Friday, February 12, 2010

Can you say "Ahhhhhh"?

The change is palpable. I felt the difference from the moment we left home: a sense of release because we were finally on our way, finally done waiting for that moment to arrive.

I sit now in Grandma Joyce’s living room listening to the tinkle of Ben’s laughter coming from the kitchen where he and Mark complete a crossword puzzle. There’s been a lightness in Ben these past 24+ hours that I haven’t seen in weeks. Even though his VBS/Hybrid rod surgery is still looming, we are all feeling a sense of ease about it now. It’s not just inevitable, it’s the best option for us and we’re here, we’re going through with it, nothing’s standing in our way. Not snowstorms or germs or anything.

Yesterday morning, as I collected the last minute items for our trip, I watched Harry and Ben hugging in the kitchen. Ben burst into tears, sobbing, “I don’t want to go have surgery!” and Harry held him tightly, bestowing a big brother bear hug he’s obviously been perfecting. It was a moment that I appreciated all the more after the squabbling and lashing out of the night before.

Sherry and her kids arrived to stay with Harry and Toby for the next couple days, Deborah arrived to drive us to the airport. (Friends have been “showing up” for us in so many ways lately. This is the golden light. This is the silver lining.)

The urge to move forward helped us be timely. Group hugs on the porch led to good-bye waves from the boys and friends we were leaving behind. We stuffed our immense luggage into Deborah’s little car and were on our way.

(The boys at home have checked in with us periodically since then. It was clearly a harder transition for them since they stayed behind, as my friend Sherry noted. But even for them, there was relief in finally getting through the moment we’d all been dreading. The line between Before They Leave For Surgery and After They’ve Left For Surgery had finally been crossed.)

In a nutshell, our travel day was smooth and the mood light. We arrived at the airport, unloaded our luggage (and payed the extra $30 for our 4th bag!), grabbed some brunch (Ben had “the best orange chicken” he’s EVER had!), headed to a quiet, unpopulated corner of the waiting area and disinfected it with our anti-bacterial wipes before “plugging in” to our technology. We’d talked about wearing sterilized masks for the whole day to stave off the unbelievable amount of germs that must be lurking there in every corner, but I chickened out once we arrived at the airport, feeling self-conscious. You know me, fashion over cleanliness, right?
Well, once we boarded the plane Mark and Ben donned the masks like good little patients. Mark’s philosophy: “Wearing the masks is good for two reasons, it makes people think you’re crazy or you have a contagious disease. Either way they avoid you.” No one sitting near us was hacking or sneezing, a plus. We disinfected our armrests and tray tables and our hands frequently, and keep popping the vitamins.

I surrounded myself with knitting while keeping one eye on the little TV screen on the back of the seat in front of me. My knitting project plans have been keeping me distracted, if not happy, while preparing for this trip. I brought along about seven Ziploc bags of yarn for a variety of projects AND ordered more yarn to be delivered to the hotel while I’m there AND have already scoped out the yarn stores near the hotel for those slow days after Ben’s been released from the hospital and is busily playing video games in the hotel room, I mean, recovering. My obsession with knitting is not a cause for alarm, it is still harmless, I believe. Like any of my crafty endeavors, I find the process totally absorbing and diverting. The knitting itself is meditative, just the thing when your sweet one is in surgery or recovering. And as the garment emerges, a soft pool of color in my hands, I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction. There’s really nothing else like it. Keeps my mind and hands busy and produces something beautiful in the end. Projects started: ice blue sweater, jewel tone beanie, blue scarf. Projects waiting in the wings: blue and yellow baby hat, fuzzy blue fingerless mitts, black and pink fingerless mitts, blue vest…and more.

Arriving in NYC, driving to Grandma’s house, we could see the piles of snow everywhere. For Ben and me, this was a first, as Ben says, to see so much snow in a populated area.

We couldn’t wait to get outside this morning to take a walk. The weather is cold, but not bitter. We were so lucky to have missed the blizzard that hit the day before we arrived! Sun was out and the snow was glorious still, not that ugly gray slush you get in a city after a big snow.

At one point, Ben trudged into the middle of Grandma’s front lawn and announced, “I’m going to make a snow angel!” at which point he flomped down, face first in the snow. “Ben. Most people make snow angels on their backs!” Mark informed him. “Oh.” And he righted himself immediately.

There’s something to be said for giving yourself extra time. Having planned to arrive a few days early to allow for weather issues meant we had time today for a late wake up, a walk through the snowy neighborhood, snow angels, snowmen, and snowball fights. Ben spent the late afternoon building a snow fort in the backyard, directing Mark to go upstairs to open the window and snag the best and longest icicles from the roofline.

At 5 pm we sent Grandma off to our great niece’s baby naming ceremony in Scarsdale. We were sorry to have missed it and would have gone, but being as crazed about germ exposure as we are right now, we decided to pass and stayed home to have a quiet pizza dinner from our favorite pizza parlor in New Hyde Park, Umberto’s.

When Ben came in from his snow extravaganza and had changed into snuggly warm sweats, the three of us sat down and listened to a guided meditation recording called “Preparing for a Successful Surgery” which Ben deemed boring and irritating, but what can I say, I got very relaxed!

Throughout this whole year we’ve been avid participants in an online forum for the parents of VBS patients. From that web source we found out about the technique and the amazing doctors at Shriners. Coincidently, one of the forums’ founders is a mom who lives with her family not far from Grandma Joyce, so tonight she and her 11 year old son David came over for dinner (I made sure they were, in fact, germ free!) and it was wonderful to chat and get to know them better.

Maria is petite and funny, with a strong side to her that is a model for me. (Mark says she’s a real New Yorker.) She is someone who gets what she wants, especially when it means the best for her kids. David, like Ben, had his scoliosis diagnosed first which then led to the diagnosis for Chiari. He was only an infant at the time! He had his VBS surgery several years ago, he was one of the earliest patients. And Maria is now a vocal advocate for Shriners and the techniques they innovate there for scoliosis patients. We had a great evening with our online friends. It was just like the rest of the day, positive, light and full of laughter.

Tomorrow we will head to Philadelphia where we’ll check into our ritzy digs.

More then…

and now for some scenes from our snowy day...

1 comment:

Charli said...

I love the blog. And I'm glad that you guys had a great day in NYC. The picture of Mark with the icicle through his head is a classic! And it's nice to see Ben with a big ol' smile on his face.
Know that we love you and are "with you".
Big hugs,