On Weds we are set free from the hospital instructed to bring him back at the first sign of a fever. We take Nick to the House and he peers out the car window, squinting in the day light at a world gone strange.
He sniffs at the cool, fresh air, “Smells good.” For a while he sits on the wide ledge of the open bedroom window, drawn I think, by the gently moving curtains.
We are surprised by three of our friends, men from the volunteer fire hall at home. FH (Nick’s father) attends weekly practices at the hall a short walk from our house. The sound of his pager alerting him to a call has broken the silence of many nights, and the eerie wail of sirens leaving the hall set our dogs to howling.
Over breakfast, the boys with spoons poised over bowls of cereal listen raptly while their father tells of attending to a house fire, or cutting open a mangled vehicle with the Jaws of Life, but leaving out the gory details.
I’ve prepared many meals with the other wives for our families to eat together in the big kitchen at the hall. Still, I don’t like it when a plan is launched for us all to go out to supper.
Nick picks at his plate of food as he sits between two fire fighters and tells them his stories. “It would have taken a crane to get my bed out of that stuck elevator. Do you know how heavy the beds are?” When they tell us news of home I feel a tug in my stomach.
I’m a nervous hen asking Nick “Are you feeling OK?” every fifteen minutes. “I’m fine Mom” he claims more gently then expected confirming my suspicions that he isn’t feeling well.
The room with its high ceiling is noisy and the voices and laughter grate on my nerves. Nick’s full plate of food is cleared away. He’s slouching in his seat, his eyelids looking heavy and his pale skin is a light in the dim room. “OK, it’s time to go.” I’m already putting my coat on and reaching for Nicks’.
Nicholas is treated as an out patient so we spend eight hours Thursday and Friday in the oncology clinic while he gets blood work and we wait for results.
The boys are sitting together playing video games when FH and I are approached by a doctor. We spring out of our chairs, my bowels already loosening at the sight of the little room we are led into.
The doctor motions us to sit across from him, folds his hands on the table and says, “The leukemia is back. Nicholas’ marrow is full again.” I think I’m going to poop my pants. Then he tells us a central venous catheter (CVC) will be surgically inserted as soon as they get a time in the OR.
I’m walking across the floor toward my two sons sitting together in play. The oldest with a headful of thick dirty blonde hair, the younger one in his new state of fuzziness, and I wonder how I could love any life more than I do these two souls. I can’t seem to form the words to tell them what we learned in the little room.