In the middle of December, Ren went to the spine surgeon for his six-week follow-up appointment. By then, he was past most of the hard surgery recovery but still experiencing enough leg numbness and pain for the doctor to postpone physical therapy and prescribe six more weeks of the same restrictions: no bending, no lifting, no twisting. The ol' BLT as we call it. The doc might as well have told Ren not to breathe. In the car on the way home, I thought of Punxsutawney Phil and his blasted shadow. We'd just been sentenced to six more weeks of winter.
The news disappointed us. I wasn't sure Ren could sit on his hands for six more weeks, and I certainly didn't know if I could pull off another month and a half of single parenting. With no other option, we hunkered down to face the long, dark winter and somehow managed to have a relaxing Christmas and a fun winter vacation with the kids despite the fact we couldn't go anywhere or do anything.
What we tell ourselves is that the suffering is temporary. That soon things will get easier. That even when the groundhog sees his shadow, spring isn't far behind.
Spring has to come eventually, right?
But then it happened just like it happened before--Groundhog Day. Not Punxsutawney Phil's Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's. Life began repeating itself, and not in a good way. For weeks the back improved, and then one morning it didn't. In fact, it got much, much worse. Just like it did the two times before.***
And, here's where my narrative breaks down a bit. See, I'm not sure how to spin this particular story. It feels a bit like a tragedy, but one that no one would really want to read. There are no suffering children or underdog heroes, who, though crushed beneath the weight of life's injustices, manage to persevere, overcome, and somehow change the world in the process. There is no real moral to this story. There is only a somewhat average not-so-all-American family choosing to keep showing up and to keep moving forward.
And, you know what? In the end, I really do believe that, despite the maddening repetition of some pretty unpleasant stuff, it will be fine. I don't know what that fine will look like yet, but I'm willing to bet, it's going to look different.
*** I'm resisting the urge here to go into intricate detail about symptoms, procedures, and prognoses. Ren's not okay with that much sharing, so I won't give you all the gory details. I will say, however, that the beginning of the end was October 2011, and since then, we've seen skilled, conservative doctors who have done excellent work on a very bad back.