i just returned home from the queasy experience of visiting my mother in the hospital, a mere few hours after her back surgery. but it was not entirely the experience of seeing her that made me queasy. i feel awful that she had to go through this, but she’s taking it as well as a human possibly can in her situation, let alone a human who is 83.
but there was another more visceral layer of queasiness, that’s rather impossible for me to describe. it brought back memories i did not even know i had of 5 years ago, when i was in the intensive care unit for 3 weeks. the sheer terror i felt all of those nights when visiting hours were over and i was left alone with the nurses, some who were good, some who were not so good, and some who were evil incarnate.
when visiting hours were over, i would cry out, with every fiber of my being, i would cry out to my visitors, “noooo!!!! noooo!!!! please don’t leave me! don’t leave! please!! don’t leave me here all alone!” night after night i would cry out. it would be embarrassing to write about were it not for the fact that no one could hear me. i was alone with my terror, which some of my friends and family mistook for courage. i was an utter basket-case. and now seeing my mother completely calm and accepting of her situation… there’s an inner strength, a dignity there that somehow eluded me.
at the hospital tonight, my sister, brother-in-law and i briefly left for the cafeteria to eat take-out Chinese food, but i just felt awful about it. i remember those moments, even during visiting hours, when my visitors would leave for coffee or a quick lunch or whatever. and it felt like an eternity before they returned… and then they would leave again.
i was either in the throes of abandonment or fighting off the anticipatory dread of abandonment. but just being in the hospital tonight, and experiencing what it was like to be on the other side, to be the visitor who can come and go as one likes, dredged up these incompletely buried visions of the quivering mass of jello i once was. i was infantilism incarnate
but now i remember why i started this conversation. it’s because you must promise me, you must absolutely, with total conviction, promise me that if something should ever happen to me that requires medical attention you will not take me to, nor anywhere near, a hospital. you can take me to Siberia, to the Sahara, to the eye of a hurricane, to a vacant lot, to the furthest reaches of the earth. but you must never ever ever take me to a hospital. no matter what. you will promise me that, won’t you? i’m counting on you.