“Someday,” I shout to my husband from the basement, pushing past the mountain of pillows from our outdoor furniture, piled high for the winter, and blocking my path, “we’ll have a house that actually functions!” I struggle to reach the circuit breaker, hidden behind a shelf.
“Now?” I call.
“Now!” he shouts, and I hear the microwave beep to life. The only outlet in the kitchen pops the circuit breaker if used in conjunction with the microwave. One of the idiosyncrasies of this 1960s DC townhouse, often charming, but today, infuriating. “In our forever home, I want outlets in places that make sense,” I say to my husband, pointing to the outlet over the stovetop. He smiles and continues rinsing the dishes from lunch and placing them in the dishwasher.
“Are you ready?” he says an hour later, and as my mother in law enters to care for our napping boys, my husband and I climb into the car and head for Georgetown Hospital where he will receive his immunotherapy infusion, part of a clinical trial to treat his stage III melanoma diagnosis. And to prevent its recurrence.
He reviews the nurses names with me before entering the oncology wing, and we proceed to the infusion room. My husband, looking healthy and bright and completely out of place, sits between two older chemo patients, bundled up in jackets and blankets, knit hats on their heads to keep them warm. He pulls out his laptop, inserts his CAT card and gets to work. He is jovial with his nurses, pretending that the stick of the needle doesn’t bother him, asking about their kids, their houses, their latest vacation. He is determined to be happy.
Once his infusion starts, we settle in and while he works, I write. But eventually our attention turns back to each other, and although we are separated only by thin curtains from the other patients, we quickly forget our surroundings. We talk about the boys, the future, possible scenarios of our next PCS, we strategize about making Colonel even though his OPR will have a big gaping hole during this year on “patient status”. And yet, he smiles.
“We can do it,” he says, a twinkle in his eye.
After six hours, the ordeal is done. We decide to skip our usual celebratory Starbucks and go home to the kids. It’s late, and the winter’s dark has settled in around us. After a day in the sterilized hospital, we only want the familiar warmth of home.
The kitchen, my earlier nemesis, is now cozy, and my father in law has joined my mother in law and begun dinner for the boys, who are giggling and squealing at their grandparents and recounting their afternoon adventures. My mother in law reaches for her son and wraps her arms around him, fast but tight. My father in law follows suit, relief spreading across their faces that another treatment is done, that their son is one step closer to being “normal” again, to being free.
My husband wastes no time and seats himself next to his boys, asking about their naps, their trip to the playground. Who cares about cancer when there are children’s stories to be heard, imaginations to foster, giggles to be heard? And it is everywhere: in spite of its idiosyncrasies, this small house bursts with love. Together in this place, amidst laughter, love, and the warmth of family, in this very moment, we have our forever home.