After devoting all of Saturday to cover the 826 miles between San Francisco and home, and then losing most of Sunday to regaining my bearings with sleep and unpacking, it is pretty safe to say that, by Monday, the vacation hangover had officially set in.
It’s difficult to readjust to daily life after having been on a 15-day roller coaster. Waking up in the morning without a few hundred miles to log between landmarks, family members or birthday parties left me feeling a little aimless. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot for me to do, but things like paying my trash bill, haranguing the company handling my caregivers’ payroll and getting groceries seem like decidedly less fun than sightseeing and digging up family history.
On the upside, I did get to pick up Hank, a.k.a. The Not-so-Service Puppy, from his two-week boot camp vacation. To be fair, the fact that he’s almost 4 years old and recently learned to operate light switches and push-button door openers probably means I should allow him the dignity to be called an actual service dog, but he’ll always be The NSP to me. His new tricks will definitely come in handy, but I still got home feeling a little disoriented from the previous weeks’ adventures. Just like our rather steady road diet of greasy goods from the West Coast’s diners, drive-ins and dives, it’s taken a few days to properly digest what all we experienced.
I wonder if I kind of set myself up for the wild ride by honestly expecting that the biggest drama of the trip would be juggling flights for team members after Claire’s clinicals were scheduled for week two of the trip. And you can only laugh at the irony of me putting a line about police scanners in my first post and actually winding up on one not even 12 hours later. Throw in a broken wheelchair on day three, and we were looking at the makings of a book that could be titled “Fear and Loathing on The Highway to Hell.”
Fortunately, life has a way of balancing out, and the chaos of the first few days was matched tenfold in blessings. I connected with friends and family that I haven’t seen in years, and leached as much wisdom from my incredible grandparents as time would allow. I also met a new friend who has blown my world open when it comes to the possibilities for how to have fun and “do life”, and got a Scrooge-esque trip to paralysis days past to remind me how much different my life truly is 11 years post-injury.
Most important of all, we made it back in one piece. Slumberjack and I managed not to kill each other despite being the two constants for the entire 15 days, Claire made it to and from her clinicals despite a couple of sketchy flights, and Alicia made it to Peru (a story we never even touched on). I’ve also kept in contact with the Tahoe driver, who walked away from what could have been a deadly situation with little more than a few sore muscles and some reasonably shaken nerves. Amazingly, the only real casualties of the trip were a few medical supplies and enough insects to put the Orkin man out of business. And now that I sit and look back on the whole ordeal, I can see even more progress than last Friday’s hospital visit first revealed.
This is the first road trip I’ve gone on where I wasn’t accompanied by the formidable entourage that is my family. Like the blue blanket Charlie Brown’s buddy Linus constantly clutched, they have always been my safety net. Whereas they are usually there to intervene at the first inkling of trouble, I didn’t have them fall back on when sh!t went sideways this time. The fact that I weathered those storms as gracefully as I did is another testament to how far I’ve come.
If this were even five years ago, any one of those trials would have been enough to send me hightailing it back home, licking my wounds in self-pity. Not this time. I was able to stay the course and trust that sneaking underlying suspicion that I am not nearly as limited as my level of injury might suggest. In doing so, not only was I rewarded with treasured experiences with the people I love most, but I also found a new level of self-confidence as well.
So yeah, given all the incredible things we saw and the horrible things we ingested, it’s understandable that relative normalcy would feel a little underwhelming. In the end, it’s all part of the process. My universe has to be put back in order, because Life is going to continue to show up. There are bills to pay and vegetables to eat. Oh, and we should probably wash evidence of the bug massacre off the van, too.