Monday, November 8, 2010

D Day Plus 225: (October 19, 2010): Parole

The nurse and my new roommate, who checked in last night after emergency gall bladder surgery, were chatting each other up about the joys and pitfalls of motherhood. Both had daughters in elementary school and were full of room mother stuff and projects.  They were all about my daughter is so this and that. Or they have so much homework. And I know daycare is really hard. And I spoke to the teacher. And I don’t know how they expect…..And all that yadda yadda yadda ya. 

I didn’t want to play, so I pretended to be sleep. I wasn’t being antisocial. I talked a lot about nothing with them earlier.  I just didn’t want to go there with them.  And you know what I meant about that – as soon as you mention kids and cancer or death – everything goes south. Either you become the victim they fawn over.  Or you get bombarded with their sad story like it’s a contest. Or there is an awkward silence while they're trying to find a way to, as Snagglepuss would say, “Exit stage left.”

Don’t get me wrong, the nurse was really nice.  And so was my faceless roommate all hidden behind the privacy curtain.  I tried to steal a peek last night every time I got up to pee, but never could see much without looking like a stalker. 

Oh I forgot, last night, I got my catheter out. That was good, except they kept pumping with saline. So I had to go every two or three hours. That was a big hassle because I had to call someone to unplug my IV and help me out of bed. After the second trip and no help in sight, I figured it out on my own. Besides, I had a lot of practice with you and my other stints in the pokey. Oh I meant to say hospital.  I really was a pro.  A PRO---feSSional. And I meant that with a long “s.” I let that IV pole and that little urine hat in the pot know who was the boss.  

You know what? Sometimes I didn’t understand why you liked someone to stay all night with you in the hospital.  I liked the quiet time and not having to perform for visitors.  You know the “oohs” and “ahhs” or  “it’s amazing how well you’re doing” when things are going well. Or the “you’ve just had surgery” and the "waddya expect" when they’re not.  

But let me tell you, the first time I had to pee last night and didn’t know if anyone was coming to take me, I felt helpless. Now I know why you liked to have family around all the time in the hospital. Just in case you had to pee and you didn’t want to wait. Or if you needed ice chips. Or if your IV was beeping and you thought an air bubble would cause an embolism. Or if you needed more drugs. Or a familiar face to tell you it was going to be all right. I know you told me that. But now I know. Really. 

I donned my earbuds and thumbed for my Easy2Sleep track on my iPod in hopes of you finding me. It worked the other night and I thought it would work again. Maybe you’d show me some more or remind what I was supposed to already know about this eternity thing. I cranked up the volume really loud intent on drowning out the chatter behind the curtain and clatter of rolling carts. I started breathing easier, but you didn’t come. And I needed you. How was I supposed to balance reality with eternity?  How? 

Yesterday was rough, but no one knew how rough. Not Dad. Not Morgan. Each time I swallowed to stop the NG tube from piercing my throat, I thought of you.  Each time I asked for ice and savored it as it melted on my tongue, I thought of you. Each time I got Dilaudid, I thought of you and the fists of Dilaudid punching your stomach when the nurse gave it to you full throttle. Each time they took my vitals and asked all the probing questions, I thought of you. Each lap around the nurse’s stations, I thought of you. Each thought made me sadder and sadder. 

It hurt to watch you go through it the first time. It hurt even more the second, third, and hundredth time. Morose laced with anxiety. That was me. 

When you didn’t come, I broke down and asked the nurse for a hit of Dilaudid.  That’s when she asked me if I had children. I said, “A daughter 23 in Roanoke and a son who passed.”  I held my breath waiting for her to do one of the usual three. But she didn’t.  She patted my hand and gave me Dilaudid really slow and easy. That way it didn’t punch me in the gut. 

I drifted off to sleep plotting my escape.  I’d walk a few more laps and show everyone that I was ready to go. Then I’d get my NG Tube out.  The doctor half promised me that yesterday.  Then I could eat solids.  Then I’d get my IV out. Then I could take pain meds by mouth. Then I’d walk some more and maybe pass gas. Then they’d know my insides were okay.  Then I’d call Dad to come pick me up. Then I could finally get a goodnight’s sleep. That was my plan. And I was sticking to it. 

And my plan worked. I got paroled around five in plenty of time to watch the Dancing With the Stars Results Show. Before Dad came, I told the nurse about you and how awesome you were and how the hospital made me relive everything. She listened and didn’t do anything like I expected. She just smiled and made feel like it was all right.  And maybe it was.  Because, you were back. You hugged my heart. I felt it. Right when the orderly wheeled me to curb, to Dad, and to sweet sweet FREEDOM. 
Now how’s that for good behavior? 

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