On a plain post-it note, written in my frenzied scrawl and dangling above my computer monitors, is a reminder: “FEED DOGS!”
Around it are work notes to myself. Nothing quite explains the pleasure of being able to take one down. Granted, the open space is soon filled when, no doubt, something new arises that warrants a written note-to-self. But each post-it sent to the trash is a sign that I am settling into my job.
Yesterday, though… yesterday I was able to trash the largest note on my work desk, the urgent one reminding me that after work I was to go to my aunt and uncle’s house and feed their sweet, excitable boxers their dinners. With Idina belting over the radio, I let the note sink into the trashcan underneath the collage of on-sale dates and tracking numbers.
And this was the greatest feeling in the world. Not because some sort of burden was lifted from my shoulders, but because it meant something bigger: my uncle was coming home after months in the hospital and rehab.
Wouldn’t you know it, I went to their house anyway, this time with a ‘get-well-soon’ balloon bouquet. For once the dogs were not right at the door to greet me, and instead they were upstairs with their dad.
It’s been a long journey, and the outcome was always clouded with setbacks despite every step forward. Regardless of the rolling hills in between, we’ve come a long way from the moment my uncle’s surgeon came out to tell us they weren’t sure if they were going to go through with the liver transplant that would give him a chance at life. But they did.
And even though there were no guarantees, he was strong.
He’ll pick you up and won’t let you down,
Rock solid inside out,
Somebody you can trust,
Steady as the sun.
Ain’t nothing gonna knock him off the road he’s rollin’ on.
It would be remiss not to acknowledge the song that was our mantra through this time. Out of all of us, it meant the most to my aunt. Just like “Not Alone” came to me at the time I needed it most, “Strong” by Will Hoge was there for my aunt.
I remember what it was like to have my finger hovering over the repeat button and to hold my iPod close to my heart as if hugging the melody through its physical representation. So when my aunt did the same, I understood. It was impossible for me not to love the song too.
And I was glad it was there in a way I couldn’t be.
Night after night, she played “Strong” for my uncle despite his various levels of awareness. But the message was always clear: stay strong, we believe in you.
So yesterday, I stood in my uncle’s bedroom with those balloons and I listened to the dogs whine for permission to jump on the bed while my family chatted about the road ahead, about walkers and commodes and physical therapists.
And it reminded me that his strength makes us strong too.
Welcome home, Uncle Joe. We love you.