The first weeks of reentering life after all the time in the hospital were like my own rehab. Even though I had ideas as to who we were as a family we were really just like Wile E Coyote running through the air before he realized there was no longer a road beneath him. We thought we were still us but we actually have no idea who we are.
The Scottish Widows ads baffled us. It was 1995, which in the UK of yore was still like the ’80s, pre-New Labor, with post-war vestiges and the occasional luxury of a deep bath. And there was a lot we didn’t understand. Scotland, north of us, would be colder and more damp. Being a widow there might be more sad, especially if you could not afford to heat your castle.
At the beginning of his hospital stay, I had a sense of urgency that things at home needed to be put right because as soon as he was out there would be no time to attend to anything. Our lives would be falling apart in the rearview mirror as we embarked on the road to recovery, maybe even in another city. I would need to leave behind a manual for all of it.
I’m sitting in the hospital room, scrolling through your news. There are the sounds, the wheeze of the motion-triggered hand-sanitizer dispenser and all the different alarms that routinely go off when an IV bag is empty. The snap of the gloves. And there is the silence. There is a lot of time to sit. His eyes are closed.
And so I start to read his book, the book he had been reading at night. This is the book I stuffed into the bag because how do you pack a bag for the emergency room? Will you be home the next morning or in a week or never? The idea of reading his book to him seems both the most natural and the most forced thing to do.
We are in bed, not yet asleep, and my husband turns on the light. He is sitting up and reaching for something on the nightstand, but when I ask him what’s the matter he just looks at me and doesn’t speak.
The dispatcher tells me to lock up the dogs, to bring any medications to the hospital.
According to the state of Alabama, the Younger Daughter is now officially allowed to drive to Kale Smoothie Palace and Bendy Yogastore all by herself. And if you need anyone to go the grocery store, I’m yer man, she informs me.
Hey, happy new year. I’m back. I am banal and topical.
I have spent the past two weeks reading Marie Kondo, reading about Marie Kondo, and tidying up.
She tells you to start by visualizing why you want to tidy.
Ugh! I hate this part. What brings you here? I dunno, so I can breathe, move on, do other things. Light, space, air. Clean desk.
Learning to drive as a teenager in Manhattan was a hypothetical situation. Like stenography and monogrammed linens, it might be of use in the future, but was not essential for my immediate life. I looked forward to driving, sort of, but I didn’t think I would be particularly good at it. The whole left/right thing was off-putting, as was the fact that you could literally kill yourself and other people if you made a mistake.
One of the nice things about where I live is that it is laid back. Traffic is light. Truck-sized parking is free and easy. If you go to a big concert downtown it’s a flat fee of $5 to park. You’re not having to do crazy things to get a ticket or a table or a seat or a place in line. Usually there isn’t a line. There are no rat runs on the way to school. And so we are not at each other’s throats.
Day One: Gray is the new pink
Your Disney Experience begins long before you arrive. You are supposed to pre-select the color of your wristband, which you will use as a room key, admissions ticket and credit card. It probably records biometric data.
If you don’t log into the app before you arrive to select a color, you get the gray band of shame. I am going to play it off like I chose gray because it goes with everything. It’s a sophisticated neutral.