The drive to the hospital was pretty quiet, made even more so by the fact that the ice on the roads had me holding my breath most of the way.
As we pulled up along the hospital Steven commented that he felt like a criminal that was turning himself in, knowing full well that he would be locked up. He stated that he was more of a "runner", and those who know him well know the humor in this statement. I reminded him that, in this case, "the criminal" had a chance of parole, and running could quite possibly end badly.
While at home Steven savored his time and I tried to. Really, I did. However, the very deeply embedded part of me that can't just "be", had me trying to accomplish the million things that I felt needed to be done before we left again: clearing the mountains of leaves from the yard, cleaning the house, buying and wrapping Christmas gifts, planning everything, packing everyone, cleaning gutters.... You name it. Although I look back now and wish I would have just stayed still and soaked it all up, I know that doing all the "normal things" that needed to be done gave me a small sense of peace. I think seeing me be "normal" gave my kids a sense of peace too.
Of course, like normal, Steven and I enjoyed every minute snuggled up with our kids.
During our time home Steven was able to go to a basketball game of Lakyn's. Her team had decided to surprise Steven by wearing their "mustache shirts" to show their support. As he noticed them out on the court he became emotional, and filled with love.
There were many nights at home spent playing board games, Battleship, and Pictionary, not to mention a never ending game of Monopoly. Steven also refereed the kid's "time trials" of toy tractor and bicycle races, watched pogo stick competitions, and took the kids to school with me each day. He took in every minute as if trying to commit the each scene to memory. I heard his enthusiastic laugh on many occasions and despite the laundry list of tasks ahead of me, I always stopped and smiled at the sound.
On Thanksgiving we planned on going to mom's house as was our tradition. Our tradition also included the "Tour de Turkey", a bike ride from our house to mom's, that was started by Steven seven years ago, because, as he jokingly stated, "he wanted to reduce his carbon footprint". Of course, I explained that didn't work because I was still driving, but he hopped on his bike and rode anyway, by himself, 11 miles, the first part uphill AND gravel. The next year he rode again, alone. However, by the third year, he was joined by my uncle and some cousins, and the ride has since became a Thanksgiving tradition.
Although a tradition, it's a tradition that the participants, (except for Steven), grumble and moan about doing, year after year, but out of pride sign up for, year after year. It's one of those "love/hate" things.
This year, without Steven, there was no mention of anyone riding. We all assumed they were glad to have an excuse NOT to do it. However, the night before, sworn to secrecy by my mom, I found out that they were going to ride anyway...in honor of Steven. That morning, before anyone showed up, I told the kids and swore THEM to secrecy. They immediately jumped on board stating that they were doing it again "for daddy".
When everyone showed up at our house Steven couldn't believe it, but he also couldn't stop smiling. He bundled up and rode his own bike to the end of the driveway, the "official" starting line.
Blake only made it a mile or so before he gave in. He rode the entire 11 miles the prior two years but this year he stated that "without daddy beside me as my inspiration, what's the point?"
Lakyn, however, found her inspiration in the fact that her daddy wasn't there beside her and she wanted to do it for him.
Both outlooks are completely indicative of our kids character and personalities.
We loaded Blake up with us and drove on, telling him we understood the challenge. Steven told him that next year they would ride the "Tour de Turkey" together again.
Lakyn forged ahead, encouraged by the rest of the group. As she stayed in front, climbing the very last hill, you could see the determination and struggle on her face. As she neared mom's driveway Steven went out and met her in the road, pushing her up the final hump into the drive.
The sight made my eyes sting with unshed tears.
Lakyn was worn completely out, but, with pride bursting, she told her daddy that she did not push her bike. Not. One. Single. Time. on all the hills she climbed. She continued forward knowing that she could do it, "for daddy", no matter how hard it was.
Consequently, this Thanksgiving we were especially mindful of our blessings, large and small. We were humbled by Jammie's selfless gift of his stem cells and time, strengthened by everyone's love and prayers, and delighted at the support shown through something as "simple" as a bike ride.
The last weekend home we all went to an auction of a late neighbor and friend. Seeing all our neighbors and seeing Steven out and in "his element" was good for all of us.
When we got home we drove through the fields and checked the cows. Again, I think he was mentally memorizing the scene, storing it all up for the months to come...
As we pulled in the parking garage at the hospital yesterday, before being admitted, we prayed together once again. Although it has become much more comfortable and much more common than it had once been, Steven still likes for me to be the one to do all the "talking".
For those that know me well, they probably know why.
In the parking garage we prayed that God would continue to give us both strength and courage. We prayed that the kids would be ever mindful of His love and the love of those surrounding them. We prayed that God would keep safe those coming to and from St. Louis to see us. We prayed for a successful transplant. And we gave thanks for all that God has already given us....and at the top of that list was all the love and support that we have received from all of you.
Yesterday Steven started the round of chemo that prepares his bone marrow for transplant. We made the room as "homey" as we could, and have since settled in. Please continue to pray for our family. We want nothing more this Christmas (or the next, and the next, and the next, and the...) than for Steven to have complete success with the transplant.
Please pray that too.