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The Longest Night

It’s 11PM.

This time yesterday, eighteen-year-old Thing1 and I were packing up cookies we’d made most of the day. His girlfriend and twelve-year-old Thing2 had pitched in, offering cookie decorating skills and keeping the assembly line moving.

Thing1 and I loaded the cookie care packages into the car after dropping Thing2 at school and started the soggy 2.5 hour drive from southwest Vermont to Dartmouth Hospital. Clouds were moving through the mountains, and, as we do on every drive, we both remarked on the powerful beauty around us.

Today around five o’clock, I got Thing1 settled into his room in the adolescent pod at the hospital and began delivering one box of cookies to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit who had been with him when he woke to learn that what we hope will be his last surgery until he’s old was a success. I took two more boxes of cookies to the pediatric unit that had cared for him after his last successful but traumatic surgery in October and then came back to find him getting ready for a winter’s nap on the longest night of what has been a very long year in some ways.

Almost from the beginning of the year, Thing1’s Ulcerative Colitis has been dictating most aspects of his life. It kept him out of school for most of his senior year. It hospitalized him several times and even nearly killed him in the spring.

My firstborn is now dreaming away the longest night of the year. In many ways it’s his first night — the first night of his new life. This last year has been dark, but it has also been rich. It taught him determination. It taught his parents that he will make stupid decisions when he leaves the nest, but he will be able to handle the repercussions. And most of all, this year — with all of its 5 hour round trips to the hospital, with its visits with other patients with UC at the infusion lab, with the extra year at home it has purchased us with our adult child — has made us see almost every day how good our life really is.

It has made me see that just as rich black soil feeds seeds, helping them send out new shoots, a long and sometimes dark year can yield unexpected rewards.