Journey to the Center of the Universe

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I thought that November flew by, but December really must have set the record in my book for quickest month in the history of months.  I knew it was going to be difficult to be away from my family during the holidays, so I was quite honestly dreading how this was all going to go down, but turns out, fate had other plans in mind.

So my father has been battling some minor heart issues on and off for years and years.  We have a history of heart problems in my family so he is quite often getting checked out, monitoring his heart, making sure to fit in exercise and the right meds to keep on track, but he had an electrical problem in his heart that just simply would not resolve itself.  Well after trying this, that, and everything else they could think of, it was time to resort to surgery to get things settled.  Low risk?  Sure.  But I was worried, and my boss could tell.  We talked about it and decided that i would never regret going home for the surgery, and it was better to be safe than sorry.  So I booked a last minute flight and was happy to see this smiling face when I stepped off the plane:

My Mom!!!

My Mom!!!

We drove home from Chicago, catching up on this and that, and I spent the rest of the weekend around home.  It was so wonderful to catch up with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course my goofy siblings.  And of COURSE I was so excited to see these little ladies and read them a long-overdue story.  They still remember me, so that’s good.

Frozen, of course

Frozen, of course

We headed to the hospital on Monday morning, and wished dad all the luck in the world with his procedure.  As we were leaving his hospital room as they were preparing to take him into surgery, my mom spoke to the nurse and asked them please not to remove my father’s wedding ring, as he has never taken it off “since I put it on him.”  Woa.

**I’m getting a little verklempt…talk amongst yourselves.**

They agreed that they’d leave it on and we walked out to the waiting room, full of anxiety and trying to keep emotions in check.  He was going to be fine.  Yes he was yes he was yes he was.  Because I said so.

Now, something you need to know about the Cains is that they are THERE FOR EACH OTHER.  So sure enough, 1/4 of the massive waiting room became overrun with family, waiting around to hear the news on Dad’s procedures.  We did bagel and pizza runs, caught up with each other, and tried keeping our mind off the situation at hand.  I addressed Christmas cards, Mel attempted to do homework, but mostly we just sat around.  And waited.

Naturally, the only time I left the waiting room in 7 hours (to go get drinks for everyone), the doctor came in to update my mom on how dad’s procedure went.  We were so pleased to learn that everything went as good as could possibly be expected, and he was in recovery now.  We alerted the Cains, they all breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and everyone else went home.

We went to Dad’s room, and naturally after a long procedure like that he was considerably groggy, and in a lot of pain from lying flat on a table for most of the day.  Unfortunately he wasn’t allowed to get up and walk around yet, so we tried every means possible to get him more comfortable, ultimately asking his nurse to hop him up on some pain pills until he was allowed to move.  Shannon and mom played super nurse, I think my only contribution was taking dad’s socks off cuz his feet were hot.  I get awkward in hospital rooms, as it turns out. But not as awkward as Mel 🙂

The girls gave PaPaw kisses and we decided that most of us should leave and let Dad rest, Mom would stay behind.  We departed the hospital after a LONG and very emotionally draining day, and decided there was only one way to end such a stressful day:



Chorizo and cheese sauce makes everything better

Chorizo and cheese sauce makes everything better

Happily Dad was released from the hospital soon after, and I got to spend the rest of the trip at home making sure he lived according to the doctor’s instructions (you tell my father not to lift over 10 pounds…see how well he takes that.)  He’s one of the most independent, self-sufficient, always-gotta-be-doing-something guy I’ve ever met, and the fact that he wasn’t allowed to pick up his nieces or even refill the humidifier drove him nuts, so we hunkered down with LOTR marathons and lots of naps.

Over the next couple days I did whatever I could to soak up as much “home” as possible before heading back to Sarajevo:

The original, thank you very much.  (Also, dad loves being in pictures)

The original, thank you very much. (Also, dad loves being in pictures)

Lots of staring at the tree for no reason at all

Lots of staring at the tree for no reason at all

Opening early Christmas presents with the girls (Yes, I bought them food.  It's their favorite thing!)

Opening early Christmas presents with the girls (Yes, I bought them food. It’s their favorite thing!)

New kicks from Aunt B

New kicks from Aunt B

Met Shannon and her crew for the greatest pizza in Monticello.  Ahhh 4-H Camp memories...

Met Shannon and her crew for the greatest pizza in Monticello. Ahhh 4-H Camp memories…

Yes, most of my pics are food themed.  What's your point?

Yes, most of my pics are food themed. What’s your point?

Before I knew it, it was time to go home…ouch.  The good news is that I had a visits from Shannon, Mel and Phil coming up, a trip home in April to look forward to, MORE family visits over the summer and fall…this goodbye was significantly less difficult than the last one.  But of course I miss my family to pieces, so I still hated saying goodbye anyway.  Thank you to modern technology for allowing me to text and video chat with them as often as I want.  I couldn’t imagine doing this job even 10 years ago before those options existed.

Shannon’s friend Ashley offered to drive me up to Chicago since my family was attending a wedding on the day I flew out, so we made our way up to the suburbs so I could fit in a quick visit with my Chicago friends en route to the airport.  I was SO thrilled that Laura (and Everly!), Scott, Jeri (and Bailey!), Danni and Ryan were able to meet me for lunch before my plane took off.  I stuffed myself with yet another American comfort food (sinfully rich Mac and Cheese) and headed for O’Hare.  With a heavy heart I headed back across the pond towards my life and my work.

It was INCREDIBLE that I got to see some of my family and friends over this quick trip home despite the crappy circumstances, and I was so sad that I didn’t get a chance to sneak in a trip to St. Louis, see my braintrust, attend Tony and Traci’s wedding, or ever really adjust to the jet lag in such a short amount of time.  But I have a trip home in April to look forward to, so that made things easier to process.  Thank you to EVERYONE for your kind words regarding Dad’s surgery, to my boss and coworker for covering for me at work while I was gone, to my family and friends who took time out of their busy lives to spend time with me…I love you all more than I could ever possibly say.

And more than anything, thanks to this crazy guy for every single thing he’s done for me throughout these 30 years.  Everything I have, everything I have ever accomplished is owed in part to his example of what hard work should look like.  I love you, Dad!



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