Round Eight – Meadows of tomorrow

 “It was so unimaginably beautiful,” Kate whispered to us. Late in the evening we were standing on the corridor. She lowered her voice not to wake up kids sleeping in nearby rooms. “One moment I was walking down the stairs to the kitchen, I fell on the floor and next thing I see was this remarkable meadow. I was not traveling through any tunnel, nor light just a blink of an eye…”

“I see you already packed,” Captain Wild entered the room with papers in her hand.

“Yes, can’t wait to go back home,” Mag replied.

“Congratulations, you have finished first stage of the training. We will still need to run the full scan to see how much of the uniqueness we manage to keep and how much we lost due to drugs side effects.” Captain Wild paused for a second, looked at Szymek playing Hot Wheels in his bed and said with slightly lowered the voice, “Now, that you managed to go through the whole 8 runes without any serious issues, I can tell you. There was a high chance of Szymek flying to heaven in the first three months. We hoped that due decreased immunity Szymek would catch an infection, which he would not be able to fight off and automatically made the cut for the fly. Unfortunately, none of that happen and you passed to the next stage. “

“We are also happy that he did not catch anything,” I said with a little sarcasm.

“Regarding the next stage, surgery, please confirm if you would like to have it done in our premises or somewhere else as we need to make sure all formalities are done in time.”

“Ok, we will inform Captain when we come back for the tests,” Mag replied.

Captain Wild left our room and we started to head back home. With a relief in our hearts, finally after such an intensive past few days of not leaving the Center we have a break.

“…meadow was full of flowers, and the grass was so intensively green. I did not see any colors like that on earth. What we have here looks so pale, dull, lifeless while there it was so much richer, so much livelier. It is hard to explain. I laid on the grass and I felt so good. I felt loved, I felt the way, I have never experienced before. And I heard somewhere in the back of my head my parents screaming to me – Kate come back, come back to us – and believe me, I loved them with all my heart, but I could not go back to them, I did not want to leave that place…”

And again, same road back home, same corners, which we knew by heart, same stop light, no surprises. Luckily Szymek was feeling much better and we did not need to stop urgently due to him vomiting on the way. Felt good enough that when we were passing our well-known bakery he asked for his standard order.

“Old roll, small pizza and croissant.”

Not sure, where did he got this old roll thing, but order was placed and we needed to stop to buy what he asked for. Stopped and buy it as this was one of the few chances he will have an appetite to eat it. Once done, we could go back on the road.

“…and the whole meadow was covered with white light, it was not bright, more like a milky light. Rays of God’s love. And there was no time there, I felt like time was irrelevant, like I was there always, like I had finally wakened up from the dream. Dream, which was my previous life, dream that was finally over and now I could start to live again…”

“Who is there?” Well known voice of aunt Monic asked the question from house intercom.

„Simon” Replied eagerly as he could not wait to see his aunt again. She came to visit him, as this was her first cousin, son of older sister, he was also her whole world. “Kiko!” Szymon screamed with joy seeing her opening the front door.

“Look what aunt has brought to you, new box of blocks to play with.” Blocks, Hot Wheels and trains were his top toys. “Let me help you, said Monic and they both sat on the rag and start playing.

We are finally back home. Back to the place where we could again, for at least short while, pretend to be a normal, average family. Family, which eat breakfast together, go to church on Sunday, have some friends over. Remind ourselves how it was before the training. Yet, still with the thought in mind, that there is no sense to plan for the future. We lived like there was not tomorrow.  And we did things that normally you would not do, but the thought the soon we might not have a chance to do it again we took full advantage of them. One of it was three of us sleeping in one bed. It started with a fear that something may happen to Szymek, while he will be in his room sleeping, and ended with us needing to be close to him. Those were moments I would not exchange for anything. I cherished those moment deeply in my heart to remember them always.

“…and when I felt so blissfully, laying there on the soft grass a creature approached me.  It was full of light, I could not see his face, nor body as he was shining too brightly. Only his whole silhouette, with light passing through. Then he said to me…”

“You, need to go back”

“I don’t want to,” I replied “I feel so good here. I don’t want to leave this place”

“You need to go back to your parents,” he insisted.

“I love them so much, but I want to stay here…”

“You will come back here, but not now. Now you need to go back”

“…and this is when I woke up in my house, surrounded by my parents.” Kate paused for a second. ” I was so angry at them, furious that they brought me back to this horrible place. I rush to my room, shut the door and did not talk to them for couple of days.  Time went by and I forgot about this story. What has happened to me when I was a child, but for some reason I felt inside that I need to share it with you. I felt in my heart that you need to hear this story…”

Those few days home ran fast, too fast. Szymon was feeling much better, looking healthier, giving us hope for a better tomorrow. It also gave me a chance to play with him more. Assembling some wooden train tracks for his choo choo train, playing Hot Wheels, where he was saying which car is fast and which not, doing what other fathers do with their sons. The small difference between us and any other father was time, more lack of it. I knew things can not wait, if I wish to do them with my son I need to do them now, otherwise I might never have a chance.

“Wake up, honey we need to pack for the facility,” I tried to wake up Mag.

She looked at me and said with worried voice, “I had a dream.”

„What kind of a dream,” I’ve asked.

„I saw Szymon and Misia, our best friend’s daughter, dancing together and having fun on the meadow…”

 „Well, maybe they will listen to our prays and both will be healthy. Miracle will finally happen,” I replied trying to make her feel better.

“No, those meadows looked strange…they were not on earth,” She replied with tears in her eyes.

End of stage one.

Round Six – High hopes

„This is unacceptable!!!” Captain Blind entered our room and tossed the recent test results on Szymon’s bed. “We put so much effort in making sure your Son will make an early cut! We have listed him into European Space program, supported with Neupogen, in between chemotherapy injections, to ensure proper tumor growth, and all for nothing!! Instead of growing his tumor shrank. Now it’s almost half of the size it was when you were listed. Marrow is clean and bones are showing much lower presence of cancer cells…”

“Yell, scream… spill all that anger on me. The second you leave the room those words will bring me to tears… but for the first time in the long time those will not be tears of sadness, those will be tears of joy…” I looked at her trying note all what was she saying but my mind suddenly went somewhere else. To the place where I wanted to be for a past few weeks. I heard her voice but second she told me the good news, rest was not important.

“…this puts us back in the whole training program. If this will be his way of reacting to the training I am not sure if he will make the flight at all!!! Do you hear me!?! There is a risk he will be cut of the program!” Captain Blind stop for a second to catch a breath. “It doesn’t make sense anymore. I had such high hopes in you and you ruined it all.” With much calmer voice, hearing here ambitions just collapsed. “I need a break… long break. I am going for an annual leave.” She paused for a second with her thoughts wondering off to some other place. “Your test results are not showing any risk of sudden change. You can go home for couple of days. We will inform you who will take your son when you will be back. Thank you! And have a nice trip home!” She left the room.

Mag and I looked at each other and fall into our arms. We waited so long to hear something positive, to have some proof that our prayers are being heard and it finally came. Our hearts finally felt a relief. Huge burden was taken from our shoulders and tears, which fall on our cheeks, were not coming from sadness but from happiness.

“We are going home!” Szymek shouted and energetically started to pack his things. He looked so adorable, bustling round, lifting his hands up and down, showing how much he is busy with packing.

“Yes, we are going home!” We replied looking at him with all the love we had in us.

“And Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday and aphooo”. Szymek looked at us smiling.

 “Yes! And birthday cake!” Mag replied with a smile. “It is our new tradition, to have birthday cake each time we leave the facility! And blowing up candles”. She lifted him up and I finished picking up our things, so we could head to the car.

We walked the corridor to the elevator and suddenly saw this place in much more cheerful colors. Warmer, sunnier tones, feeling that not only terrible thing can be encountered here.

We left for home, having Captain Blind’s words in our hearts. We left for home much lighter, much younger, and full of hope. Hope, which for the first time, was something more than just our wishful thinking. Hope giving us first signs, that it is possible for Szymek to be cut from the program due to lack of any signs of cancer in his body.

Close to our home we spotted Granny, Bunia – Szymek greatest companion, walking back home from grocery store. As we stopped to ask her if she would like to ride with us those couple of meters back home, it was good reason for Szymek to get anxious and get out of his seat. It was also a good reason for him to ask if he can fulfill his new passion, which was driving a car while sitting on my laps. I took him on my knees and we slowly drove those few meters to our driveway. And as much as I tried to forget the nightmare he was going through, pretend for a second that we are just a normal, typical family, as much as I loved seeing him having a time of his life, turning the wheel left and right, as much as I tried to take the most from this very moment, I could not quiet this one horrific thought, which hunted me in past few weeks. The thought telling me, that in a year or so what currently brings me so much joy and happiness, what is so much important in my life – time spend with my son, in few months’ time may just be another memory of him cherished in my heart. Memory treasured so deeply and constantly return too, as this is the only thing I have of him. The only thing I was left with from the day he flew to heaven.

“Why are you crying?” Mag saw my tears and asked.

“I am stilling memories. Trying to store them deep in my heart.  If we will not succeed those will be only thing I will have left of him…”. I replied.

Her tears came without asking for permission…

We have entered the house, decorated with balloons. Soon cake with lit candle was waiting for Szymek to blow it. And for the first time with joy in our voices we sang birthday song.

 “Happy birthday! Happy birthday!” Szymek tried to sing with us.

”Dear who?” We asked.

“Shiimek!” he replied with a big smile.

Smile hidden deep in my heart and warming me up during cold winter nights.