Friday, December 12, 2014

Chapter 12, part 2: Thanksgiving Break

Late Wednesday night after almost everyone had left campus I stood at the lobby door, looking out into the falling snow for a sign of Mom.   At last headlights broke the darkness, and a small red sedan pulled up to the curb.  The doors opened and the interior light silhouetted not one, but two figures.  Elation momentarily overcame exhaustion and I ran out to them.

“Ruth!  I never expected to see you too!”  

“Blessed Redeemer has the whole week off and—”  Mom began.

“And I’m doing my state report on Ohio,” Ruth cut in. “My teacher said this can count as first-hand research.”

They followed me down the hallways of Warner to my dorm room sharing details of Ruth’s first plane ride.  Inside, Mom set her luggage on Lacey’s bed.  

“Where am I going to sleep?” Ruth whined.

“We talked about this,” Mom reminded her.  “In a sleeping bag on the floor.”

Ruth rolled her eyes.  “You didn’t tell me the floor wouldn’t have any carpet!  Why do you both get to sleep on beds?  It’s not fair!”

“You’d like to sleep on a bed,” Mom said evenly.  “It doesn’t seem fair that Giselle and I get one while you sleep on the floor.”

“Doesn’t seem fair?  No, it really truly totally is completely unfair!  Just because I’m the littlest.”

“Sounds like this is really important to you.  Do you have any other ideas?”

“We could go back home.”

“What about Giselle’s surgery tomorrow?”

“Oh, yeah.”  Ruth thought hard, then brightened with an idea.  “Could we go to a hotel?”

“Keep thinking.”

“You could let me sleep with you in the bed.”

Mom looked at the narrow twin mattress and back at Ruth.  “Any other ideas?”

“We could take turns.  You sleep on the floor first and then wake me up in the middle of the night and I’ll switch.”

“Doesn’t sound very restful.  What else?”

Ruth flopped down into my desk chair and folded her arms across her chest.  “You aren’t giving any of my ideas a chance.  If I can’t have a bed then nobody should have one!”  

“You want us all to sleep on the floor together?  Giselle, you up for that?”

“Sure, why not?” I said.  “It’d be like a family slumber party!  But I don’t know how much help I can be setting it all up.”

Mom and Ruth dragged the mattresses of the beds and onto the floor, creating a colossal spread of sheets blankets and pillows in the center of the room while I supervised.  

“What’s good to eat around here, Gigi?” Mom asked as she plumped a pillow.

“There’s a pizza place and a diner here in town, or if you want a chain restaurant, we could drive to Exeter or Avondale.  I’m not really hungry so whatever you and Ruth want is fine with me.”

“Can we order a big dessert too?” Ruth asked.

“Not tonight, sweetie.”

“But why not?”

Ruth continued pestering Mom about dessert all the way to the diner at the end of Main street.  She asked one more time as we looked over the menus.

“I believe that’s been asked and answered, Ruth.” Mom said.  “Now, would you like to order the chicken fingers or spaghetti?”

“Neither one.  I want the hamburger,” Ruth sulked.

“Fine.  A hamburger for Ruth, and Giselle, what will you be having?”

“I told you I’m not very hungry.”

“I’ll order you a bowl of chicken soup and you can eat what you like of it.  No wonder you are so sick if you’re not eating.  You need all the nourishment you can get to fight whatever this is.  Now I really wish I’d insisted on you coming home so I could take care of you.”

“Well, you’re here now,” I said.  I slowly slurped on the soup and managed to eat almost the whole bowl.  

The waitress came to clear our places.  “How about a slice of pie?”

“C’mon, can I Mom?  I’m still hungry after that hamburger.”

“Asked and answered.”

Ruth banged her fork on the table.  “That’s so stupid!  You never let me have anything!”

Mom put her hand over Ruth’s.  “You really wanted dessert tonight and are angry and disappointed you can’t have it.”

Ruth calmed down and met mom’s eyes.  “Yeah.  Sorry for yelling and saying stupid.  I really do want dessert but that was a rude reaction.  I’m ready for our slumber party. Let’s go!”

I couldn’t believe it.  What voodoo did Mom work to make Ruth go from whiny demands to apologizing so fast?  If I’d pulled the same attitudes as Ruth when I was nine, I’d have probably gotten a spanking or at least sent to bed without any dinner.  I might have apologized but wouldn’t have meant it, and the rest of the evening would have been spent in tense silence.  

The snow fell heavier as we left the restaurant.  Mom drove unusually slow, worried about hitting black ice.  When we got back to the room, we called Daddy and Kirsten on Skype to pray together as a family for the surgery.  Mom was nervous not only about the surgery but about driving the 20 miles to Avondale in the inclement weather.  We prayed for safety on the trip to the hospital.

Our prayers were more than answered.  The morning dawned clear.  The storm had moved on, leaving a gorgeous winter scene in its wake, and the traffic reports said that driving conditions were good on Interstate 70.    

When I first came out of anesthesia after the surgery, Dr. Curtis came to see us.  

“Quite a surprising morning!” he chuckled.  “It was the oddest thing.  As soon as I cut into your neck, pus oozed out.  With that dead tissue on your CT scan, I fully expected to find something else.”

“So it’s an infection after all?  Not cancer?” I asked.

“Yes, but obviously an antibiotic resistant strain.  I’ve sent a culture to Ohio State for testing to determine what exactly we’re looking at and more importantly, what can kill it.”

“And what was the dead tissue?” Mom asked.

“A lymph node.  It nobly sacrificed itself to save your life.  If it hadn’t shut down and closed off the way it did, we’d be looking at a systemic problem.  I doubt you’d have made it this long.”

“Praise God!” Mom cried, clutching my hand and pulling Ruth close to her side.

The trip back home was a blur, fogged by lingering anesthesia.  Mom and Ruth stopped at an ice cream parlor and left me sleeping in the car.  As the anesthetic wore off, I realized that even with the pain from the incision, I felt a thousand times better.  

Between my codeine-induced naps, Mom, Ruth and I watched Netflix on Demand or just talked. The thick blanket of white left behind by the storm compounded the eerie silence that enfolded the empty campus.   

“Mom, can I go outside and play in the snow?” Ruth asked after the first movie ended.

“Yes, but stay close to the window so we can see you,” Mom instructed.  

“How’s Oma doing?” I asked after Ruth headed out.  

“She sends her love.”

“So she’s doing better?”

“In some ways.  She still can’t move her left side though.  Her doctor thinks she’s made as much progress as she’ll ever make.  Your father and his brothers have agreed to have her go to Walnut Manor.”

“Why?” I’d been to Walnut Manor with our youth group caroling.  The place gave me the creeps.  Death felt so close there.

“She needs a lot of assistance, honey.  It’s too much for any of us.”  Mom looked at me with concern.  “I can see this is upsetting you.  Let’s change the subject. Did you know Kirsten finally changed her look?”

"I thought something was different about her when we Skyped last night.  What happened?”

“Apparently there’s been some kind of rumor going around the high school that she and Heidi are, um, more than friends.”

“That’s ridiculous!”  

“I know, right?  I’ve never heard anything more ludicrous.  Anyone who knows her knows that she’s been dating Charlie forever.”

"That’s crazy.  Do people believe everything they hear?”

“Anyway, my point was, that as soon as the rumors started, she went to Old Navy and bought a whole new wardrobe.  No more mens’ pants or ugly shirts.  She even dyed her hair back to it’s normal color and is letting it grow out.  She looks so pretty and feminine now.  If she had just listened to me in the first place …”  

“Mom, you know nagging doesn’t work, right?”

Mom laughed self-deprecatingly. “You’d think I learn, especially where Kirsten’s concerned.  It’s like the best way to get her to do anything is to tell her I’d love for her to do the opposite. You on the other hand … Well, what I was going to say is that you’re my good girl, but … let’s just say I appreciate that I’ve never had to worry much about you.”