Welcome Home, Avery!

After one final up-and-down corkscrew loop on Thursday, Avery finally made it home yesterday. My family is complete.

1Everyone was ready to go by the time I arrived at the hospital after school. All that was left for me to do was to pack up my belongings and move out of my dorm room. As you can see, we accumulated a ton of stuff over the past 7 weeks and it probably would have been easier to lug all of it – and my family members – back to the van if I made two trips, but as any guy will tell you, TWO TRIPS IS NOT AN OPTION. We crammed all of my laundry, Avery’s gifts, and other miscellaneous items into the double stroller. Lynnette carried Cole and I carried Avery through the familiar hallways of the hospital. I pushed the stroller with my left arm; Avery perched atop my right forearm and looked over my right shoulder. Madison was skipping behind us and making Avery laugh. All of us were really excited.

2When we finally took a step out of the hospital Avery’s eyes opened wide. Her head was on a swivel. Fresh air for the first time in 53 days. She must have been stunned by the natural light, humidity, and the sounds of the cars on the adjacent freeway. I’ll never know. She can’t articulate it now, she won’t remember it later. But I suppose Lynnette and I will always have these photos of Avery seated once again in her car seat. I placed her her head zig-zagged in every direction inspecting the interior of the van. Her eyes found the blue bird hanging from the handle of the seat. Her face lit up. Her legs flailed, she bounced up and down as she pulled at her old travelling buddy. I have to be honest, I wish someone had taken a picture of my face. I’m such an ugly smile/crier.

3One of the things I was most curious about was the level of independence Avery would show once at home. She’d been extremely clingy during the past two weeks, refusing to let anyone put her down, and at times fussing when the person carrying her tried to sit. I took Cole out of his car seat first and put him in the play area. I hoped that maybe if Avery saw Cole cruising in there, she might remember what it was like to roam freely and graze on plastic toys. I scooped Gravy up and stood her up against one of the plastic bins. She steadied herself. She looked at me. She smiled. She screamed. She banged her hands on the bin. No tears! She spent the next two hour rolling, crawling, and playing with Cole in the quarantined play area. She ate her fake chicken leg, she played the guitar and piano, she changed the channel on the TV box. I took this picture of her at the DJ station and noticed only after reviewing the photo: Avery tugs at her shirt when she’s excited. I had forgotten that.

4My deepest apprehension centered on Avery’s sleeping habits. Would she be a tyrannical psychopath at home like she had been at the hospital. Well, she fell asleep at 9:30 and didn’t wake up until midnight. Just like at the hospital, the registered nurse walked into her room and tended to her. Avery ate, took her medicine, and fussed until falling asleep again at 1 in the morning. But she slept straight through until morning!

Cole and Avery just finished breakfast. They’re rolling around the play area with Madison. Abby just devoured a celebratory egg breakfast. Our house is a mess and no one seems to care. I might have Coke for breakfast. It’s gray skies outside but you can’t tell from inside our home because Lynnette is glowing. She’s floating about the kitchen in a jogging shorts beneath a ratty t-shirt from her college days. It’s to early for her eyebrows and the rest of her makeup. Fatigue is written all over her face, but there is a bounce in her step and a swiftness in her movement that have been missing. She is stunning.

Someday, when enough time has passed, I will reveal some of the more delicate details of this trying time. I think for now I just want to enjoy our reunion. I can’t wait to write about anything that doesn’t involve the hospital. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been following Avery’s story since we brought her in to the ER with a fever. You’ve been cheering her on, praying for her and us, sending well wishes, making us dinner, sending us flowers and balloons, and most of all, constantly reminding Lynnette and me that we weren’t alone. In truth, it’s the most awe-inspiring experience of my life. I know we all have our own lives filled with challenges. Yet so many of you called timeout on them to help care for us. If there are English words capable of expressing how that made me feel and what that means to me, I don’t have them. Thank you.

But I’ve gone on. I’ll let Avery tell you how she feels to be home in her own words:

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