Along came Owen Jane. Joy of our lives. Because she was six weeks early (although healthy) and small and full of Bilirubin, she had to stay in the hospital for six days. During that time Paul prepared for his guest lecture. Every day we would go through the usual hospital routine of visitors, breast feeding (and all the trauma that entails when you’re trying for the first time with a 4 lb 12 oz preemie), getting the baby’s room ready (since she was early everything was still in boxes in the floor of her room), and just gazing at her amazing little fingers and face and hair and feet. Then at night, Paul would settle in on his hospital cot next to me, pull out his computer, and work on that presentation. He was so… engaged…something I had not seen in a long time.
In the mean time, though, the real world was knocking. A company here was wooing him. Sending me flowers in the hospital, calling him with congratulations and tempting offers. They had a lot going for them: money, stock options, the fact that we would not have to relocate with a newborn, no more travel, and many of his friends from previous companies that didn’t work out. They were pressing for an answer. I was wrapped up in living with a newborn and trying to get my hormones in check. I tried to be impartial, to be encouraging. I did not want to be the reason Paul gave up on his dream. I did not want to be the one who put off our dream for another—five years.
So he went to the University. He gave his guest lecture. He impressed them (as I knew he would). And he returned with an energy and an excitement I had never seen him have about his work. But he returned to our life: to fatherhood, to responsibility, to a great offer from the local company, to our great house and all its bills. So he said “yes” to the money and the lifestyle and said “no” to the dream. And if I were truly honest, I was relieved. I was scared of this move, too. I was scared of all of the work that would go into relocating our lives. I was scared of giving up my first real professional job. I was scared of giving up the things we enjoyed about our successful lifestyle. It was easier to just stay. So we stayed, and we continued as we were. Five years, we said. We’ll work and build our nest egg and fix up the house and maybe have another child and get Owen through to kindergarten, and then well do it. Now just wasn’t the time. Five years.
But we wondered. What if we had taken it? What if this had been our last chance? What if God or the Universe or the Great Whatever had given us this opportunity to live our dream and we had slapped it away, laughing in our conceit? What if we had let our fear keep us from the life of our dreams?
October came. We decided to take Owen on her first camping trip. We wanted to, at the very least, introduce her to the mountains we love, the scents, the flavors, the glorious sights of the places we love there. But it was not meant to be: darkness in the form of sickness descended upon us and we spent the night of our first camping trip in a hospital emergency room miles away from home. And we spent the next few weeks in the grasp of a frightening, mysterious ailment that left Paul writhing in pain, trembling with fever, and both of us shaken to our core with fear.
As I’ve said before elsewhere: Sickness brings you into a whole new world. You've heard about it, maybe seen the edges of it, had glimpses inside, even. But then suddenly, on a random car ride to a camping trip, you are thrust into the bowels of that world, like Middle Earth, and you feel the wraiths upon your heels.
We couldn’t help but wonder at the meaning of it all. Was it karma? Punishment? A thump on the head as if to say “You idiots”? Or was it--and this to me is truly frightening--just one of those random bad things that happen to people for no reason to devastate their lives?
But we got through it—are getting through it. With changes. With lots of help. My Mom moved in with us to help out. I quit my on-call hours and took a less exciting 8-5 job at my same organization. We did what we had to do to focus on Paul’s health. We began to eat more meals at home, as a family. To stay home more. We started acknowledging that what we normally do on weekends is “shop-o-tainment” or “dine-o-tainment” and offers us nothing that feeds our souls. We started thinking about what we had given up to keep this lifestyle. About what is really important to us.
(To be continued)