Monday, February 22, 2010

Midday update: Monday

I’m sitting in the jewel toned lobby of the Ritz right now. Mark and Ben are off on a jaunt to the Reading Terminal Market in search of smoothies and Thai food. I’ve opted to stay “home” today. (If only my girlfriends read this blog then I’d give you the details, but since this is blog has a mixed-gender readership, suffice it to say I preferred being in proximity to limestone and granite bathrooms over public toilets.)


Both of my boys were bundled up in thick jackets, and Ben was wearing a rainbow wool hat and chenille gloves to stave off the cold, sitting in the wheelchair we were loaned by the hotel. Ben has been holding himself at a very odd angle these past couple days. He walks with his left shoulder up by his ear in an effort to not antagonize the tender wounds on his back, I think. His color was a bit pale peach and his expression blue. Even the thought of Thai food wasn’t bringing on a smile. Yet, I can’t help but feel there is improvement here as yesterday he refused to even entertain the thought of venturing outside.

Thankfully, he slept long and hard last night. We had a straw all ready but he didn’t stir until 5:30 at which point I gave him some pain meds. He kept on sleeping until 11 am! It’s hard to balance letting him sleep with keeping him on a medication schedule, but his sleep was so deep that I chose to honor the dream state and its healing properties.

I have a bag with my knitting at my feet. Right now I’m working on something blue and fuzzy. Upstairs I have a thick wool cardigan going for myself, and have finished several pairs of warm fingerless mitts. I think I brought enough yarn to last me several months and I even bought yarn online and had it sent to the hotel in case I needed something else. I may even go visit a local yarn store a few blocks from here, just because I can. My knitting craze knows no bounds. I pictured myself sitting and sitting and sitting (which has proven to be true). And I wanted to make sure I had yarn for any mood, any project. I brought skeins of wool and alpaca, thick and thin, black, blue, yellow, multi-colored. The maid who has been taking care of our room since we arrived, Violetta, commented on my yarn and told me she also loves to knit. It turns out she is from Albania, and I was excited about a double coincidence: one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known, my Great Aunt Violet, lived in Albania when she was a young woman because her father was the US Ambassador to Albania. Apparently King Zog of Albania took a fancy to her (she was quite the adorable little thing) and proposed, but luckily for our family she turned him down and came back to the states whereupon she married my Great Uncle Arpad. But I digress.

One would imagine that Mark would be a bit critical of my yarn fetish and my obsession. He, personally, has no use for wool garments. He’s superhuman and never gets cold, it seems. When it’s recommended to dress in layers he thinks that means a polo shirt and his leather jacket. But, you know Mark, he is generous to the extreme and since knitting appears to make me happy, it makes him happy too.

He’s such a unique individual, my husband. I’ve sung his praises before, rightly so. He is smart, capable, generous, funny, practical, loyal, lovable, reliable. And handsome. Rugged, these days. I’ve never met anyone else like him. But I’ll say that as soon as I met him I knew he was a grownup. He comes in mighty handy, too.

When I had known Mark only one month he was involved in a terrible accident at his work. A large machine he’d helped design and build that boiled and purified sulphuric acid exploded all over him and two fellow workers. They were sprayed with shattered glass and cold sulphuric acid (fortunately, it was not boiling at the time). Mark, who got sprayed probably second worst, was the guy who made sure EVERYone was ok. He got people into showers, knocking the low-flow shower heads off the pipes in order to get the necessary gush of water into their faces. He got the emergency crews there. When I heard from him that night (we had a date planned) he said he couldn’t go out, he’d had a bad day at work. I squeezed the real story out of him and he told me he didn’t want me to see him…his injuries were too horrible for me to stomach. I finally convinced him I could deal with whatever he looked like. I was adamant that I was going to tend to him that night. When I arrived at his house, I found him sitting in a chair with a pillowcase over his head, two eye holes cut out! This is the quintessential Mark story: he saves the day, handles the emergency, downplays his own pain, and still has a sense of humor. Unbelieveable.

Throughout our ordeal here in Philly, Mark has been my rock. There was never any question that he was going to stay with Ben at the hospital at night. This is what he did when Ben had brain surgery, 40 nights at Children’s Hospital. He is able to handle everything that comes his way there in the PICU…the technology (he can stop the machines from their errant beeping), the details (he notices and checks the medications going into the IV’s), and the lack of sleep (he just manages better on less than I do). He also doesn’t get squeamish about the medical stuff nor does he get emotional about the administrative stuff. He’s Ben’s best advocate at 2 am, no question. And it’s not that he doesn’t get emotional, period. When some Shriners came to visit us all got up in clown costumes (I guess they hadn’t heard clowns are scary!) and I tearfully thanked them for being Shriners and making all this possible, I looked over at Mark and his eyes were red and full of tears, too. My guy is a softie, but he’s the strongest softie I know.

It doesn’t stop there, as you know. I’d arrive every morning and he’d head out to find coffee and breakfast for all of us. At night he’d go out and pick up Chinese take out for Ben’s dinner. I brought dirty clothes and he’d take them down to the parents’ laundry room in the hospital and do our laundry. Every day he’s hunted and gathered whatever we needed, from vitamins to egg rolls to tampons to lattes. Oh and did I mention he’s also working?! He quietly answers 30 to 40 work emails a day, sends them updates, makes a couple calls. He never looks stressed or upset. Nothing seems to phase him.

I had moments last week of a passing guilty conscience. I mean, here I was every night tucking into the down covered bed in our hotel room, watching tv, catching up on emails or conversations with our friends and family, while he was squeezed onto an uncomfortable fold up cot or chair bed in the hospital. But, I also know our relationship is a finely tuned dance, and there are parts of this adventure that I have made the acquaintance of in excruciating detail. I must also give myself the credit for not shirking my duties. Ours seems to be a balanced partnership.

I don’t really know how to sum it up, other than to say I feel like one very lucky girl, hanging out here in our ritzy digs, knowing my wonderful guy is out there with our boy, making sure he gets his wish fulfilled: a tummy full of pad thai noodles, while begrudging me nothing. Big sigh.

Oddly enough I just ordered an iced tea, just as the Ritz’s front door opened and let in the chill winter air. We’re expecting rain tonight. Luckily, we’ll be warmly tucked into our cozy, down covered beds upstairs, together.

Oh, and for those of you who are interested, the current bribery tab for Ben’s breathing exercises excedes $150!!!


A little later update: So, my beautiful boys just walked in…with presents for me, of course! Dark pink tipped roses and truffles. They wanted to get me a dozen chocolate noses (take a look at the photo below that I took of some a week ago), but only milk chocolate noses were available, which just won’t do. Thus, I received tiramisu and dark chocolate little balls of wonderfulness and roses. Mmmmmm.


C@BLE G33K said...

wow, i dont usually tear up when i read, but when i read what you wrote about dad, :'( like srsly though...

Anonymous said...

I am in tears again. What a wonderful man, I know Mike would be the same way and we are both lucky to have found such a soulmate. Take care of eachother. see you all soon. Give Ben a hug from the Nixon family.

Sandy said...

It just doesn't get better than that! You've got one hell of a great guy.