The Three Amigos Leave Anchorage (The Final Installment)

Monday morning: surgery time.

Surgery is amazing. They put you under, do their thing (or thang, if you prefer), wake you up and send you away. Maybe call you again or see you again for a check-up and boom! You’re better.

That’s the ideal. And don’t get me wrong, the surgery went great and I am so grateful that we have made scientific advancements enough for it to have been an option for us…but I really don’t like surgery.

Watching your person go under and then just waiting, not knowing what is happening to them, is something I’ve done twice before (with my Mama) and something I hope not to do again. It’s a powerless feeling. I don’t know these people. They don’t know that they are operating not on a person but on my world.

Are your scalpels sharpened? Did you have just enough coffee this morning? Did you wash your hands correctly? Remember to remove all your tools from his sinuses? What if he wakes up in the middle of it? Is he warm enough?

This is my person.

I know nothing about what it is to be a doctor, but I do know that human error, no matter the field, exists. That thought plagued me for the next few hours.

This little worry-wort had planned to wait in the lobby and pace like a caged big cat for the next few hours until the nurses promised they would call me about anything and everything and basically shoved me out the door.

Fine.

So I headed outside only to remember that leaving held with it a whole other slew of worries.

You see, we never planned on The Chief becoming incapacitated and me having to drive.

“Drive?” You ask.

“What’s wrong with driving? You’re an excellent driver!”

Why thank you (and I couldn’t agree more). The thing is (again) I’m from California. I’ve been to The Snow (as in Lake Tahoe) but I’ve never driven in it. Anytime I’ve ever had the option to drive it I’ve always been with more seasoned snow-drivers and so they’ve taken the wheel. In retrospect, I wish I would have been more adamant about learning then because now I was faced with the icy streets of Anchorage.

But hey, The Chief gave me some pointers and we have 4-wheel drive and the streets aren’t that bad. Basically it’s like having training wheels for snow driving, double training wheels even.

I’ve got this.

Oh yea, I forgot to add that the vehicle I’m driving is (to put it correctly) a big ‘ol truck. I have to jump a little to get in and, to make me feel really grown up and in control, I have to take all the books we just bought and put them under my buns and all the jackets in the truck and  put them behind my back in order to see over the steering wheel and reach the pedals.

Yup. I’m an adult. With a booster seat.

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Ok, I’ve still got this under control.

Now, let’s get real. First thing is first: pancakes. I love pancakes more than anyone I’ve ever met (and if I ever meet someone who loves them as much as me or more I can’t wait, because we are going to be best friends) and in times like these, the only thing that is going to make me feel better are:

a. a call to my Mama

b. pancakes. a full stack.

Lucky for me, The Chief had suggested Middle Way Cafe as a place to get soup for him for post-op and from the moment I walked in, my little hippie tummy knew we would be in good hands.

A stack of multi-grain blueberry pancakes, soup to go and a call to the Mom later and I was almost able to forget to worry. Almost.

I went to the pharmacy to get the rest of The Chief’s meds. They didn’t have them. I started off for another just as the hospital called.

He’s ready.

I rushed to the second pharmacy and grabbed the remaining supplies and raced back.

They had told me before the surgery that I would be able to see him immediately in recovery. I got there only to be told I’d have to wait a bit. Good thing I rushed.

Resume prior plan of big cat pacing. Panther pacing, that rings right.

But again, my mind was taken away as I opened an email with a link to my hometown newspaper. I clicked and my jaw dropped as I saw my girlfriend’s house (a place she was gracious enough to share with me when my ex and I broke up and I had nowhere to move) bisected by a redwood tree (it turns out there was actually more than one).

It made me want to gather all of my people under one roof. Could everyone I love just be safe and sound, please? I tried to reach her but couldn’t and so I called a friend of ours to see what had happened and what I could do but in the middle of our call the front desk lady came to me – I was finally allowed to see The Chief.

My love was groggy and a bit bloodied but doing amazingly well. I received a myriad of instructions, do’s and don’ts and definitely don’ts and before I knew it we were out the door and headed back to the homestead (our hotel).

There’s nothing quite like being able to take care of someone when they need you. Making soup from scratch. Warms cloths on their forehead. Getting their cozy jammies ready, tucking them into fresh sheets and putting on a movie.

Being in a hotel room was not like that.

I heated the restaurant made soup in the microwave, fluffed the foreign to us pillows and tucked in my babe without cozies. Nothing was on TV (is there ever anything on?). I took a a trip for supplies and dinner…

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Taking in the sights of a supplies walk. Melting ice sculptures from a competition downtown.

After which I was able to upgrade us a little bit with the help of an HDMI cable and new pajamas, though we couldn’t get the HDMI working until  11pm, and with me running back and forth between the laundry every thirty minutes and Iditarod partiers hooping and  hollering, it wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. But, trooper that he is, The Chief rolled with it well.

With massive amounts of laundry done the only things left to do were collect the remainder of The Chief’s meds (a misprinted prescription sent us into an insurance whirlwind but with a lot of help it all worked out) and grocery shop.

No biggie, right?

{Begin ominous soundtrack}

Our third amigo came with me to Costco so I wouldn’t have to pack and unpack alone, but in Costco it’s every man for his own shopping list (and since we hadn’t been to Town since December our list was as long as I am tall). There are two sides to Costco: booze and food. In your planning, you decide which is first depending on how you are packing your rig (which after two days of driving, I was feeling much more confident in…but still short). Booze first? In our case, yes. We would fill up the many side compartments of the truck and leave the bed for food.

Well, about $500 later we went back out to the truck and started loading the first round. Thirty minutes later we were back at the Costco doors.

Shopping for food for the next few months alone is a mental exercise in restraint, splurging and balancing. You see, you always return home wishing you would have bought that thing you debated on (yes, you really do want those olives). But the thing is, when your person is with you, you have a little sounding board, your decisions come easier and (at least at the time) feel valid. Alone, it’s a whole different ballgame. But this time I decided to go in armored up with the intention of leaving with truly everything we needed, even if I was going to have a minor heart episode at check out. I took off my jacket to prepare for the warm indoors and set it in reaching distance for when I got to the dairy aisle. I was ready.

About an hour and 20,000 decisions later (how much do I need this to be organic? $5 extra much? Do we have mayo?  I swear we did…Toilet paper! Almost forgot) we were in line (I had two shopping carts). For some reason, all the people in the store with 5 items or less started lining up behind me. I was in a daze and didn’t realize they were there  until the checker started calling them all ahead of me.

Ten minutes later, it was finally my turn.

Check out time.

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Baskets and baskets and baskets…

The bagger/boxer cracker her knuckles, took a deep breath and jumped right in. We had a game plan. Perishables together, non-perishables together. Box ’em up, box ’em out. Another ten minutes and ten banana boxes full and we were out of there. People were staring.
“Having a party this weekend, little lady?!”

You better believe it. At this point I’m feeling so close to being home that every moment is a celebration.

Thirty minutes later and the game of packing Tetris complete we finally leave Costco $1100 poorer but smiling all the way.

We return to The Chief and it starts…that sinking feeling you get when you feel a little sickness coming on.

Stage 1: Denial

Stage 2: Raid the medicine cabinet (or in our case, take your multivitamin and a dropper full of GSE and hope for the best).

Stage 3: Cross those fingers and toes

We all awoke in the morning beyond ready to leave but there was still the packing off all the supplies back into the truck which always takes longer than planned. Parked right next to a No Parking sign we played packing Tetris again (high scorers!) and finally, we were off.

The last stops between us and home:

Fred Meyer in Palmer (Safeway, essentially): For any last perishables that Costco didn’t have…maybe even some fresh herbs?

and

Fred Meyer Gas: To fuel up our barrels from home

Once you leave Palmer, you are basically home. You still have 6-8 hours before you actually arrive, but it’s the last taste of a city you’ll have for months and boy does that feel good.

I shopped again, we Tetris-ed again, loaded ourselves in again and we were off. Homeward bound (oh, I love that movie!).

Despite Doctors orders, The Chief drove the entire way home. Once you’re on a roll on the road it’s hard to stop. Our Third Amigo plagued with the Anchorage Ick too (and worse than me) got sicker and sicker as the drive wore on. I was still in the denial/taking supplements (of which I had loaded up in Palmer) stages but feeling worse as every mile flew past. Two more stops for fuel and last bits at the country store and we finally took our turn off down our 60-mile driveway home.

Finally home (again, against Doctor’s orders) The Chief, our Third Amigo and I unloaded box after box after box into our little house. As I leaned behind the seat to grab perishables, my headlamp fell onto my nose right as I hit my head into the window and cracked my nose.

“Ouch! I just cracked my nose…”

I realized that I was saying this to someone who had just had surgery two days before (like I’ve said before, I’m not the pain threshold bad-ass in this family).

We divided up items for our Third Amigo to haul home across the river and bid one another adieu for the night.

Inside, the house was mayhem. Feeling the sickness creeping further and further into reality I was ready to call it a night and start again in the morning but The Chief (thanks a lot prescribed steroids) was ready to organize! So we did and I’m glad because even organized, we had basically brought half of Anchorage back with us. The house was packed to the gills with goodies. I was so excited that I could barely sleep because I couldn’t decide what it was I would eat first in the morning.

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Oh, the bounty. The ebb and flow of eating begins…

Tucked into cozy fresh sheets, with jammies and homemade (Meyer!) lemon tea we settled in for the night. The trip was finally over. We were home.

I could finally take real care of The Chief. He could finally rest. I would cut the wood and make the meals and pamper the patient back into health. Finally he could start the post-surgery process right.

Right?

Ha! Wrong. I woke up feeling terrible the next day. He chopped the wood. He made the fire. He fed me and cared for me and pumped me up to be able to head to work (it was too late to call in sick and after being gone for so much longer than planned, I really needed the money).

You’d think by now I would finally realize that to make a plan out here is to shoot yourself in the foot but no, not yet. I planned and it failed but lucky for me I have a partner in crime.

Throughout this week he’s been told to rest, he’s checked in on me, made me tea and food and tickled my back. After everyone telling me how lucky The Chief was to have me, it turns out I was the lucky one…but I already knew that. We both are lucky.

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And so, despite playing my nurse, The Chief is healing up well. And in spite of staying longer than planned and spending more than hoped we are happy. Happy to be home and happy to have found home in one another.

Hey, there’s nothing like a town trip to bring you closer.

And there’s nothing like coming home to rainbow fireplaces and our favorite pup.

Home sweet home.

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4 comments

  1. There’s no place like home, even when there’s a giant tree on top of it. It will be rebuilt and better than ever.
    My son, Zeke, may be your pancake loving rival. And I’m his loving pancake flipper.

    Like

  2. I just love your blog…..I am always thrilled when I see a notification for a new one! You are a great writer and such a trooper, you should be proud of yourself. Hugs to you and the Chief, Cece

    Like

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