Eleven months ago I held back tears as I watched Anchorage fade into the distance from the window of the plane, wondering if I would ever make it back to my mountainous home.
Three-and-a-half months ago – the night before my 30th birthday – I laid in a hospital bed holding Jenny’s hand, my blood pressure falling to 80/40, wondering if this was the end as we did our best to drown out alarms with calm music.
Today I’m listening to that same music and once again 34,000 feet above the ground looking out the window choking back tears. This time it’s a very different type of tears knowing that in just a few hours I’ll be come back over the Chugach Mountains and land back in Anchorage. The new cells deep in my bones literally bristle and tingle with excitement as I look out at the front range of the Rockies knowing that I’m getting closer.
I cannot wait to see all of my Alaskan friends and found-family. I cannot wait to drive my truck, to hike the Chugach, to float the Kenai in my drift boat and feel (and undoubtedly lose) the pull of a big trout at the end of fly rod. I can’t wait to bike the Chester Creek Trail, to get detoured by a moose, to stop at Fire Island Bakery for a post-ride snack. I cannot wait to filet a salmon, to sleep in a tent next to Symphony Lake, to spend a weekend in a public use cabin on Resurrection Bay with friends. I cannot wait to be home.
Much of this will have to wait. This trip is a short one of only 4 days, including three full-day meetings. Then it’s back to Wisconsin for a couple of weeks to pack for the real move back; a road trip I have dreamed of for nearly a year – a road trip that seemed like a pipedream not that many weeks ago.
If I’m honest, the day Jenny and I leave to head back to Alaska will be one of the best days of my life, but also one of the hardest. It turns out that we have two homes and while my cup overflows with excitement to get back to one of them, I will be unbelievably sad to leave the other just as I’m feeling well enough to enjoy it.
The last couple of months have been some of the best of my life. I’ve finally been able to return to so many of the things I love – skiing, fishing, biking, paddling, hiking – each one bringing the euphoria that accompanies getting back a life that I love but had lost.
Don’t get me wrong, life’s still pretty complicated. I’ve had finger and toe nails fall off, experienced severe withdrawal from drugs, dealt with the anxiety that accompanies waiting for test results, had my face swell up from steroids, and paid a visit to the butt surgeon (long story – and she’s delightful so I should probably call her by her rightful title of digestive health surgeon).
But in so many ways these things cease to matter when I can get out and enjoy the things I love.
Even more importantly, I’ve finally been healthy enough to spend quality time with many of our Midwestern friends and family (though there are so many we are sad not to have been able to see).
Getting to laugh, reminisce, and make new memories with so many people I love so hard has been one of many blessings to come from this shit storm. Saying goodbye to them is something I neither want to nor know how to do. Even my Doctor and I get a little quiet and awkward when we talk about me leaving.
Having two unbelievable communities, living in two worlds, brings Jenny and I so much joy, but also brings a sort of infinite sadness that accompanies knowing regardless of where we are, we’re always a long distance from so many people we love.
Words cannot express how lucky and appreciative Jenny and I are to have not one, but two great communities in our life – two homes in every sense of the word.
For the next three weeks I will soak in the happiness that accompanies reuniting with Alaska friends, savor every moment with those we love in the Midwest, and do my best not to be a puddle of tears throughout it all.
Rainier and Mount Hood are both outside the window, and I’m feeling all the emotions.
See you in a few hours, Alaska.