My Dad is about six weeks away from his transplant. The man has especially unusual marrow markers and there wasn't one blessed donor in the entire bone marrow bank that matched. So we have moved onto a therapy called Haplo, that is as much transfusion as it is transplant. The donation will come from my little brother. We keep joking that his blood cells will make my dad a little lazy, a sudden fan of Band of Horses and a guzzler of chocolate milk. We laugh and then cry. I spend most days praising the Lord that a treatment exists for the antigens that want to flood my father’s body. The other days are not spent as productively.
I am working on it.
My parents came home from the hospital this last week. A little break from the marathon of needles, sleepless nights and beige walls. Friday night we all gathered at their house for a dinner of biscuits and gravy. I was raised on gravy. At dinner it flooded my mashed potato fortress walls and at breakfast it flowed from my biscuits into territories of eggs, potatoes and bacon. If I could have figured out how to get it to school in my brown paper lunch bag it would have conquered that meal, too.
In this life there are some things that will always mean you have come home. For me, seeing one of my parents stand over a skillet full of drippings, flour and cream is one of them. My dad whisked the gravy, mom made the eggs and I burnt the potatoes. It almost felt like everything was the way it has always been. And except for the quiet moments at dinner, the places where we allowed ourselves to be tired, I suppose it really was.
Riley took the girls home early and I stayed behind for just a little while. My dad and I teased my little brother about girls and facial hair while that cookie boy wiped down the counters. (Or what that 18 year-old thinks passes as wiping down the counters. Lazy blood cells, I tell you.) We laughed and I wanted to climb into the moment and hold it around me.
And then, the way moments tend to, it passed.
It was time to go home. I drove away from that kitchen and that moment with a heaviness and a hurt. Maybe I should have stayed. I could have slept over. Gone to bed and woken up the little girl that couldn’t worry beyond her parent’s whispered assurance. Just this once. How could I leave them alone? They would never leave me alone. I don’t want them to be alone.
And then, on a winding road without lights, I looked into the driver side mirror. Oh and the moon! It filled the glass, all bright light and hazy white. It was the moon of every childhood story and elementary drawing. Perfectly rounded with a curved tip waiting for a hanging star. The sight stopped my thoughts. I shook and then was calmed. It felt as if that moon, that embodiment of fairy tale and rhyme and childhood hopes, was suspended right above my parent’s house. And for that night, I knew it would watch over them with the blessing of every child that has tried to count the stars in the sky.
As I drove, I kept the crescent of light in my mirror as long as I could. It lit the inside of my car and the dark places in my heart. And then a stop sign, a turn, and it was gone. It hurt, but I understood. That night was not my night and that moon was not my moon. I took a deep breath and said a prayer for the people left to its safekeeping.
Then, I drove on home under the lights of the interstate.