The tale is told in the unpacking

I’ve been slowly removing items from the back of the car, things I’d thought we might need on our trip to Seattle, and with each box or bag, I’m realizing the car was packed by a crazy woman.

Everything is so haphazard, all of it “almost-there” but not quite, such as: paper plates, but no napkins or cups; winter coats, but no mittens or hats; rain boots, but no socks; cans of pears (Avery’s favorite), but no bowls or spoons.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.  The best explanation I have is that in the days before the surgery, I wasn’t really myself.  For example, when I got into the car, the driver’s seat, which hadn’t been moved, was no longer in the right position.  It felt too low, and too far back.  The mirrors were out of whack, too.  So I had to make adjustments.

Later in the day, I met my friend Claudia for lunch, which is something we’ve been doing for years, and instead of ordering my usual, which I always, always, do, I absent-mindedly ordered something new.  Without even realizing it.

It was as if I were here, but not really here.  Hence, the strange packing:  trying to anticipate what we might need, while at the same time trying not to think about what was ahead.  What we were preparing to confront.

In a similar vein, as I was going through the stack of mail, I opened a package from Mom Central.  It was a Baby Einstein “World Music” DVD and CD.  I remember agreeing to review them; at the time, I was trying to envision the day when we’d be home, and I thought Avery might like the music.  It was a wish, really, sent off into the universe, not unlike magical thinking–if I sign up for this, if they pick me, then it means we will be home, and Avery will be watching the show and listening to the CD.

But?  Long ago, we gave away all our Baby Einstein DVDs because of the naughty puppets, who hit each other, and had inspired rounds of brother-bopping at our own house.  And I’d forgotten this key point, much in the same way I’d forgotten to pack spoons or socks.

I played the DVD anyway, curious to see what had happened to Baby Einstein in the years we’ve been away from it.  I’m sorry to report that the puppets are still naughty, but I have to say, in all fairness, they elicited great belly laughs from Avery (and Bennett and Carter, too), and watching Avery laugh felt so good, so wonderful, that I’m rethinking my position on Baby Einstein.  Anything that can make a kid recovering from surgery smile is okay by me.  (Here’s the link for Baby Einstein, in case you want to check it out for yourself.)

Avery had his first post-surgery doctor’s appointment yesterday, and I saw again his mended heart, which looks so beautiful to me–strong and sure, pumping away.  The right ventricle, which had showed signs of stress and enlargement, has already recovered.  And the perfect rhythm of Avery’s new heart sounded like music, a song in 4/4 time, a song with two words repeated over and over again:  thank-you, thank-you.

It’s the song of my heart, too.


24 thoughts on “The tale is told in the unpacking

  1. Jennifer — I just found your blog; thought you were too busy to be posting after you stopped doing ParentDish. So glad I did a quick search & found you!

    SO sorry to hear about Avery’s surgery, but VERY happy to hear the great results. You’re an amazing bunch, you Gronebergs!

    And I was right about the “busy” part — excited for you that you’re now doing presentations & giving talks. I just don’t know how you fit it all in.

    Now that I’ve found you again, I have some catch-up reading to do. Just wanted to drop you a line to say “HI” again after a too-long absence.

    Hugs to you, and hope to see you again next time we’re visiting Montana.

    Renee (Michelle’s mom)

  2. Oh, Jennifer…I am just now checking in on your blog, it has been a while. I did not realize that you all were going through this. I am so, so happy that everything went so well for sweet Avery.

    May you all continue to be blessed, just as you continue to bless us with your beautiful writings.

    P.S. I want to get Toms book on breaking the horse…He sounds a lot like my husband… when times get tough, there must be something he can fix 🙂

  3. You were fine, I do that too and LOVE car vacations to do it–well, some car trips…and I do not enjoy ALL the packing, just the fun odd things I think of bringing. The mundane details are too much for me!

    BUT, that mode when you are on automatic is described a LOT in Martha Beck’s (author of “Expecting Adam” and mom of a child with DS) life coach book “Finding Your North Star”. I have had my copy for years and years before I had my six month old son who has DS.

    I was reading parts of it today. Read it by opening to any page, I have yet to read any of it in order.

  4. What a lovely post! Its so good to hear Avery is making a fine recovery.

    I love your description of his heart beating……4/4 time.
    Sounds like the rhythm is also coming back into your family life….What a bleesing indeed!
    Love to your Jennifer!

  5. Thanks for the wonderful update, Jennifer. I always feel as though I’m sitting with you as you write, ever so eloquently. Instead, I’m sitting in my office smiling ear to ear…not a bad start to a Monday morning.

    Keep us posted.

  6. I can relate to the ‘out of body’ nature of preparing for OHS – and when Han was so sick afterwards – it definitely felt like I was outside myself watching us all at the hospital bedside. I am so glad Avery is recovering well. Our song was a Velvet Underground number – ‘I’m sticking with you, cos I’m made out of glue, anything that you do, I’m gonna do too ‘… Both DH and I sang that to the twins when they were sick.

  7. Phew! I am so so happy to hear that Avery is doing this well and that you are coming out of that pre-surgery haze. It’s got to be so strange to see the signs of it now that you’re on the “other side”. Love to you all!

  8. My favorite part of the surgery recovery was seeing Benjamin’s smile again. Oh, it was medicine for MY heart! 🙂

    Speaking of medicine, what kind(s) is Avery on? Just curious.

  9. I bet his surgeon feels the same way that my son’s does: I’ve been in his heart and fixed it; it’s better than yours now. He shocked me when he said it, but I’ve never had an echocardiogram, maybe I have some little flaws and his heart really is more perfect than mine — in many ways.

    I completely relate to being scattered. It’s good that you have this record to remind you of what the time was like. Especially now that he’s had this great check-up, those pre-surgery feelings are going to slip away faster than you can believe. Until, of course, you read someone’s blog and find out they are going down the path to surgery with their little guy and you start commenting on their posts and emailing them and offering to show them your photos. I warn you now, your own feelings will come back harder than you can imagine and you will find yourself right back in it even though it’s not your child that time. I believe that it is a flashback and some kind of post-traumatic stress. But at least it won’t blind-side you.

    And I completely relate to Cathy’s comment about the song too. Mine is Laurie Berkner’s “I’m Not Perfect” and it took me a good year and a half to be able to sing the last lines without bawling my eyes out. (“You’re not perfect, and you know I love you that way.”) I even wrote her a fan email to tell her what it meant to me.

    Great. Now I’ve outed myself as a weird internet stalker. Time to shut up! 🙂

  10. I’m happy to hear that Avery’s heart is healing so well ~ . It’s so good to “feel” your heart’s song. Thank you so much for sharing the WONDERFUL news and for another LOVELY post!!! 😀

    May you be HEALTHY and HAPPY ~ 😀

    Much LOVE 😀

  11. I am so glad to hear that everything continues going well. Whew, that last paragragh really got me…the beating of Avery’s heart…the thank you, thank you. So, so beautiful.

  12. I can relate to so much of this. Especially the distractedness preceding the trip, the surgery. I’m delighted to be able to picture Avery laughing and healing in the comfort of home. I know how healing it is for you to have him back home safe and sound, too. xo

  13. I am so glad he is mending so well! I commend you for emailing those that replied while you were away- that’s like tackling a mountain of wedding gift thank yous! Avery is a dear to many, and I am sure we are all happy to hear he is laughing.

  14. Laughter. What beautiful music to hear! I’m so happy to hear that Avery has had such a fast and strong recovery. Big hugs to all of you, especially you Jennifer -this has to be a time of recovery for your mother heart too.

    Lots of love and thanks.


  15. I don’t remember any strange packing…lol, but I can relate to the stress of the whole pre-surgery thing! For four months I had been singing the “You Are My Sunshine” song to Lily. On the Saturday before her Monday surgery, I sang the last line to her…you know the one…”please don’t take my sunshine away” and I LOST it. I thought I was doing so well and had been congratulating myself only to lose it over a line in a song. I’ve never sang it to her again. Instead I’ve made up my own version and the last two lines are now “you’ll always know dear, how much I love you, ’cause I’m gonna tell you every single day.”

    And I do!!!

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