I don’t know why but I always find the silence during heavy snowfall deafening. It’s a wonderful time for reflection.
Amy moves about uncomfortably in the hospital bed. I look down at the pulse monitor on her forefinger. It is a bright red beacon in the darkness. On her arm closest to me I let my eyes follow the faintly lit trail of her IV line to where it disappears into her taped and bruised hand. This time they only had to stick her with the IV needle four times before they found a vein that didn’t collapse.
A gray and black leopard patterned blanket, a blanket Lynnie gave to her mom for good luck, covers Amy’s legs. Three days of treatment again, but this is day three, 4 more hours to go and then we are done for the year. Every set of completed treatments feels like an accomplishment, no more waking the girls up early to get them to before school care, no more waking up at 2am, panicked, and thinking I overslept and we missed an appointment, or watching the EKG machine obsessively, knowing what each reading means but we are done and in a few hours Amy will begin to come out of it.
I pull the car into the driveway and park. It won’t be long before Vivian gets off the bus. I have enough time to get Amy into bed so she can sleep, the treatments are exhausting . An hour after Vivian gets home Lynnie will get off the bus. Today is really no different than any other day, the ketamine treatments are a part of our life now. We get through each day as any other family might and like everyone else we jump each hurdle as it presents itself.
It’s in the passing moments of mindlessness that I find myself reconciling our new life, and much like someone stuck in an abusive relationship I am constantly creating ways to make it livable while ignoring the obvious.
Vivian is upstairs reading and Lynnie is playing with her guys, she is having an interesting conversation with them but I am only sort of listening.
In the pantry I collect up ingredients. I load up my arms, a Cambro full of flour, another of sugar, on top of them I lay a bag of brown sugar and a jar of green and red Christmas sprinkles. When I get everything together I call the girls and we begin measuring ingredients. It’s time to make some Christmas cookies.
As 2017 exits, we are ending the year much as it began.
I try to give Amy’s days structure. It is around 1:30 in the afternoon when I wake her. I bring her coffee in her favorite Klimt mug, sugar in the bottom until it forms an Appalachian sized hill, half and half to cover, and to the top with strong, hot, coffee.
This afternoon I don’t have the time because we are making cookies, but on the afternoons when I don’t have lots to do I lie in the bed next to Amy while she sips her coffee and we talk. We relish these afternoons. Sometimes we talk about pop culture, on others it’s about something we read, there are days when we laugh hysterically, some afternoons are spent bringing her up to date on the kids school stuff but it’s on the days we talk about how lucky we are, even in this worst of moments, that we both feel fortunate. We know that with a few simple turns of fate our situation could be wholly different. We know we are the exception and not the rule, the fact that I can stay home with Amy while, we hope, she begins to recover is a luxury, that her illness hasn’t depleted our savings is because we have and can afford good health insurance.
We also know we have an amazing family always at the ready to help in anyway but on top of that we have great friends who continually call or text to ask if we need anything. I will likely turn down the help but it is more with the knowledge there might come a time when we will need it rather than we don’t want it. Besides when you reach out it lets us know there is a world outside of Amy’s disease and on bad days sometimes it is the best thing that happens.
It is still snowing, it is a lighter snow, and I am thankful.
The sacks on the table, dotted with spots of grease and limp from French fry steam, are from Burger Chef. I have a plain cheeseburger. It is the first burger I remember eating. I eat them with glee and in anticipation of the next time my father would pile us into the back of the metallic green Plymouth Fury and drive us the short distance to the shopping center to pick up dinner from the shiny new burger spot.
Shortly thereafter, we packed up and moved to the country. Everything changed. That’s not to say we didn’t get to eat at burger joints anymore — we just didn’t get to eat at them as often. We didn’t eat at Burger Chef all the time to begin with, but at the new house there were no eateries close by.
At our new home, the height of my formative years, if we ate burgers, it was from the grill on our porch. The burger meal was best on the weekends when we came off the boat after a long day on the lake waterskiing, tubing, and swimming. We were wet, sunburned, and wrapped in beach towels. As we walked up the hill from the water, fresh-cut blades of grass stuck to our damp feet and, at the top, we sat down to the table on the back porch deck with wet hair and water-freckled arms. A pot of long-cooked green beans speckled with bacon, a plate piled high with boiled corn on the cob begging for butter, thick slabs of sliced Early Girl tomatoes, and a stack of juicy burgers hot off the charcoal grill waited for us, courtesy of my mother.
At the table we built our own burgers. Mine was always the same, 1 1/2 slices of American cheese, mayo, thickly spooned onto the top bun, Boston lettuce, and two thick slices of homegrown tomato. By the time I got close to finishing the sandwich, the soft Kaiser roll was soaked with tomato and beef juices, making the last sloppy bites the best — napkin mandatory.
But when you leave home, you stretch your wings, or at least I did, and you experience the world without the watchful eyes of your parents. You do things you shouldn’t and you do things you should. But I figured I’d get it out of my system, experience as many possibilities as I could. I won’t settle on any one thing until I have none left to try:
The Hinkle Burger: Caramelized onions smashed into the patty which is griddled on a big steel flat top. Double cheese means two slices on a single patty, not two patties. College. My first true love. The burger, fries, and blueberry milkshake is a hard memory to run from.
White Castle: A plate of sliders, double cheese with extra pickle. The break-up girlfriend. A friend with benefits.
And then there is the fall I spent in Austin as a newspaper intern. The jalapeño burger, theschnitzel burger, the Tex-Mex burger, the BBQ bacon burger, the Cordon Bleu burger, and the breakfast burger. Incorrigible. Notches on the burger bed post.
The Wheel-In Diner. Post graduation. A goober burger. Peanut butter slathered on a bun, a burger, and your choice of toppings. Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.
The Corner Bistro. Dream big. The big city cheddar burger. Served on a toasted English muffin. As close to a corner office as I want to get.
The stuffed blue cheese burger, mushroom and Swiss, bacon California Reuben pizza Cajun 1/2 pounder Swedish meatball foie gras wagyu … and ground short rib burger. All delicious but nothing more than meaningless hotel rooms on an endless road trip because in the end, you discover, there is nothing like the comfort of home, The Lake House Burger.