly. I go farther and look to my left, which houses the kitchen with the breakfast area. To the right is the sunroom beyond the fireplace. Adjacent to the wall before the sunroom, sits the white cradle where my son sleeps.
My mother just left couple of weeks before to return to London. I know she will be back, but I so wish she were here. I take comfort that my brother is driving from Dallas and should be here tomorrow. He had recently told my husband that he doesn’t intend to leave me until I am fully functional from my chair. He has a wife and daughter, but still wants to be with me. I can only appreciate such selflessness, and can’t wait to see him.
As I wheel to my son, I look down at him sleeping soundly. He’s wrapped in a white receiving blanket. His face looks clear now and he seems peaceful as he sleeps. Then, all of a sudden, he stirs and begins to cry. I watch as my sister-in-law picks him up. She sits back on the couch, then feeds him the bottle of formula my husband hands her. I feel grateful at seeing how she cares for him while I cannot, even though there is an ache in my heart.
All of a sudden, the TSO jacket feels even thicker, heavier, and obvious as I sit obediently watching everyone do his or her thing.
My daughter is upstairs playing in her room. I look down at my wheelchair wishing I could go upstairs to see her.
I turn my head to see my son being placed in his cradle again. I head to the master bedroom behind the formal dining room. My husband follows in behind me as I wheel through, passing the wrought iron bed, and stopping at the metal hospital bed that sits in front of the bay window. I look back at the king size bed and then at the huge sliding door that is on the wall of our bedroom. The toilet has been made accessible. It isn't the perfect space but, with assistance, it will do. As I stare my husband kneels down and holds me, and he tells me my nurse would be here soon.
I soak up his embrace. The fact that we have each other is the one thing that still makes sense to me.
We first met when I was eighteen while he was studying in London. It was on a blind date, whereby one of my best friends from high school had insisted I go to a club with her and her new boyfriend. She had told me her boyfriend’s friend from the U.S. would be accompanying him. I didn’t think much of it until I met him. I married him right after I turned twenty-one years old, leaving behind my high paying job with a public relations consulting firm, my family and all my friends.
I’d been here in America for almost thirteen years by now. This coming August we will be celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary. Tomorrow was 4th of March, my thirtieth birthday. My husband had invited our friends over to celebrate by having an evening barbeque.
My husband had been there with me through all of this, including coming over every day to the rehabilitation hospital. I just knew I could do this knowing that I still have him and the kids.
Ironically, I am still on maternity leave from the company we both work for. At this point, even that remains foggy. However, filled with a sense of security about us, I follow him back to the living room. Passing my sister-in-law and her husband, as they still are seated on the couch, but this time holding hands while talking, I can feel their eyes on me as I look in on my son. I reach down and hold my baby’s hand, and say, fondly, "hello."
I suddenly hear a gasp from my sister-in-law, and the walls of my soul clam up inside me. I know how I must look, with my long hair chopped off to a manageable bob, my TSO jacket and sneakers that specifically have Velcro for easy fastening. In addition, I have sweat pants on with poppers that run down the inside of both my legs for easy access in the bathroom.
I can hardly reach in the crib to hold Miles’ hand, but I grab it anyway. My eye surrenders a tear as I look down at him.
My life is filled with changes beyond description, but the things that make complete sense are my daughter, who is hiding from me upstairs, my son who now cocks a smile as I caress his tiny fingers, and my husband who is preparing us something to eat.
As for the rest, I decide right here and now to act as if it doesn’t exist.