I'm thirty years old, and still flabbergasted by how quickly it gets dark in the winter. In the summer, colors hang in the air for what seems like hours after the sun has vanished beneath the horizon. Brilliant hues of orange, red, purple and yellow paint the skyline, making the most bleak of landscapes seem palatable and making beautiful landscapes seem like a good canvas painting come to life. Even in the fall, the sun puts out small protests of color at twilight, a final attempt at staving off night's cruel ascent. But in winter, the sky goes from grey to black in an instant, almost as if the day has been banished from the sky and hastily escorted from the premises. And then all that's left is this void, this black nothingness that lasts longer and longer each night. The stars and moon offer glimmers of hope that something, someone, is out there; that there is a light at the end of the tunnel that is the earth's nocturnal slumber. But when you look straight ahead, it's just black.
Malorie had surgery for her PICC line insertion today. Everything went well, and she is resting peacefully now, preparing for her first radiation treatment tomorrow morning. But pulling into that hospital this morning, listening to the endless parade of doctors and nurses repeating directions and side effects, watching Mal wake up and recover from her medicated sleep - it was all black. I felt like the color that had been present in our lives over the past month was ripped away and all I was left with was black. Dark black.
I couldn't stop fidgeting in my seat whenever a doctor or a nurse started to describe the procedure to put in Mal's IV access line. They placed the PICC line using ultrasonic pulses to guide a tube through a vein and rested it just outside of the heart. That sounds awful, but I guess better than the alternative. If Mal's two year old veins were not yet large enough to support the PICC, a broviac would be placed in her chest by going through the jugular vein. There is no way to convey how helpless one feels while watching their kid suffer. All day after the surgery, Mal referred to her PICC line as her "big band aid" because the dressing for it stretches from her elbow to her shoulder on her right side. She held her hand out at a ninety degree angle for most of the night, refusing to use her right hand. She was a mess after eating with her left hand for the first time in ages. She didn't seem to be in pain, just unwilling to use that arm.
This afternoon a home care nurse came by to demonstrate how to flush the IV line, as Rachel and I will need to do it once daily on weekdays and twice a day on weekends since Mal will not be seen by doctors on those days. It has to be done to prevent clotting at the end of the line, because if that happens, she will need a new surgery and a new PICC. I'm sure it will become a menial task eventually, but for today it was torturous. Rachel cried as she prepared herself to do it. I avoided the duty due to a cold I am fighting, as we need the PICC to stay sanitary to stave off infections. Mal went ballistic as it was flushed, even though the nurse assured us she could not feel a thing. Micah sat on the couch, taking it all in. Bathing with the PICC is an adventure as well, since her bandage must stay dry. Thus, we learned how to wrap Mal's arm in cling wrap, tape and washcloths to keep it dry. Mal's bath tonight was about a quarter inch deep.
It was warm out today, but I still knew it was winter. The sun vanished too soon, whisked away from us before we were ready. And it's going to get colder, more harsh, and stay darker longer before it gets any better. That's fine. I hope it's a brutal, nasty, cold and bitter winter. It fits my mood right now. But as certain as I am that this winter is going to suck, I also know that it will end. Tomorrow morning the sun will rise, and assert its will upon the day. And no matter how cold I am, if I ever feel bad at night, like it is too dark, I will look up to the heavens and see the stars and be reminded of the light at the end of the tunnel. Summer will come. I will once again marvel at the colorful brilliance that the summer sun brings. But for now I just want to stare straight ahead and revel at how it all just feels so dark.