I spent most of today in a hospital. I came to the need of a friend, sat by their side through the slowest waiting room ever, many doctors, many nurses, more waiting, and lots of questions. In the end, my friend was discharged with no new answers but much less pain.
It is a cliche to say that people have negative feelings around hospitals. But, for me, the first half of my life was spent in hospitals. My mother is a medical secretary. I’ve heard stories of me falling asleep under her desk, waiting for her to get off work. From sixth to eighth grade, I walked from my school to the hospital and waited in the lobby for her til 5:30pm. I did my homework, listened to my Walkman, purchased snacks in the cafe, candy from the gift shop, sometimes wrote, and often napped. I had a couch that almost everyday was my couch. That hospital was warm and inviting to me, a comfort.
That feeling began to change my freshman year of high school. Uncles died in a hospital. I visited him only once. By then he had shrunk, withered to almost nothing, just skin and bones. He died at about age 90. Our visit with him, my only visit with him in the hospital, was his last before his passing.
Granddaddy was next. We called 9-1-1 after he had an apparent stroke in our home. It took two or three men to get him down the stairs and out the front door. We waited in the emergency room for half the night until he was admitted and my mother took us home. He survived that ordeal but his life was forever altered.
He was no longer the big, strong, imposing man who had picked me up from elementary school, carried me in his arms down the hill for my birthday party, and occasionally squeezed my knee. His first night back at home both my mother and I had to clean him up after he soiled himself. He died my senior year of high school, while I was on spring break in Puerto Rico. His funeral was the day I came back. I am still so very thankful my mother saved me from that experience.
Aunties passed my junior year in college. She too wasted away until no one could deny she needed to go to the hospital. And, once again, my visit with her was one of her last.
And then there was Ella.
I don’t fear hospitals. It’s just I haven’t been there for happy moments since my childhood. I didn’t attend my niece’s birth. And, save new life, are there any other happy reasons to go to the hospital?
When someone is sick, when you are tasked to care for them, everything in your life is brought into perspective. So many things seem insignificant, little, petty. Every move, every thought, is full of awkward anxiety. Remembering everything I wanted to do today, and figuring out when I could do it later on in the week. Wondering how long the ordeal would last. How bad it would get. Hoping it would get no worse.
When I drop into the mindset of caregiver, I often drown out most of my thoughts or any inclinations for myself. I skipped breakfast and didn’t eat lunch today til 2pm because I worried about leaving my friend’s side. I snuck in a work email while they slept only because I was a day late in responding. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I kept myself awake just in case. I didn’t dare pull out my book until they informed us of the impending discharge.
And, just now, I got a phone call. In my mind, all I could think was, “Please may it not be from X. Please may they still be okay.”
I worry. SkinnyBitch tells me I worry too much and should stop. If I knew how, I would.
For now, distraction. Yoga, shower, playing with the dog, and Happy Hour. However I’ll have my cell phone always by my side, hoping it doesn’t ring, but still there just in case.
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