It’s been so fun to be on the receiving end of celebratory texts - most of which ask how I am, besides being elated.
And I am happy - really I am - but also starting to feel miserable physically.
The day after surgery is always my best. Anesthesia hasn’t yet totally worn off, which means it’s easy to sleep and control pain.
But that’s long gone; and spiking liver enzymes mean steroids are being delivered via my HAI pump - every five minutes, 24 hours a day.
I caught an hour or two of sleep Wednesday night, after the steroids went in that morning.
Last night, I spent literally the entire night awake. And suddenly I’m remembering this is how it used to go - two sleepless nights before crashing the third day. Repeat.
I did manage to get a solid start on the first ten pages of my memoir, which are due next Wednesday for the class I’ve been taking this summer. But once in bed, strings of words keep crashing into my brain, and no amount of EarPod-directed guided meditation can stop their flow: random scenes and paragraphs spinning themselves into bits of stories. Sometimes they feel so random that I’m not sure why they have appeared; then suddenly I see the connection and why it’s right.
Finally I sit up and spend over an hour capturing as much as I have stamina to type into the notes on my phone. Then I toss and turn until it’s late enough to text my mom.
My plan has been to take the Amtrak to Milwaukee, where my parents will pick me up and we will head up to the cottage, the most healing place I know. This will give Per an actual break from caretaking, which he desperately needs, and an opportunity to enjoy his Lollapalooza weekend tradition with the kids. And it will give me a chance to revert to an 8 year old - I’ve asked them to pack me a PB&J, grapes, and chocolate milk for our trip.
The night’s tossing and turning turns into the day’s, where I attempt to alternate work stress with naps, blearily reading my email drafts again and again before hitting send, then needlessly setting my alarm in 20 minute increments, as sleep doesn’t come. Finally around 2, I double check the train schedule - only to find the 3 pm is sold out, as is the 5 pm. The 8:30 is my next option; not great, but my mother points out that we will wake up at the cottage, and I figure I can at least wrap up my work day from my couch/bed.
By the time I call an Uber to bring me to the station, I’m totally strung out on a combination of painkillers and almost 48 hours of being awake. I stumble through the house trying to grab what I need and collapse gratefully into the car for the 20 minute ride to the Glenview station. The train arrives a bit earlier than I expect, but when the conductor yells, “all aboard, northbound to Milwaukee!” I climb on.
It’s a minute later, after the doors close and the train starts moving that I realize I am on a double decker train. Which means this must be a Metra train, not the Amtrak to Milwaukee.
I look down at my phone, and even in my dramatically compromised mental state I understand immediately there is no way I can make it back to Glenview in time to catch the 8:30 Amtrak.
Instead, I get off the train at the next stop, drop my bags to the ground, and begin to sob.
“How are you feeling, Gina?” pings my text, from a string with Judy and Kristina that started just minutes prior, but which I must have by now noticeably abandoned.
“Miserable.” I respond. “Just got onto a Metra and missed my train to Milwaukee. Trying to get to my parents so they can take care of me so Per can just enjoy himself at Lolla and not have to worry about me.”
My anguish must be apparent, because after a few unanswered texts, they are FaceTiming me, and I am breaking down in real time and full snot. They figure out where I am and what I am trying to do. “Stay there,” says Kristina authoritatively. “My husband and I are 10 minutes away. We will pick you up and get you to Milwaukee.”
Judy offers to meet and make the drive with us, and I leave them to logistics so I can call my parents, who head south immediately to meet us on our way north.
It’s not the ride I want at that moment: it’s a hug from the kind of friend who makes a literal u-turn to get to you when you need someone most.
“I should have driven you to Glenview,” texts Per.
“I don’t think so. If you had, this couldn’t have happened.” My face is still streaked wet with tears, and already I can see the lesson.
Kristina and Chris arrive, and I meet him after a big hug from her; they take me back to their house, so we can drop Chris off and then head north. She and Judy have calculated that Judy is too far to come meet us for the ride; but by the time the mission is complete, she’s offered to get me from the train station to Evanston on Sunday.
And the ride itself is just what I need - 35 minutes with a friend who knows me and my world and lets me talk it all out the whole time, providing sympathetic soothing whenever I pause.
She delivers a less messy me to my parents, who pull into the appointed Culver’s just a minute before we do, and are both a little teary as they hug Kristina and thank her for the save. In the backseat, a pillow is waiting for me; along with a sandwich, grapes, chocolate milk, and the Twinkie my dad has thought to add.
Things start to feel a little fuzzy, and I’m conscious that I’m doing a poor job with conversation. But it doesn’t matter, because I am with my parents now and everything is ok - maybe more ok than they might have been had nothing eventful happened at all.
I’m too tired to end this with a tight landing, so instead I’ll explain the picture, of the surgical entry point we found when we pulled back the band-aid to reveal the surgical strips. It’s hard to pull back the bandage without impacting the strips, and Per wonders aloud how they have been placed. When enough is visible, he laughs at what we would never have expected to find: for there, made of surgical strips, is a star. *️⃣❤️