I am home.
I coughed and blew my nose, took tablet cocktails that were to ease the sore throat and congestion and coughing, respectively, as I took a train to Arlanda, a plane to Brussels then another to O'Hare. There I waited patiently through a series of delays and nearly wept with gratitude when finally finding Tylenol Cold. Yes, I did have sore throat, headache, stuffy nose, coughing! Yes, there were severe!
"God bless America," I mumbled, eagerly pawing at the package so I could swallow the pills inside even as I sat on the floor in an airport corridor. My symptoms eased about 10 minutes later and I sighed even as exhaustion surpassed physical misery as my problem of note. I rested my head against the wall between two banks of pay phones and closed my eyes, clutching my Vera Bradley bag and a duty free sack with two stuffed toys inside against my chest. We were finally allowed to board, eventually were airborne and then I was back in my city, mentally coaxing myself that it wouldn't be much longer as I waited for baggage and fought traffic in the rain to get home.
"Oh," I breathed after greeting my happy hound with kisses and cuddles and promises of lasting love and devotion. I looked around the house and shuffled over to the phone to make the fourth call of the afternoon to my parents.
"Thank you," I said simply, tears welling as I glanced around with my hand to my chest. "I know you're having dinner with Brother and on your way to Little One's graduation but I just got home and it's," I trailed off, coughed and sniffled with a mixture of emotion and illness. "Perfect."
"I'm so glad," Mom said, having heard from Dad that I'd arrived in Chicago, having talked to me upon news of my delayed flight and having heard Dad tell me they were having dinner but were glad I was driving home. "I thought you'd appreciate it and we loved doing it for you."
The lawn was mowed and flower beds weeded, a new and silly statue - a frog perched on a rock - standing guard in the rainy evening. A lamp left aglow in the living room made it easy to see the freshly shampooed carpet and rearranged furniture - all dusted and decluttered. A pile of mail awaited me near the loveseat and flowers were perched prettily in a vase on the kitchen table. I walked over to touch them while I told Mom how nice it was to come home to this, leaning down to brush my cheek against the petals since I was too congested to smell anything.
"There are ruebens in the fridge," she told me. "And pork barbeque. Some pasta. Your dad complained because I made the cheesecake-type brownies but I told him you liked them."
"I see them," I said, brusing my fingertips over the covered baking pan on the stove. "I'm so tired. So sick. But I'm so happy to be home. I feel loved and special and wonderful."
"You are loved and special and wonderful," she confirmed and told me to drink some water and go to bed. And so I did, curling under the covers with my dog and drifting off to sleep against piles of familiar pillows.