You have heard all about Will, the hospital, our escapades here, and the people here, but you really have not heard much about the RMH.
When we stayed at the RMH last time (April), we were in the new section. Will had recently been discharged from the hospital and we were pretty exhausted. We really did not interact with anyone and we were only there a few days.
This time, however, we have been residents for more than two weeks. While Billy has slept at the hospital, I have not because my lungs so do not appreciate the incredibly dry air. So every night sometime between ten and eleven, I catch the shuttle back to the house. At this point, having caught this shuttle every night for the last ten nights, I kinda know the shuttle drivers...and they never fail to ask how William is.
When we return, we walk in the main door, and the day manager's shift is just ending. There is a board on the wall with everyone's room number, last name, and their city/state/country of origin. When you arrive, you move your little heart magnet to "in" versus "out" so they know who is in the house. But when you do, you have to walk right in front of the desk, so generally, at that point, Carol or Natalie will look up and say hello and ask about Will. It could end there, but frequently, it doesn't. I look forward to walking in at night and chatting with friends and finding out about their days...instead of walking in, talking to no one, and going to my room. To feel not quite so alone at the end of a long day makes it feel so much more like home.
Last night, I ended up taking the very last shuttle. Carol, who was supposed to have the day off, was driving. I was the only resident to ride then, so I hopped in the front and said, "What are you doing here?" She explained that Natalie had gone home sick, so Julie filled in for Natalie, and Carol filled in for Julie. So we chatted about how they were, how the food pantry organizaton was going, Carol asked about Will and his port, and she told me she had been concerned when I hadn't shown up yet, and if I hadn't been on this shuttle, she really would have been worried. Really?!
When you live in a communal home, issues can easily develop. You have residents who don't bother to clean up after themselves; residents who are ungrateful for the blessing of a nice, clean, inexpensive place to stay incredibly convenient to the hospital; and residents who are just lazy. But then you have residents like Elizabeth who give up their washing machine at ten at night because your child has surgery early the next morning and she can do her laundry the next day without it being an issue. Or Janelle who has devoted ten years to caring for her son who suffered significant brain damage in a car accident and yet she still smiles and prays for and encourages other parents. To have spent several hours chatting with these people who struggle over the health of their child yet continue to press forward, is beyond description. To know that while our struggles may not be the same, but they understand the toll it takes on not only you, your marriage, and your entire family creates a bond of friendship that is unexplainable. You don't have to explain the hardship because they also live it. While it did take effort to feel at home and to develop friendships, the result of that effort was far beyond my wildest expectation.
To say this home has been a blessing is an understatement. To say I will miss some of the volunteers/employees/residents is also an understatement. To be grateful for the opportunity to have stayed here, met these people, and shared a few hours of conversation and friendship is indescribable.