After a very long two weeks of double shifts, late night packing and constant worrying, we made it. We cleaned out our house, packed almost everything into storage, parked my car into a lot and sat on our front porch, waiting for our landlord to arrive and hand her the keys. Reeking of cleaning product, we leaned against each other, looking over our yard and trying to muster up some emotions about leaving the house we love so much. But we couldn't. Mostly because all of this still feels surreal. But also because after four moves in our 1.5 years of marriage, finding a new place to live has become an endearing adventure and feels sort of normal.
After three plane rides, two over-priced dinners and three mindless magazines later, we made it to Alabama. We wheeled our suitcases and bags into the office of his aunt's house, stacked them on the houndstooth couch and collapsed onto a twin size air mattress.
Despite the circumstances of why we hurried out here, we are loving being here. I feel more at home when we're in the south than I ever have in California. Maybe it's because Matt's accent comes out a little bit. Maybe it's because we're always on vacation when we're here. But I love it. I still get a little wide-eyed when we're pushing a cart through Walmart and I see a Dad with his kids, a hand gun strapped to his hip. (To be honest I'm a little wide-eyed just being in Walmart.) I'm impatient at the post office, while the woman behind the counter shares her secret for sunburnt shoulders with a customer as the line grows longer. But I love it here. I love the open fields filled with livestock in between streetlights, I love the neighborhoods lined with brick houses and I love seeing all the things I don't understand about Matt fall into place in his natural habitat.
It feels a little bit like vacation so far, only filled with heavy hearts and hospital beds. The days are long and slow and different, depending on how chemo treats her body that day.
There are seven of us at the house, all fumbling around trying to help out. I've found my spot next to Grandma's side. We drink coffee until noon, working on her crossword puzzles. She makes a batch of sweet tea after lunch so it's cool enough to drink with dinner. At 82 years old, she can remember every detail of her life and the lives of her children, but leaves the stove on. She tells me story after story about Matt's dad, as I mentally line up their similarities. Her sweet, southern voice softens when she talks about God or to her cats. My heart melts hearing Matt say "yes ma'am" to every question she poses.
Last night, while sausage was sizzling in the skillet, we rolled up our sleeves and I watched Grandma make her famous biscuits. Laughing and clapping flour into her hands, she admitted that there's no recipe and to "keep watch". Two scoops of flour, three spoonfuls of Crisco and a splash of milk later, the most beautiful, flaky golden-brown biscuits were rising in the oven. She stirred in flour and water into the leftover sausage grease and whipped up creamy gravy that we all heaped onto the warm biscuits and ate on the backyard patio.
We're still adjusting. Still taking in everything that's in front of us. Still processing everything we left. But in the meanwhile, I am so, so glad we're here.