Frank and I are in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina for the weekend. It's a beachy locale with palm trees and ocean-kissed breezes. Smallish and adjacent to Charleston, it is attractive to tourists and the people here all seem to radiate that familial Southern hospitality which lends itself to describing the city with adjectives like quaint and charming.
We are here because we were lucky enough to stretch necessity into a short, just-the-two-of-us vacation. The large, southeast region VA hospital is located in Charleston and early Monday morning, Frank will have a battery of tests run to assess the current status of his Multiple Sclerosis. Frank is fine and he has been in remission for nearly seven years, thanks largely to the exceptional care that he receives from his civilian neurologist. However, because Frank receives additional medical benefits from the VA, they have to run their own assessments every so often.
Our original plan was to arrive here late tonight (Sunday) and return home tomorrow after finishing at the hospital. Last week when making arrangements with Mom for her to watch el Cinco, she asked, "Why don't you two just leave on Saturday and make a weekend of it?" Well, thanks Lady. Since you offered…
…so Frank and I arrived yesterday evening. We picked up dinner from a local mom and pop diner and holed ourselves up in our hotel room. We cuddled on the bed amidst a turkey club on rye (me), chili dogs (him), and a grease-stained bag of homemade fries between the two of us, watching the still-in-theaters movie that we ordered On Demand. Delightful.
I slept until nine and left a still-snoozing Frank in the bed behind me. I opened the curtains to the morning sunshine. The fronds in the tall palms outside our second-floor room rustled in the breeze, appearing as if the trees were shivering in the weather which is unusually cool for this time of year. I turned and let my eyes scan the well-appointed suite. A chill ran through me, one borne from memory and not weather. The tableaux before me had a deja vous quality.
I've been here before.
Mt. Pleasant, while pleasant, was unpleasant one of the last few times we were here.
My clinic is here, not more than ten minutes from the hotel room in which I now sit typing.
The last time we were at this hotel specifically was the day that it became my safe haven, a place where I could allow myself a modicum of sadness and grief before returning home.
It was the day that an ultrasound confirmed that the beta hell of my first cycle with Chance and Apollo was a "pregnancy" that was not meant to be.
Eight months removed, this morning as I looked around the identical room, it occurred to me suddenly that if that ultrasound had revealed what we all hoped it would, I would have been due right around now.
And here I sit, due for nothing except breakfast.
I have spent the past several months grappling with the sadness that I still feel, trying to beat it into submission and get it out and away from me once and for all. Somewhere inside, I think I reasoned that I first had to let go of that before I was allowed to fully embrace the surrogacy journey on which I am now on with my new intended parents. Like it was somehow wrong for me to feel as happy and as hopeful as I do about my new journey while still finding a way to come to terms with how the last one ended.
Now this morning, here in this room, in this town where the history of journeys past will soon link with the journey yet to come, I realize that this lingering heartache need not exist mutually exclusive of the mirthful anticipation I have for my new journey. I can embrace hope and yet still carry a weight of sadness behind. There is no crime in allowing myself to be happy despite the pain.
There is room in my heart for both.
I find today's unseasonable weather deliciously crisp and somehow oddly appropriate. Chilly zephyrs will swirl about me while the nearly cloudless, azure sky allows the sun's rays to warm the spaces in between.
When I am here again, it will be winter. It will be with my new intended parents. I will be happy, but if a phantom sorrow unfurls itself and a well of tears prickles in the corners of my eyes…well, that will be okay, too.
With the ghosts of what should have been trailing every step, from where I am today, I have a hope for the future. The warmth is welcome.