Sunday, January 11, 2009

School starts soon, and I am so unprepared.

I'm back, part two. (That's me in the Omaha airport on Thursday, nursing a 2-hour delay with $3.99 unlimited day's web access.)

After returning from Israel, I headed home to Nebraska to get some time in with my family -- specifically to see how my father was doing after his first round of chemo at the end of December. The trip out wasn't too bad, we flew out of Newark in the wee hours of the morning on Monday and got to Nebraska with time to do some outlet shopping at some sad, sad outlet malls between Omaha and Lincoln. Our first stop? Runza. The world's greatest fast-food joint. Tuvia loved the place so much, every time we talked about getting another bite to eat, he'd joke about going back to Runza. We spent the next few days driving around town, me showing Tuvia my old haunts (especially the Coffee House, where we went three of the four days we were there), my high school, my favorite places, and cheesy places like the mall to buy me a nice formal dress for an upcoming awards ceremony that was canceled due to the inclement weather last night (but it was beautiful -- well, the weather, that is; I guess the dress is okay, hah). We ate at all my favorite places -- Runza, Bison Witches, Lazlos -- and a few places that I wasn't so fond of. We went book shopping and I discovered that my favorite bookshop -- The Antiquarium -- that used to be down in the Old Market in Omaha is no longer there, trading space for someplace out of town. The old places are turning into new places with condos and lofts popping up all over downtown Omaha and in the Haymarket in Lincoln.

But the most important part of the trip was probably the time spent at home, just sitting with my family. Tuvia managed to spend a good hour stumping my mom, little brother, the little brother's girlfriend, and me with a game called "Petals Around the Rose." I could have killed him, that game is so ridiculous. I got to look at old photos of my mom and dad, and many of my mom when she was just a child. My grandmother, in an effort to clean out the house after my grandfather passed last year, has come up with some real gems. My favorites are probably the ones of the car my mother wrecked -- there are so many of that poor front bumper. But the photos of mom and dad opening gifts, dad in his plaid shirts and overalls (a style he managed well into the early 2000s) are some of the most prized I saw.

Last Tuesday, we took my dad to his doctor's appointments, eventually shuffling him to a hospital across the way for some extra looks into what was making him feel so crappy. We spent nearly four hours with my dad that day. I followed him into the doctor's office, helped ask questions, and took about four pages of notes to share with my mom on his medicines, how he was feeling, his shocking weight loss, and other notable things. He kept apologizing for taking up our time, and I kept reminding him "We're in Lincoln, Nebraska, there isn't that much for us to do, it's okay!" In some way, I have to believe that me being there helped calm him, in some way maybe.

It was more emotionally exhausting than I had planned for, and it didn't really hit me how drained I was until Tuvia and I got back to our little Motel 6 room each night. I just wanted to sleep it all off, prepare myself for another day, and go. Even now, as I sit comfortably in Connecticut staring out the window after a night's snow leftovers, I feel a little tired. I talk to my mom who tells me when dad is having his up days and down days. Some days he's down for some Subway, other days he just feels sick. It's the chemo.

So that was the past week for me. Trying to smile and stay lifted. Excited to see my little brother, who has managed to grow a nice little "emo" 'do on his head (men in my family are blessed with thick heads of hair), which his girlfriend seems to really like. He's a smart kid, a really smart kid, and he always makes me smile, no matter how crappy I feel. I miss him -- a lot. Luckily, having Tuvia there was a great lift. He's kind of a personified smile. He is always optimistic, uplifted, and manages to keep me afloat. I think it was a good thing for my parents to meet him when they did -- he allowed laughter, smiles, and fun to enter the house for a few days.

At any rate, a sobering post, I know. I have more Israel to talk about, of course, and I'll probably write next on my Bat Mitzvah ceremony, which was a major trip. I think, if anything, the photos will do the talking for me, though. The look on my face? Priceless and cheesy!