Tuesday, April 9, 2013

No Complications

I went back to the office today. After months of being unable to, months of feeling imprisoned in my own house, months of desire to get back to work in a more real sense, I went to the office today.

I got up this morning a little before 7:00 with the usual aches and pains, limping around the kitchen like some extra from "The Walking Dead". I took my medications, made myself a cup of tea, and sat down on the floor to stretch and catch up with the morning's headlines while waiting for the medicine to go to work before me and melt the pain away. It took a little longer than usual. I guess that was a little stiffer than normal this morning as I ended up laying down, spread out on the hardwood floor, in what felt like the most comfortable position I could find. My wife says that I drifted off to sleep for a short time but I later woke and the pain was gone. I could get up and walk around. I felt mostly pain free. There were still tinges of pain, but those are ever present lest I get smug and forget about the pain altogether. The tinges are always there, but they can be suppressed enough that I can be distracted from them and this morning I was distracted. As long as I wasn't sitting and focusing on them, I could forget they were there for brief moments and I could string those moments together with the right distraction(s). I decided that I would try going in to the office.

By the time I made the decision, got showered, shaved and dressed it was almost 10:00AM. A little late to be leaving for the office, but my calendar for the day was clear and today was about making it to the office and back it wasn't about getting there at a certain time. I got myself together and tried to remember everything that I needed to take with me. Yes it has been that long, long enough that I could no longer run on autopilot. The one thing that I almost did forget, which was not part of the original routine, was my medication. I had to make sure that I took enough Vicodin to get me through the day as well as the rest for my mid-afternoon dosage.

Once I was sure that I had everything. I headed out the door, got in the car and drove off to work. The drive seemed a lot longer than I remembered. Previously I would pretty much go on autopilot, not noticing the scenery passing by me and the next thing I would know, I was at the office. Not today. Even though I was going in late enough to miss all of the traffic, the drive seemed to take forever, like I was never goigng to get there, but somehow I did manage to get there and I pulled in at just a little before 11:00. There has been some growth at the office since the end of the year, when I started working from home, and that was evident by the lack of available parking spaces. I found a space a little farther out than I'm used to, got out and went in.

I had arrived with no complications. I felt much the same as I did when I had left. The time in the car had neither caused me pain nor exacerbated any existing pains and I felt about as good as I could feel, at least as good as I would have felt had I remained at home. Most folks were surprised to see me. I had told one of my managers of my plan to attempt to drive in today, but had left it without any promises and I think that he had kept it to himself. No one seemed particularly shocked, but all welcomed me back and were happy for my return.

I had picked today to float this trial balloon partially because I had nothing on my calendar today. With a blank slate, I felt that if complications arose and I had to turn back on the way in, or shortly after arrival, then it wouldn't disrupt anyone else's day to have to reschedule. This turned out to be good for reasons that I hadn't predicted and that is that I got very little work done while there today. When I arrived, I spent the first hour or so hanging around my team's common area talking to different members of the team, catching up with them in person for a change, and finally getting to meet some of my newer employees for the first time. (I've been out long enough that we've hired 3 or 4 people in the mean time that I had yet to meet.) After that, I settled back into my office to catch up on the morning's email which set in motion the pattern for the rest of my day. A steady stream of people passing by, noticing that my door was open for the first time in 4 months, who then came in to wish me well, tell me how glad they were to see me and catch up a little on where things stood, both professionally and personally.

By the time things quieted down enough to where I could actually get something done, it was 4:30. I had planned from the outset to leave around that time, partly because I didn't want to push it on my first day back, and partly because the last time I drove to the office, it wasn't a particularly good experience and I got stuck in some freakishly abnormal traffic on the way home that made the commute take twice as long as normal, with the pain in my legs building over the course of the entire drive. I wanted to get out early to minimize the possibility of repeating that again. By the time I got things would down and packed away it was a little after 5:00 and I was surprised by encountering freakishly abnormal traffic of the light variety. I made better than average time, stopping off at the grocery store on the way to pick up a few things. I got home just in time to put the girls to bed, much as I used to, again with no adverse affect. It seemed a little odd, not being there for the 5 o'clock crazies when the juxtaposition of the day's fatigue and their last bit of energy collide which results in a lot of calisthenics, not much listening and a little bit of yelling before starting the process of herding them toward bed.

Unfortunately for my wife, she got to endure the crazy hour all herself which topped off a day which dredged up feelings in her of feeling like a single parent. It's the elephant in the room that has been there since my diagnosis, the possibility that this illness may cut my time on this earth short. It's something we've talked about, even though we don't want to talk about it and would rather not think about it, but its shadow is ever present. My being gone from the house today brought it out of the shadows a little for my wife.

She's been largely handling the girls on her own since my diagnosis. Feeding them, getting them dressed, taking them to gym practice, riding lessons, dance class and other activities that they are involved in. She's even gone out of her way on many occasions to find excuses to get them out of the house so that I can have some time to myself away from the chaos. But though she's been mostly doing it all by herself, she hasn't been doing it completely by herself, especially not since the baby was born.

Since that event, I've always been there to hold the baby in an emergency, to change an at capacity diaper, to make the girls lunch or dinner, to help get them all into or out of the car, and a hundred other small things. Even though she's gone to great lengths to act as if I'm not home so that I can get my work done, I've still been there in a pinch and that was something that she could count on. Today I went to the office and I was no longer around and not just in the pretend sense. She had to do it all herself, which she's done a thousand times before, at least with the first two girls, but not having me around today I think shed a little light on that elephant in the room and it brought back feelings that she's successfully gotten past a number of times over the last four and a half months, but the elephant keeps sticking his head out like he did today.

I hate that she is burdened with that elephant. I hate that days like today keep reminding her of his presence, and I hate that there's nothing I can do to make him go away. It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on her that she doesn't deserve to endure especially not in the form of a mere possibility.

Today I made it to the office and back with no complications. No physical complications anyway...

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