And then it was over.....
Anyone who has ever been in the hospital will tell you that no matter how good or bad your care was while you are there....when it is time to leave they generally don't waste any time getting you out. The same is true when they cut a hole in your chest. When you poop on your own....you're going home. Take your balloons and your flowers and get out. We need the bed for someone who's really sick.
So when that time came for Brennis it was very fast. The nurse came in and gave us our discharge instructions, told us that we would have a visiting nurse at the house a few times a week and a couple of the nurses came in to say a quick good-bye before they ran off to attend to other patients. These nurses, orderlies, cleaning people.....all of the people we had come to know as our family over the previous ten days were and are remarkable people. They treat you like you are their own family while you are in their care but they know that their attention must be on the people who need them the most. When it is time for you to go they don't get sentimental.
So we left. The transport aide wheeled Brennis down the hallway, to the elevator and then to the curb where I had the car waiting. I helped Brennis into the car and we were on our own. No monitors, no nurses, no orderlies, no cleaning people....just us. We broke down. I honestly have not experienced such a huge wave of emotion in my entire life. I don't know if it was the relief of being allowed to leave, the fact that Brennis and I were alone together for the first time in what seemed like months, sheer exhaustion or a combination of all three but we both sobbed and sobbed as I drove out of the hospital parking lot and to our home.
There was no fanfare, just us driving and crying....going home.
I had prepared the house for Brennis two days before...cleaning, bleaching, scouring every surface; bringing his bed down to the first floor, renting an automatic recliner from the local rent to own store, making sure there were plenty of videos for him to watch and plenty of healthy food for him to eat. We were prepared for our summer of "camping in". It felt so good to have him home. The house once again seemed filled with life.
We settled in and I tried my best to make him comfortable as we attempted to figure out this new way of living. Brennis could get up and get around but he still was considerably limited in energy and was restricted from any strenuous physical activity including lifting. I sat next to him and we were quiet. I think we probably fell asleep right away. It felt good to be home with him.
Brennis and I had been through so much over the previous ten days that it was amazing to think that the experience was over. It was also, we suddenly realized, very frightening. At the hospital there was always someone right there if something went wrong. If you had a question you rang a bell and someone came right away. Here it was just us. If anything happened we were on our own. If we ever stopped to think about it the fear was paralyzing.
Much of life is like that. The more freedom you allow yourself the more frightening life becomes. It was like that when we started the gallery. We were tired of working for other people so we started our own business but that freedom only brought a different set of rules and responsibilities. Freedom is scary. It's the reason most of us don't take advantage of it. It's so much easier to be safe, comfortable and protected than to go out on a limb and take a chance.
Unfortunately, we couldn't stay in the safety of the hospital for the rest of our lives. Not only would it be extraordinarily expensive but it would be silly. We didn't need them any more. If we had needed them they wouldn't have let Brennis leave.
When my father had had open heart surgery fifteen years before I was living in South Carolina and had come home for the surgery and stayed for a few days after to be with my family and monitor his recovery until he came home. I remember the day I left I was so thankful that I didn't have to go through what my mom and dad were going to have to go through. To me at that point in my life it seemed like something I could never handle. I was about to find out if that was true. I had to trust myself and trust that this was where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do. It didn't seem as scary at 45 as it had at 30 but I still wished it never had to happen. I did, however, feel grateful that I was able to be that person for Brennis. My own heart ached thinking of all the people who had nobody to come home to when the hospital let them go. Despite the stress and the ugliness of what was about to happen I knew that really we were very lucky.
The first part of freedom is the hardest part. Finding your legs, taking the small tentative steps toward something new....experiencing life as you've never experienced it before. Then, as you begin to take those first steps away from your old life and toward the new one you begin to realize that you are still you....with the same strength and wisdom and spirit as the person you have always been....you are just free now. Then you take the first steps into your new life and for the first time you start living. That, it turns out, is when you are truly free.