Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Day 25: Home Away From Home

I’ve often made posts about the Ronald McDonald House, our friends there, and how wonderful our experience there has been. Today is dedicated to “our house”.

On the day we checked into the house for the first time, I was extremely overwhelmed. Tillery was in the hospital being treated for a complication she experienced after her first surgery. My mom, Luke, and I walked across the street from the hospital to check in at 6:00 p.m., the time I would soon come to know as dinnertime around the house. While I filled out paperwork, mom and Luke were shown to a playroom and invited to join in the meal being served in the kitchen. As I looked around at all of the families in the house, my heart hurt. I didn’t yet feel I fit in in this world of sick children and instead, I felt sad for all of the families who had to stay here and the trials they all go through.

Over time, my experience at the RMH changed. I went from feeling like I didn’t belong there to feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere else. I met other families and formed relationships that were stronger bonds than many I had experienced before. We didn’t just share a house, we shared our lives. I met some of my best friends living in the house. I met Leslie while petting therapy dogs in the lobby. I met Carleen while moving my laundry from the washer to the dryer. I met Julia walking around the house strolling our little ones. I met Jackie and her boys at the Christmas train table. I met Carrie chasing her child who was “leaking”. I met Cassie, Amanda, Sandy, Diana, Margaret, and so many others in the kitchen, the hub of activity. So many friendships were formed just doing life in that house together.

In addition to the other families we’ve met, there are some amazing people that make it all happen for us. The staff and volunteers are amazing! Every day starts with Kinney and Don – the coffee crew. Monday mornings are special because Jane is there. Mary is always baking something yummy. There is a couple that volunteers at the desk who once fixed my broken cell phone. One volunteer brought me a rug from her house for my room and another used to find us to bring toys to Tillery. The staff members always put our families and our kids as their first priority. I’ve watched them stop what they are doing to get down on the floor and play with Tillery or stop talking to someone important to catch me and let me know they are praying for us.

I have had haircuts, manicures, and massages at the house. We’ve heard musical performances, petted animals, played hide and seek, met princesses and mascots, and seen far too many clowns. I’ve eaten countless tacos and “pancakes and more”, drank an absurd amount of 50 cent Cherry Cokes, and had more dessert there than in the entire rest of my life combined.

In the meditation room on the second floor is a Tiffany lamp that sits in the window. It’s a window that our eyes are drawn to every time we walk through the lobby because when that light is on, our house is hurting. The lamp shines for 24 hours in memory of a houseguest who has passed away. While the light was shining for their children, I hugged Ness in the hallway, Leslie in the kitchen, Jamie in the lobby, and Mary Ann in the parking lot. I’ve seen the lamp turned on far too many times and sometimes there were full weeks that the lamp was left on. While the lamp shines during a tragic time, there is something comforting about that light shining through the darkness.

That Tiffany lamp is much like the house itself. Something beautiful during something horrible. We experienced the worst night of our lives in that house but we have also seen some beautiful things happen there. We ate a wonderful Thanksgiving meal in the lobby of the house with our family, my parents, and Joe’s cousins. The four of us celebrated Christmas morning in our room at the house after Santa dropped off a bag of gifts the night before. Tillery befriended Miss Pre-Teen United States in the lobby and they formed a special bond.

I leave you with this, my favorite RMH memory. It’s one that truly represents the love of the house. We were in the kitchen after dinner one night and the fire alarm went off (it is super sensitive and happens often). When we went outside, it was snowing and one of the families with me had a child with a trach and vent. Khloe and her equipment needed to be kept warm. I watched as countless people, gave her their coats and blankets and stood shivering in the snow, waiting to be told we could go back inside. That is the Ronald McDonald House. It’s a house of love.

Here is a link to a photo tour of the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Cincinnati. It is a very beautiful place.

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