You know the part of rom drams (romanic dramas) usually about halfway through when a time lapse happens and there’s a montage of scenes set to the tune of a melancholy blusey ballad? Lately, I see myself in that setting a lot. Like the period of time when a voice like Etta James is belting verses straight from the heart and the plot of the story could either go really great or really bad- you don’t know until it happens.
Today, I went to visit my mom in the hospital after not having done so for a week. I felt guilty for not going, mainly because she has had a cold and they haven’t been really allowing visitors, but I’ve been throwing myself into work and projects head on. Feeling that if I burry myself deeper into work, the reality of the situation will be a little numbed. It’s funny because, just two weeks ago, I felt there was no way I could go back to work. And now here I am, and it’s the only thing I am doing. There seems to be no happy medium.
When I first arrived at the hospital, the conversation with my mom was light and immediately I realized how much I needed to actually talk to her, and I felt tears well up in my eyes. My chest tightening and my soul feeling too fatigued to actually cry like I felt I needed to. I told her about how our family is struggling “on the outside.” And I watched her feel broken and helpless as I described how our tight-knit tribe was starting to sluggishly succumb to the harsh realties of depression and life without her on a daily basis. Our dog Nina, who’s sole purpose has been to stay at my mom’s side for the past five years, cries out for her and the longing in her eyes is enough to break your heart. My mom makes this face when I give her information like that, her lips purse, her breathing quickens and she looks like she wants to say something but always waits a long while before answering with something like “I can’t do much from the hospital, now can I?” in a hasty tone filled with hurt and guilt. I don’t mean to upset her, I just need to confide in the one person I am always able to talk to no matter what.
I then realize, I need to lighten the conversation after watching her big chocolate eyes cloud with sadness- something I don’t want to inflict on her as I know she’s already having such a hard time. I go to something that I know will make her happy. I tell her about the hike my sister and I went on this weekend in a park near my parent’s home in Ventura and how gorgeous and vibrant the wildflowers were. I described the bright yellow mustard flowers that towered an entire foot over my 5’8″ frame, and the sound of the endangered honey bees buzzing around happily doing their work pollinating the flowers like they have done for so long. I even told her about me spotting a rattle snake in the grass only about a foot away from my bare ankles. And then I described the story of how, after we finished the hike and walked back into the park, we spent about an hour helping a young single mother set up her son’s first birthday party. While we were struggling to set up a volleyball net, another stranger came up and asked if we needed help. Together, we figured out how to attach ropes to stakes in the ground so the net wouldn’t blow away in the light spring wind, while her preteen daughter held the smiling baby and their tiny white dog planted kisses on his chubby cheeks. As my sister and I went to leave, the young mother profusely thanking us, I watched the two parties of the strangers come together and introduce themselves and join celebrations. When I finished telling my mom this story, a smile crept up on her face and she told me, “people really are good. I believe that people are really good and willing to help each other when given the chance.”
We paused for a moment in that glimmer of warm happiness. She said, “I haven’t even been out of this hospital room in 6 days” (she hasn’t been able to go on her daily walks around the unit since catching a cold). As the mood began to change and the moment slipped away, her eyes suddenly flickered and she was calling a nurse to remind her to send a RT (respiratory therapist) so she could do one of the tests she needed for the day. I am so amazed (and thankful) for how sharp her mind is and how many different things she is able to think about at once- definitely a superpower you gain during motherhood. Her medication schedule is a full-time job in itself and she keeps track of it with such dedication (frankly better than some of the nurses). After a few minutes, an RT arrived. He was a very large black man with a friendly face- the kind you just know is an excellent family man and someone you’d want to have on your side. I glanced down and noticed a bejeweled name tag hanging from the pocket on his chest. He began to set up my mom’s breathing test and I asked him a string of questions, “what was the mediation?” “what was it for?” etc. I’ve always been curious, and this situation is no exception. I then began to say that she needs to nip this cold in the but (because as long as she has a cold, her status on the lung-transplant list is on hold). The RT looked at me suddenly serious and in an unshakable tone said, “Your mom is a fighter. Your mom is a fighter and she is going to get through this.” I looked at him and believed it with every fiber of my being. I wanted to hug him, but didn’t feel that was appropriate. He then said under his breath, “but you know that.” And I do.
I left as she was finishing up her breathing test, as I noticed the sun was setting and I didn’t want to walk to my car in the dark. I walked back down the long recently-shined linoleum hallway to the elevators and went to the front desk to validate my parking. I stood next to a chipper couple carrying drinks in a drink carrier and ready for a “fun” hospital visit. I envied their layer of visible strength and “we can take on anything attitude” (that had been me months ago) and the energy of one another they had to work off of. I now felt weighed down by the countless visits and trying days- even though I was working really damn hard to get back to their level of umph where I once was. I looked at them and managed to spread a small grin across my lips. I turned on my heel to leave through the automatic glass doors of the hospital and was greeted with a chilly shrill gust of wind, as if to remind me of how alone I felt. It was that time just before the sunset when the sun is low in the sky and passing through the clouds and the warm orange of the sun competes with the closing in grey of the night. I look to the right and notice all the towering hospital buildings are grey- growing taller with every step I take, the sidewalk is grey, the parking structure that I loathe it grey. The only color in sight are a flock of orange and lavender bird of paradise flowers that even look muted because of the surrounding grey.
I’m walking but to the tune of a longing blues voice in my head. I’m present but fighting back tears, as I enter the parking garage, mostly unaware of where I am, I feel something abruptly hit my arm, I fear it’s a hand dragging me back into the hospital, but realize it’s gate of the parking kiosk. I can’t really tell if it hurts or it just startled me. I look up, now more slightly in touch with where I am and I notice a woman staring at me, having seen what just took place. I start laugh crying and she just looks at me bewildered with her mouth slightly agape- her expression completely blank. I make my way to my car, get inside and start trying to sob but it doesn’t feel real, I look down at my phone and have a text from my sister that says “thanks for going to see mom.” Just seeing that immediately makes me feel like things will be okay, because I am not alone.