I arrive back in Ohio on a bleak, chilly February afternoon. My brother greets me with a hug and a joint, and we chat about my flight and gossip during the 45 minute ride to my parent’s house. My anxiety rises.
“He’s not as bad as he sounds on the phone?” I ask.
“He gets confused, mom says it’s just swelling from the craniotomy. But he’s still his old self, ” he replies.
“When I called yesterday, he told me there was an army hiding outside, trying to kill him – waiting in the hedges,” I say, but my brother just shrugs and tries to smile.
We pull in the driveway. Unlike previous homecomings, no one is waiting for me. My dad is sitting on the sofa, a giant smile on his face, and my mom leaps up and greets me, her mouth a wide smile, her eyes tired and unsure.
“Dad thought the coffee table was the toilet,” my other brother says, with an exhausted-looking face. “I’m going out for a smoke.”
I snuggle up to my dad. He is much thinner than the last I saw him on our trip to Scotland the previous October. The ample belly I used to rest my head on is gone.
“How was the boat?” he asked.
I laugh. “Dad, I flew back from London.”
“Yeah, we always joke about you coming back from London on the boat and you’re always,” he raises his voice in a teasing way, “does anyone want tea!” He smiles cheerfully and pulls me closer, gives me a kiss on the head.
We sit like this for what feels like hours – he’s happy and holding me as I sit, crushed under the weight of his new reality.