December 7th at 12:07 AM



It's never really been hard for me to come back home.  In the beginning, Christmas and spring breaks were difficult and sort of frustrating; I missed the freedom and I missed my social circles, and domestic life didn't seem that grand.  Freshman year was terrific that way: so many new possibilities, and I think I embraced those possibilities without losing too much of my old self.  Other kids in my dorm talked about losing connections with friends back home, but I never really felt that way.  Of course that first year of college was depressing in a lot of ways, I suppose, as intense growth-spurt periods always are, especially when there is a girl or two involved.  Waah, Waah, Waah.

This is phase three of my post-graduate year.  Now my brother and sister are getting closer to grownuphood, and dinner features the same ridiculous babble and bickering that I love so much, while we all enjoy the deluxe chili that I prepared, and I help Alyssa with her Geometry and Jeremy plays his stand up bass and Mom sips wine, Dad reads the paper and next door Erik sits at this computer and I walk into his house whenever I want, to watch cable and drink tea and smoke Winstons, because he is the friend of my youth and nothing changes between us, except that the snowpile of years underneath us keeps growing and growing.  We're up to more than eighteen these days.  Nothing's more nonlinear than a friendship like that.

Dad commutes one hour north to Boston on the train for scientific research.  Alyssa and Jeremy drive 45 minutes south across the Canal to Falmouth for high school.  Mom drives 90 minutes north-west to her doctor's office in Wellesley, where I have just begun working.  We all wake up at the same hour, fight over bathroom time, grab coffee and a muffin, scrape together lunch and part ways at precisely 7 AM.  And for the first time in a long time, my days are full to the brim with activities.  Mom and I leave before the sun rises and leave work after it sets.  Home waits far away from 7 to 7.

i  have my own desk at new england oncology and hematology, a bustling suite of rooms and pointsettas, five doctors a medical staff of fifteen and ten or so of us clerical folk, busy with the computers, the piles of files, the phone messaging, test scheduling, checking in and out, Help your self, Ryan, it's a fresh pot, but no I have to drop my kids off at school so i cant come in so early how about later or Monday afternoon, chemo and wheelchairs, kindness feigned or true He'll be With you in a moment, such a pleasant waiting room leather, Sports Illustrated, page him, help, package, answering service, blood work.  I stay constantly busy, multitasking.  time passes quickly: no slack job.  The simple pleasure of performing simple tasks that simply have to be done; this isn't accounting, it's the terminally ill, it's business that musty be done because we're talking about comfort.  Watching Mom in her element, moving around the office, respected, is fantastic.  She seems ten times more alive than at the dinner table, and I realize that These problems and people comprise the thoughts that consume all her waking hours.  there are regulars, elderly who come in every day at the same time for treatment, injections, routine.  What a cast of characters, the staff.  The sheer Will of the patients.  Then you realize that for the true nurses and doctors, medicine is never about cheating death and getting paid but about preserving love and making a living.

On Sunday all five of us were at home, decorating the house for Christmas.  Dad made French toast and bacon for breakfast.  I pulled boxes of ornaments and candles down from the attic.  Alyssa and Dad wrapped wreaths up with colored lights and hung them on the house.  Jeremy and I held an impromptu drum and guitar exploration session in the basement, and I closed my eyes but never noticed.  We put the advent wreath and Christmas placemats of the kitchen table.  There are candles in the windows now.  I have to figure out how to decorate the front door.  Alyssa and I had a slow motion fight.  I got an email from Kariann wishing me a good day at work tomorrow, with love.  And you fall asleep, staring at the National Geographic poster of the Milky Way you just tacked to the ceiling, listening to the new Luna album, trying to remember what the hell it's like to live without family.