As I left the hospital last night, I stepped through the sliding glass doors and into a cold evening. The words a dear friend had written in a card to us played through my head: “this has been such a long, hard winter for all of you, but spring always comes. Jack will get stronger”. Indeed there was the smell of spring in the air. Not the refreshing, clean and vaguely floral smell of new air that we think of when we imagine what spring must smell like. Rather, it was the smell of newly thawed and wet humus, of the salt, trash and natural detritus pushed up by the ice of several muscular blizzards, now left to decay or roll downstream as the ice recedes. Not a pretty smell, but the real smell of spring.
It has been a hard winter here in northern New Castle county, Delaware. In our driveway is a long gash where the plow tore into the earth and uprooted a chunk of our ivy. Dead leaves and exposed roots are left in the wake of winter and of our imperfect, human attempts to clear obstructions away.
Jack, who turned nine months old today, is scheduled for a 9:30a.m. surgery tomorrow to place a shunt which will run from his brain to his belly. This will hopefully provide a solution to his hydrocephalus. It will be his eighth surgical procedure in three weeks. After this surgery the external drain (our old enemy) will be removed at long last, the trach will be changed, and Jack’s sedation lifted. Tomorrow, for the first time in two weeks, we can hold Jack in our arms again. Selfishly, I look forward to that moment like we all hope for the spring.
Yet, for poor Jack, there is much recovering to do. There will be eight surgical sites which must ache terribly, tight and unresponsive limbs, frightening changes to his face and body, and several alien tubes to get used to. There are splints around his legs and little foam grips for his hands. There will be fear and pain. He will cry… But silently, his voice gone, perhaps forever. John and I have so looked forward to tomorrow, when we can feel as if we are finally getting Jack back. Yet tomorrow we will see the wreckage a bit more clearly, no longer obfuscated by sedatives or post-op side effects. We will see how much rebuilding there is to do.
I look forward to tomorrow, though I know that we will find ourselves treading through the swamp at times, confronted with the enormity of the task before us. Yet, perhaps that is as it is meant to be. The earliest spring peepers always sing from the bogs and the rushes.
It’s a long road, little boy, but you can do it.