I’m sitting in a chair in a hospital. Next to me is my daughter’s boyfriend, P. My daughter, L, is lying on a portable hospital bed with us in this little pre-op cubicle, waiting to go into surgery. The TV is on — cartoons.
L is a nurse, and she’s saying what a good job the nurse here did of putting in her IV. She’s marveling at the paper hospital gown that is more like fabric than paper, that can actually have warm air blown into it should she desire it. I marvel too.
Me? I’m out of my element. I avoid hospitals as much as I can. I’ve dropped stuff off for my daughter at the hospital where she works a few times, but other than those quick visits, it takes something like this to get me into a hospital. (God forbid I should ever need hospital services. I’m planning not to. I’m going to be healthy for a long time and when I’ve used up my full life, I plan to die lucidly, painlessly, and with dignity. Like doctors die.)
I’m watching L and her boyfriend. He’s holding her hand, stroking it. I see how they talk and smile at each other, how they enjoy each other and laugh easily. The affection is palpable. There is trust there, and love.
Now she’s telling me about her anxiety dream last night where they were making her eat little Tupperware containers with little plastic dinosaurs as part of her surgery. She thinks it’s from seeing a commercial about gummy vitamins for grownups.
Now we’re watching Spongebob Squarepants, with subtitles. So unfunny. I know it dates me, but I really like the cartoons from the good ol’ days, like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Bullwinkle, even Popeye.
I ask her to turn the volume down. Silence. Thank you. We listen to the sounds of the hospital. It’s 6:55 am. Bright lights, people doing their jobs, preparing patients for surgery. Anesthesiologist came around to introduce himself, ask questions. Then the OR nurse.
The patient in the next cubicle has been wheeled away to the OR. L is probably next. I tell her I’m scared and ask if she is too. She says yes. I say:
It’s like I have to surrender to a higher power.
Yes. I do. This is out of my hands.
I hug her, my baby, my only child, who wrapped her tiny fingers around my little finger shortly after birth and entered my heart forever. I tell her I love her and kiss her on her cheek. I can’t help but tear up just a little. She tells me:
Don’t make me cry. It’s going to be all right, Mama.
The daughter becomes the mother. I love that.
Now we’re laughing because I told her I have to take a drug test for a temp job. I remind her that the last time I did anything was taking a hit of pot at her birthday party last May. We doubt that will show up on the drug test.
She thinks Spongebob is funny — sometimes.
Now the topic is politics, the GOP war on women. She tells me she encountered this awesome saying:
If the fetus that you fought to save grows up to be gay, would you still fight for its rights?
Then she tells me this is why she watches cartoons.
I’m glad to have this laptop, this blog, to have something to do besides just wait and feel. If I was feeling, it would be anxiety. Okay, it is anxiety.
The surgeon is here now. He’s older, a bit weathered, about my age. I’m relieved. He’s experienced. He’s serious, not jokey. I like that in a surgeon. He tells P and me that he’ll see us in a couple of hours. It’s 7:20.
I hug and kiss her again. The anesthesiologist puts the knock-out drugs into her IV. She says she’s high. Then her eyes close. I kiss her hand. She’s out. They immediately wheel her away. P marvels about her arm going flaccid. He has never seen or experienced the effects of anesthesia before.
P and I are back in the original waiting room, each with our laptops. There’s a TV blaring about rush hour traffic, weather, etc. Early morning programming. It’s now 7:22. I pretty much dislike television. I ask the receptionist if I can turn the volume down. No one is paying attention, and I can’t stand gratuitous noise, especially right now. She gives me the remote, and I turn it down. Yay.
Trust has been a topic on my mind lately, what it takes to trust another person. You can like someone, enjoy them, have compassion for them, and yet just not quite trust them.
Sometimes people withhold essential information about themselves. It’s not that they’re lying. They may have revealed some tender vulnerabilities, while concealing others.
Doesn’t everyone want to trust and be trusted by a select few? To have a safe circle of people with whom you can relax and be yourself? To have at least one person in your life that you can count on and be close to?
People not accustomed to trusting others can do things that hurt, scare, and freak others out. I don’t want to believe they intend this. Not only is building relationships new, sometimes they carry ghosts from past experiences with them.
It seems to me that trust is constantly built with every encounter. It’s a process. Sometimes it’s so deeply ingrained, it’s part of the fabric of relating and makes relating flow easily.
Sometimes a lot of time between encounters is the best medicine when affection exists but trust isn’t there. Trust can sometimes be rebuilt when the people and the timing are right.
Rarely, sadly, people I once was close to have become somebody I used to know because trust left the building. Watch this creative depiction of the pain of that.
Forgiving is not about the other. It’s about you and your heart. We talked about forgiving at my 4th way book group last night, about how to forgive. One way that I like is to imagine that you have already forgiven. Keep imagining that and eventually you cross over to the other river. I’m working on that.
I’m upset that what I believe should have been disclosed clearly, cleanly, up front, wasn’t, and I’m working with the best pro I know on unhooking these recent fearful, painful experiences in my own psyche. I want forgiveness and inner peace for myself. I’m ready to move on.
Okay, now I have to get up and move. Going to the cafeteria across the street to get breakfast.
Hospitals don’t have really healthy food. You’d think so, but no. Nothing is organic. Of course, none of the delicious-looking breakfast baked goods are gluten-free. I settle on scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, sweetened ice tea. I’m not gonna think too hard about the quality of this food. I’m hungry.
As I walk back across the street to the surgery center, I think,
My daughter’s in that building somewhere, in an operating room, unconscious under general anesthesia, and people I don’t know have cut into her body to make it work better. God give them peak skills. God be with us all.
I eat, sitting next to P. We talk about our hopes and fears.
A nurse calls us to come meet with the surgeon. It’s half an hour sooner than we’ve been told the surgery would take. This makes me feel afraid.
P and I sit in a little cubicle waiting for the surgeon. I tell him how I like that the surgeon was serious. P tells me his dad was a surgeon in Poland who has practiced various forms of medicine, including teaching basic medicine to African villagers and also teaching flight medicine in the U.S.
We both cross our fingers on both hands and look at each other.
Then the surgeon walks briskly toward us. A no-nonsense man. He makes eye contact and immediately says that everything went well.
Whew. Thank you, God.
He explains what he did in layman’s words. I reach out to shake his hand and tell him I prayed. His grip is very strong. His eyes light up, he cracks a bit of a smile, and he says he appreciates the prayer, because it helps. He and P shake hands. P and I go back to the waiting room. L is in recovery and will be perhaps able to go home about noon. It is now 8:57 a.m.
At 9:45, P is called to the front desk. She’s awake enough for one visitor at a time. He goes back to be with her. Then it’s my turn. She is so groggy, and with unstyled hair, no makeup, and her glasses on, she looks about 15.
I hang out with her as she removes an ice bag and fusses with the oxygen feed at her nose. They’ve inflated the paper hospital gown with warm air!
Her speech is slow and slurred, her movements slow and weak. She’s still high as a kite.
She falls back asleep. I hold her hand, images of her at various ages popping into mind. I marvel at how her hair has changed from blonde duck down as an infant to dark thick brown now, at the skinny scabby-kneed tomboy who’s become this smart, likable young woman. I watch her vital signs on the monitor.
She sleeps, snoring lightly. I feel reiki flowing through me into her hand and begin to give reiki consciously, hands intuitively moving to crown, neck, shoulders, chest, heart, abdomen, hands. I stand erect to facilitate the flow. I close my eyes and let this prayer of gratitude and love happen.
I’m given paperwork to read and sign about aftercare. The nurse takes her off oxygen and tells her she can get dressed now. I give her my hand to help her sit up and help her get dressed. There’s some unexpected bleeding; I call the nurse back; she bandages it and says it’s happens about half the time.
She can go home. We leave. Once home, goofball that she is, she makes a video of herself talking so she can later see how fucked up she was.
Life. Change. Growth. Love.