It's a rainy Wednesday. I drop Oliver off at school, then take my latest finished art project to the Mailchute. Since it is a bigger piece than what I usually paint, I pay a little extra to have it saftely packaged and mailed for me. It is a family crest for my brother and sister-in-law. When the address label is printed off, she recognizes my name and asks if I am Karen's daughter. "Yes" I tell her.
"How is Karen?".
"Good, she just got back from St. Louis to see her grandkids. But actually, this week she has been up at the hospital a lot. Her brother Mike is not doing well"
"I remember when she was having trouble finding places for him to live." the lady says to me.
I later find out from my mom that her husband was also in a bad accident like Mike.
On Thursday the oversized olive green burlap bag with a leather strap hangs heavy on my shoulder. I switch it to the other side, the one without the pinched shoulder blade. Inside the bag are brush markers, calligraphy practice sheets, a light pad for tracing, my sacred ordinary days planner, a Bible, and a journal. On the outside of the bag, right in the center, there is an image of a honeybee.
Linda, my mother-in-law picked it out for me years ago. I don't know if she knew my name meant honeybee when she picked it out. I tend to receive lots of honeybee themed gifts, and for me it doesn't get old. I hold the image, symbol and the name I was given as sacred, affirming, and encouraging.
I carry this bag across the hospital parking lot, through the doors of the pale pastel pink building once again. The same doors my mother walked through 34 years ago when I was still in her womb, and where I have photos of her being wheeled out holding me in her arms. The same hospital where Oliver was born.
Saint Francis Hospital
On Wednesday at the hospital for three hours I practiced my lettering and calligraphy while my Uncle Mike slept nearby on his hospital bed.
Thursday when I come back he is awake the whole 4 hours I am there.
I only get my markers out in that case for a few minutes when he is gone for a short procedure.
My mom called him Mikey growing up. Freckle-faced, red-head, youngest child, wild and funny and fiery.
He had a bad accident in high school when he fell off of a horse. For 3 months he was in a comma. Then he woke up, not the same as before of course.
This is the Uncle Mike I have always known; who needs much assistance, has many physical and mental challenges which only keep increasing. But he also always makes me laugh. When I was young, upon seeing me he would announce in a booming voice "All the way from Tulsa Oklahoma, it is Melissa; Melissa-melissa-bo-bissa-banana-fana-fo-fissa-fe-fi-fo-fissa-Melissa....." Being like most children, I would ask him to do it again! do it again!
He lives at a home for adults with special needs now. But with a bad case of pneumonia he is in the hospital. They won't let him eat or drink because of some tests he will be taking. His condition is much worse than I will go into detail to describe, but I pray he improves quickly.
Mike has me find the TBN channel on the tv. He loves to watch TBN, the channel with all the preachers.
He starts mumbling and repeating himself a little bit; "When I am less, He is more." I look up the scripture I think he is trying to say. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. I read a few times out loud to him.
I feel humbled and teary eyed.
But then he wants me to look up the scripture about deferred hope; and I laugh to myself. To every person who comes in the room, he asks for food and a drink. Specifically pizza or Coca Cola or a milk shake. Same answer always. "You can't have anything until after your test, Mike."
2:15 arrives and I leave the hospital to pick up Oliver.
At home Maggie greets us at the door and we tell her not to jump on us. I walk into the kitchen and then open up his backpack to look for his Thursday take home folder. Sitting on the kitchen floor I look at a book he made about the 5 senses. I get to the page about the eyes; and it reads "I can see my Mommy." There it is, his first drawing of me ever. I have spiky hair, no arms, and he says "Look Mommy, I drew your neck." Does he know I used to have chronic neck pain? Hmmm. It's even colored in red, and nothing else is colored in. What a season that was; I have come through it. I have grown through it in deep and wide ways of love that carries you through hard times and makes you more compassionate. I set the book on the counter, then we go wait outside for my mom to pick us up. We all 3 go to the hospital to see Mike. When we get there I watch Oliver hop and skip down the hospital halls, jumping over all the squares and trying not to step on the cracks, until we get to Mike's room.