Finally I figured out
But it took a long, long time
But now there’s a turnabout
Maybe ’cause I’m trying
There’s been times, I’m so confused
All my roads, They lead to you
I just can’t turn and walk away
It’s hard to say what it is I see in you
Wonder if I’ll always be with you
But words can’t say, And I can’t do
Enough to prove,
It’s all for you – Sister Hazel
“More confetti!” Pam shouted as she moved around the room sprinkling glittery confetti. If we were at my place, I would have hated it. Glitter gets everywhere and is seemingly impossible to get rid of. Pam, as an interior designer, would usually never allow the horrible, shiny pieces anywhere near the places she designed. Her nephew, though, wanted it, so he got it.
We would all likely be covered in it by the time the evening ended.
We planned a joint celebration. Tonight was Eric’s one-year anniversary of being sober. That alone gave us enough to celebrate. We also, however, were celebrating that Dylan had been cancer-free for a year. We were a little late in celebrating his landmark, though. Our son had given us quite the scare and we weren’t sure he wasn’t going to make a year cancer free…
One morning, I just couldn’t wake him up. He would moan and groan and would give one-word answers, but he was extremely groggy and lethargic. He was very warm to the touch, but he often was whenever he first woke. He liked to bury himself under the covers, so he would usually be warm to the touch when he awakened. With his past cancer and him being as lethargic as he was, I grabbed the thermometer immediately.
Part of me wasn’t surprised, but all of me was crushed when my baby had a temperature of nearly 104.
I picked him up at once and carried him to the car. My priority was getting him straight to the hospital. The rational part of my brain knew there were many reasons why he might have developed such a high temperature, but the irrational part of me was in control in right then. It was the one who was screaming ‘The cancer’s back!’ It was the part of me who yelled at the receptionist after she told me I would have to wait a few minutes while she paged Dr. Pardloe.
I called Eric and Pam while we waited for the doctor and both said they would be there as soon as they possibly could. Since Pam owned her company, she could easily leave it in someone’s hands for the day and get to the hospital quickly. Eric hadn’t quit his job yet and, though I doubted anything could keep him away, it would be harder for him to leave his job.
Dr. Pardloe appeared while I was on the phone with Pam, so I ended our call to talk with him. I explained about the fever and the lethargy Dylan was having earlier in the morning. He nodded at my explanation and moved us into a room. I was sure he moved us as fast as he could, but it just didn’t feel fast enough for me.
The doctor took off the face mask the receptionist given him and looked in Dylan’s mouth before putting it back on. Dylan pushed his hand away when Dr. Pardloe moved to put in a tongue depressor. He never liked them, and it was a great relief, seeing him fight a bit against the doctor.
“His tonsils are swollen,” the doctor explained after he started to feel around Dylan’s neck. I knew he was looking for swollen lymph nodes. “I’ll need to run some blood work.”
It wasn’t something I hadn’t expected. Still, it didn’t mean I was very patient while I waited for the results.
Dr. Pardloe saw the results as each individual test came back, but I wanted to wait until he had all the results. I was no doctor, but I knew enough to know if Dylan had a fever, his white blood cell count would be up because his body was trying to fight off something. The same would happen if the cancer returned. That wasn’t information I needed. I just needed to know my baby was okay.
It didn’t get easier after Pam, Amelia, and Eric arrived. Sure, I wanted and needed them there, but my anxiety was high already. All our combined anxieties were too much to handle. As much as I wished Dylan was awake, with all of us in the same room not even trying to hide our anxiety, and Jason calling what seemed like every two seconds to see if there was any news, I was relieved he slept through it all.
Of course, I couldn’t say we worried for nothing, not with Dylan’s past health issues, as it turned out he had the flu. Dylan was healthy, but his immune system was still developing after his cancer treatments, which was why he’d been so out of it like he was after seeming fine when I put him to bed. Dr. Pardloe considered keeping him in the hospital for a few to make sure his body could fight off the flu. He weighed it against the chances of allowing me to take him home where he wouldn’t catch any other bugs circulating around the hospital.
In the end, after Dylan received an IV filled with fluids to avoid dehydration, we were sent home with a laundry list of things to watch out for and told to follow up with his pediatrician in two days. If he worsened before that, we were to come right back here, leaving Dylan in the car with someone until he was called in. He had perked up after the fluids so priority one was keeping him well hydrated.
I saw it as progress when I only questioned the doctor once about his decision to send us home. Did I want Dylan catching some super bug at the hospital? Of course not! Would I be worried and watching him like a hawk at home? Absolutely!
Fortunately, another trip to the hospital wasn’t needed. We checked in with his doctor three times throughout the week it took to fight it off, but he showed enough improvement where the doctor didn’t think a hospital visit was necessary. By the end of that week, my son and his antics were driving me insane…but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
This year was so important for many reasons. The most important was what Eric achieved. It’s not easy to get sober and it’s much harder to stay sober, and the fact that Eric was able to do so was amazing. The other very important thing was other than the flu, Dylan had had a very healthy year. The two males in my life had made it an entire year for their prospective troubles.
Both were certainly something to celebrate on their own.
I couldn’t, however, stop my mind as it wandered toward what this meant for Eric and me. Eric had reached a year of sobriety. It was an impressive feat on its own…but it also meant he made the recommended time recovering addicts stay single. I don’t think either of us considered ourselves ‘single,’ though. In our minds and our hearts, we were together. I don’t think either of us considered ourselves available over this last year.
Yet, there was still a part of ourselves, of us, we held back.
It really hadn’t been as hard as I had thought it would. Sure, there were times when avoiding most physical contact was frustrating, in more ways than one. There were times when I didn’t want to stop at the shared kisses we allowed ourselves. There was a great deal of positive progression, though, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.
I worried sober Eric and sober Sookie wouldn’t work. In a way, we weren’t the typical addict couple who stayed together because they enabled each other or for some other reason. We had genuine feelings for each other. We had grown to love each other…while we were addicted. The real test was discovering if those feelings expanded through our sobriety.
Did we truly know each other? Did we truly have feelings for each other beyond the comfort we offered one another? We spent the last year discovering, despite our addictions, we had learned so many things about each other. There were minor things, such as how Eric liked having all his things neat and tidy. It really hadn’t been a choice where we had lived before. In all fairness, I couldn’t say if it was a trait he always had or if sobriety had given him a newfound appreciation for order, not that it mattered either way in the long run.
We discovered we were still compatible, despite the sobriety. We learned we had the ability to support each other without just giving the other a share of our part of the drugs to ‘stop’ the pain of life. We never realized how much our actions caused more pain, which was exactly what we had been trying to avoid.
We learned all these things about ourselves as individuals, but also ourselves as a couple.
We spoke about the future. I knew I wanted him in mine, more than just the father of my child. He told me, and I believed he wanted me in his. Although our life together began years ago, and then had a second start a year or so ago, this milestone in our journey couldn’t be ignored, either. It wasn’t just about the physical aspect, about the sex we could potentially start having, it was more about knowing we didn’t have to hold back anything anymore. We could truly start the next part of our journey and I, for one, was excited to see where we’d go…
…Even if it didn’t end in an engagement tonight.
I had no idea if Eric even considered proposing on the anniversary of his sobriety. It was something I felt we were headed toward, but the timing of it all, we had no real discussions as to when it might happen.
So, I was left wondering.
“They should be here any minute,” I said, checking my watch. Eric had taken Dylan out for some father-son time. I had no issue with Eric being alone with his son, but I knew Eric still felt it was new and completely appreciated it. I had no idea what the two of them were going to do, but Eric agreed to take him out, so we could set up ‘Dylan’s’ surprise party. I had no doubt Eric knew he was also going to be honored, but his knowledge didn’t stop me from still trying to make it a surprise.
Despite all the glittery confetti Pam still threw around the house.
When they entered, we all yelled, “Surprise!”
Dylan was confused and the look on his face showed it. “It’s not my birfday,” he said, his confusion also clear in his voice. “Is it Dinosaur’s birfday?” He asked the room.
“No. It’s no one’s birthday,” I explained, “but we have two very important things we are celebrating. One is for you and one is for your father.”
“A party for us!” Dylan said. The confusion changed to excitement.
“Yes! A party for you both!” Pam shouted as she threw more confetti. She likely was going to regret it in the morning…or in a few months when she was still finding her house covered in glitter, but there was no stopping her that night.
“Why?” Dylan asked.
“Yes. Why?” Eric repeated. The smile on his face, though, told me he wasn’t as upset with the party as his question made him sound.
“We have two very important things to celebrate,” I explained to Dylan as I sat him down on the couch. “Do you remember when you were very sick and had to stay in the hospital for a very long time?”
Dylan nodded and said, “It was no fun.”
“No, it wasn’t fun for any of us,” I agreed, “but the really fun part is you haven’t been very sick again, and your cancer hasn’t been back in a year. Well, over a year,” I corrected. We decided to wait until he was fully recovered from the flu, and then as Eric’s anniversary was crept closer, we decided to make it a joint party.
“What about Daddy?” Dylan asked.
“Well, do you remember that I was sick, too?” Eric asked. “It was a different kind of sick. I could not stop doing some bad things.”
“You were in time out,” Dylan said. It was weird just what the brain remembered, especially in children.
“Yes. I was put in a time out,” Eric explained. Neither of us wanted to keep our pasts from our son, but we explained it to him in an age-appropriate way. At some point, Dylan would understand just how lucky he was to have beaten cancer. At some point, he would understand just what ‘bad things’ both Eric and I had done in our pasts. At some point, he would understand just what a ‘time out’ meant for his father.
We could only hope the truth about our pasts didn’t drive Dylan to drugs and alcohol. Yes, we needed to tell him the truth, but we also had to make sure we did so in a healthy way and if he had a hard time handling the information, we would find him the help he needed.
When Dylan understood what the party was for, well, he was ready to party! My little guy loved to dance and dance with everyone, he did. He danced with his aunts, with Dr. Ludwig, Sophie-Anne, and his uncle before he finally offered to dance with me.
“Thank you,” Eric told me as we sat down to eat. It was nothing fancy, just pizza. It was the favorite of both Dylan and Eric, though, so it’s what we got them.
“I wasn’t sure if you would approve,” I told him. “You were pretty adamant you didn’t want anything.”
He nodded. “I was not sure this was anything to celebrate,” he admitted. “In the past year I have been making the decisions I should have been making my entire life. If I had always made the right decisions, no one would have even thought to throw me a party to celebrate.”
“That’s the whole point of the celebration, Eric,” I tried to explain. “You finally decided to make better decisions. You didn’t have to. You could have continued down the same path. We both could have. Instead, we made the difficult decision to travel a better, healthier one. This is a new start for you, Eric. You have so many more opportunities because of your positive choices. It is most definitely something to celebrate.”
“I am beginning to believe so,” Eric admitted and the smile on his face told me he really meant it. “This year might have been the start of the rest of my life, but what excites me even more is that more accurately, it has been the start of our lives.” His words made me smile as Eric and I walked to the table to eat pizza with our family, both our biological family and the ones we had chosen for us.
As I lay in bed later, I thought about the ending it might have had. The night hadn’t ended in a proposal. The night hadn’t even ended with our clothes off, or at least my clothes and Eric’s clothes off, but as I fell asleep in the arms of the man I loved, the man I saw as my future, I wouldn’t have changed a damn thing.
I do hope you enjoyed. This one is starting to wind down. Two, maybe three, chapters left!
Many thanks to MsBuffy for all her work and getting these chapters back to me quick enough to post!