Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Inside of My Head

Happy eleven twelve thirteen!

Last week I went to Ypsilanti so I could be with my mother in the hospital while she had a spot of joint-related elective surgery and for a few days afterward.

Her surgery, which took only about an hour, was Monday morning and she remained in the hospital until Thursday around noon. My father and I both slept over on Monday night, on chairs that folded out into sleeping apparatuses. The two chairs were wedged side by side in an alcove next to the room’s one large window. The next morning, my mother said it would be nice to open the shade, but I was still lying down, so I said, “I think it’s going to be hard to get to the pull cord without standing on my stomach,” and my father said, “I haven’t ruled that out.”

Another day, my mother said, “I could use a toothpick.”

My father stood up and happily said, “Well!”

“Not your metal one,” Mom added.

Dad extracted the item in question from his pants pocket and announced, “I have a home away from home in this cargo pocket!”

I slept over again on Tuesday night while my father went home for a more comfortable night’s sleep—only one of the hospital chairs had proved to be really suitable for sleeping on—and the reverse on Wednesday night. I would have been happy to stay over in the hospital a third time even if it hadn’t been the case that I was scared to sleep in a house by myself, but my father wanted to be with my mother and my mother thought it would be a character-building experience for me to face this fear.

It sounds stupid, but I’d never slept in a house by myself before. When I was a kid, my family was there, and then I lived with roommates for a couple of years, and for 30 years I’ve lived in apartment buildings, where someone else is almost certainly always in the building. Plus: Ypsilanti (no offense). I mean, there is the occasional home-invasion robbery in my parents’ neighborhood, plus plenty of regular robberies.

But, remarkably, I was still alive the next morning and didn’t even experience any anxiety to speak of. I went in the house, ate, watched a little Rachel Maddow, slept, woke up, and that was all there was to it, except for one discovery. My mother sometimes comments to herself as she comes upon something interesting in the news. Possibly the only time you’re talking to someone who really understands you is when you’re talking to yourself; I’ve fallen into the same habit.

There is a certain sound I’d for years thought was Mom remarking upon something to herself, but when I was alone in the house, I still heard it. Which means that Mom doesn’t talk to herself as much as I’d thought, and either that the house naturally makes a sound like my mother saying something in the next room or that the sound of my mother’s voice, barely discerned, is the same as the sound of the inside of my head.

My mother was a real trouper throughout and remained in pretty good spirits, except for one whole lousy day of feeling nauseous. She was able to rise to her feet, at least briefly, late on the day of the surgery. Her surgeon said it was the worst such joint he’d seen in 40 years of practicing medicine, which he evidently began doing when he was about eight, because he appeared to be in his 50s and bursting with robust good health.

The most exciting thing that happened was one evening as I was returning from the public restroom. As I neared my mother’s room, I could hear my name: “daughter,” as in “Where’s my daughter?” and “Where’s her daughter?” I walked in to find my mother drenched in blood, but not perturbed. She had fallen asleep and her IV, which often became wedged between the side of the bed and the railing, had gotten pulled out. There was blood all over her gown, on her arm and hand, and on the blanket and sheets, but no actual harm done.

(Except that they thought the IV might have come out due to an unauthorized attempt to get out of bed, which was entirely my fault—it’s a long story—and so they decided to install a bed alarm. I asked, “Is it going to go off every time she moves?” and they said it wouldn’t, but it pretty much did. However, they disconnected the alarm the next morning.)

Once my mother was back home, she was soon getting around remarkably well and the standard dose of pain medication at the standard intervals seemed to be doing the trick.

The weather was mostly cold and forbidding that week, extremely overcast, but the fall colors were lovely and the dramatic cloudy evenings were beautiful.

On Friday, my sister came over, and I also had a nice lunch with Amy at Seva. She just got married and she and her husband have bought a ten-acre place out in the country. And on Saturday Ginny and I had a pleasant brunch at Café Zola.
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