Thursday, August 22, 2013
Chapter 10 Christmas Day
I noticed that the sunshine was quickly melting the crusty snow as we drove into our neighborhood. We’d had a white Christmas, but all signs of the beautiful white flakes of last night were gone and all that was left was the gray crunchy stuff that didn’t even make good snow angels. There were kids out playing with what looked like new Christmas toys. A couple of little boys had a new sled and they were trying to get it to slide, but the crunchy stuff wouldn’t let them get very far. Some other kids were riding new bikes in their garage. We could see them going around and around in little circles.
I looked around at my brothers and sisters. They didn’t look very happy and neither did Dad. So far, Christmas Day had been much different for us than it had been for these other families. Of course, it wasn’t really Christmas Day for us. Santa had avoided our house and he wouldn’t come until Kiy was home, and nobody knew when that would be.
Dad pulled into our driveway and everybody piled out. I helped Nathan out of his car seat and set him down on the cold concrete. He immediately started whining, so I picked him up and carried him into the house. Christmas decorations were everywhere and presents were still lying under the tree, but I didn’t see them. As I held my little brother and he snuggled in my arms, I knew I couldn’t blame him for what had happened to Kiy. He really didn’t understand.
Tears blinded my eyes as I climbed the stairs to my room with Nathan still in my arms. I shut the door quietly and pulled down the blankets on my bed. After tugging at Nathan’s shoes and then my own, we climbed in my bed. He was already starting to snooze and his little face looked so innocent and sweet. Gently I removed his coat and then my own. I rested my chin on his soft hair and closed my eyes.
It was starting to get dark when I heard Dad calling my name. “Kira! Kira, wake up!” Nathan was gone and I was wrapped tightly in my blankets. Dad was calling from the entryway, which meant that I had to get up and open the door to talk to him. My head still felt groggy as I dragged myself out of bed. I stumbled to the door and opened it.
Dad had a big old grin on his face. “They’re moving Kiy out of the PICU and into a regular room! She’s doing great! I told you there is a good reason to believe in miracles!”
I think I flew down the stairs. I gave Dad a hug and we danced a little jig. “Is Mom still on the phone?” I asked. “I want to talk to her.”
Dad let go of my hand and glanced at the clock in the kitchen. “I think you’d better wait a little longer to make sure they are settled in the new room before you call.” He picked up a piece of paper from the table. “Here’s the new number, but wait until 6:30.” It was only 6:10. How could I wait? I wanted to talk to Kiy!
I sat down in the living room and stared into the lights of the Christmas tree, but I couldn’t just sit for long. I was too excited. I jumped up and headed for the fridge. My stomach was growling. I was finally hungry and the thought of food didn’t make me feel like I wanted to throw up.
I fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk and sat at the kitchen table to eat it. Grandma was crocheting and the kids were watching Miracle on 34th Street..
I glanced again at the clock, 6:20. Time seemed to be crawling. I forced myself to concentrate on my sandwich, but by 6:22, it was gone. Since Mom wasn’t home to give me a bad time, I brushed my crumbs on the floor and carried my empty glass to the sink. Only eight more minutes! I could wait for eight more minutes.
I wandered restlessly to the living room and sat down at the piano. Kiy loved to play the piano, I remembered. I plunked out the melody to Jingle Bells. I should have practiced more when Mom and Dad were paying for lessons. I started over and that time I was able to put in a couple of the left-hand notes.
After a couple more tries, I suddenly remembered Kiy. I jumped from the piano bench and headed for the kitchen phone. The family room clock said 6:29, so I grabbed the phone number and quickly began to dial. My fingers shook with excitement as I punched the last number.
Mom answered the phone. Her voice sounded so good! “Hello?”
“Hi, Mom, it’s Kira. Can I talk to Kiy?”
Mom laughed, I mean, she actually laughed! “Wait a minute,” she said. “Don’t I get to say anything first?”
“OK,” I apologized. “What did you want to tell me?”
Mom paused for a moment. “Well,” she said. “First of all, you can’t talk to Kiy.”
My heart dropped in my chest and a lump rose in my throat. “Why not?” I finally croaked.
“Honey, she’s still on medication and she’s still groggy,” Mom explained. “She hasn’t even responded to me yet.” Mom quickly added, “But she is sleeping peacefully and they have removed all of the monitors except the heart one.”
I didn’t say anything; I couldn’t. I swallowed the tears, but they kept coming back. I just wanted to talk to Kiy! Mom must have sensed that I was upset, because she finally said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll put the phone up by her ear and you can talk to her. She will probably hear you even if she can’t talk back.”
“OK,” I said. At least it was better than nothing.
“Here she is,” Mom said.
“Hi, Kiy,” I began. Suddenly the tears came. I found myself apologizing all over again as I imagined my tiny sister curled up in a ball in the middle of that big hospital bed. “I’ll make it up to you, Kiy,” I promised. “I’ll take you for a bike ride and we’ll go to the park. I’ll paint your fingernails and you can sleep in my bed.” I made promise after promise to my sleeping sister.
Then, just as I became exhausted from thinking about all of the fun things that we could do, I took a deep breath so I could say goodbye. Then I heard a tiny, sleepy voice, “Ra-ra.” That was it. I lost it. My name was the first thing she said when she woke up.
Suddenly I heard Mom’s teary voice. “Did you hear her?” she asked quietly.
“I did. She said Kira!” I couldn’t keep the excitement or the tears out of my voice. “Mom?”
“When will she be able to come home?”
“I don’t know, Honey. Hopefully soon. They just want to keep an eye on her to make sure she’s OK.” Mom sighed. “We probably won’t know about brain damage for quite a while.”
I swallowed hard. “Ask the nurse, OK?” I begged.
Mom put the phone to her chest. I know, because I could actually hear her heart beating. A moment later, she was back. “The nurse said maybe by the weekend, but not to get our hopes up!” Mom said breathlessly.
“All right! I’ll tell the kids and we’ll start planning Christmas.” Now I was excited. It was Thursday night, so that was only a few days away. We still had a lot of work to do. I still had presents to wrap.
“Kira?” Mom’s voice brought me back to the phone.
“I love you,” she said quietly. “Give the kids a hug for me.”
“I will,” I promised. “And Mom? Don’t worry so much. We’re fine here.”
“I’m glad to know that,” she said. “I’m so tired and so worried about Kiy. The last 24 hours seem like a lifetime.”
“I know. We’ll take care of everything, you just get some sleep.” I thought a minute. “And Mom? Give Kiy a hug for me.”
“Aren’t you and Neal still coming back over with Dad?”
“Oh, yeah!” I had forgotten.
“Good,” Mom responded, “You can hug her for yourself.”
I barely heard her say goodbye as I hung up the phone. I had to get ready. I was pulling on my shoes when Neal wandered back into the room.
“What’s up?” he asked.
I looked up from tying my tennis shoes and grinned. “Kiy said Kira,” I bragged.
“So?” he answered. I could tell he was jealous.
“Dad!” I yelled. “Are we ready to go?”
“In a minute,” he called. I could hear him telling Kinsey and Kiyna and Nathan to watch a movie and be good for Grandma.
Neal ran to the mudroom for his shoes. I brushed past him and pulled open the door to the garage. The rush of cool air felt good on my hot cheeks. I climbed into the front seat and shut the door. After several moments, I flipped on the dome light and reclined the seat. “What is taking them so long?” I muttered. I wanted to see Kiy.
Just then, the door opened and Neal and Dad both came into the garage. I yanked the seat to its upright position. “Let’s go!” I said. Dad grinned. He looked much better after his nap. Neal was excited too. Dad hit the button to the garage door and started the car.
It was dark outside and snow was falling lightly as we pulled out of the neighborhood and onto 22nd West. There weren’t many cars on the road. I guess everybody was at home, playing with their new Christmas toys, watching Christmas movies, and eating Christmas dinner. Only the Christensens were driving to the hospital. I shook myself. I didn’t care what anybody else was doing. Kiy was all that mattered. And what mattered now was that she was getting better.