Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Give Us Today

It's been a long day. I lay in bed this morning, thinking of an early meeting, a busy schedule. June's blue skies, a lovely month. My tasks seem diminished in importance thinking about my dad's first treatment.

Work. My messy desk, that jittery but much-needed third cup of coffee. A pile of unreturned emails, my normally on-top-of-it memory muddled. Distracted, emotion, what, what memory what do you need to keep it together?

I'm drifting. I'm eleven. I'm serving my sentence, my childhood torture of unending surgeries, of long stretches of hospital stays, wondering which one will be the last. No one gave me a treatment plan. I would have liked to have seen one. After all, I could read. I could tell time. The doctors directed their conversations to my parents, not addressing me, the patient. They didn't know. I didn't even know--that I could have comprehended what they were saying, and that I could have used that knowledge to at least give me an end-point.

During those long stays (they were usually not more than a week or so, in my child's mind it might as well have been a year) I looked forward to a few things. Not eating hospital food topped the list. To this day, at thirty-six-years of age, I will not, ever, eat a breakfast food. I can't go to brunch. I needed only the food my mother brought me, in unending variety, at my request; deli sandwiches and chocolate milk. The nurses thought it was hilarious. I thought it a necessity.

I also looked forward to visits. A break from learning to speed-read. To ignorning the well-meaning stares of strangers. I was an introverted, private, wary child. I'm an adjusted, but still introverted and very private adult. Being around people I didn't know when I was at my lowest was mortifying for me.
Back to the visits.

At the time, through out my childhood, my father commuted downtown to his Richmond Street office, and when I was at Sick Kids, he would visit me on his lunch hour. I never really thought, until I had a niece and nephew (I have no children of my own); what that would be like--to visit your child over your lunch hour. God. It puts a whole new spin on 'bad day' for me. And I wasn't terminally ill, or anything like that. I had a medical condition that required surgery and adjustment to match my growth, unfortunately making the hospital stays necessary and part of a ghastly routine. Had I been a sociable, extrovert these stays may have meant nothing more than a break from school, home, chores, obligations. Being what I was (what I still am) it was being shuttled off to another planet.

I thought alot about these times as I drove home after a long day today. I was heading home to drop off my car downtown, then get walking over to the hospital where my father was staying the night, getting his first chemo treatment. I understand hospitals--the slots of time, how boredom can set in--and I was looking forward to visiting with my dad, having some conversation, and at least alleviating some of the tediousness of sitting in a hospital bed, while choemo drugs drip, innocuously into your veins.
We talked about alot of current goings-ons. The impending summit, which would ensnare the hospital in a security net; traffic in the city, summer weather. My dad's dinner arrived. It was difficult for him to eat, so I ran downstairs to the hospital deli and got him a tomato soup and a roll. A simple meal, one that was easier for him to eat. He enjoyed it enormously. I returned in thought to eleven and my deli sandwiches. When you are in a hospital, no caviar is needed. Those familiar little foods will do it. He ate while the amber-coloured drugs dripped from the IV into his veins; catching the light out of the corner of my eye.

When I was getting ready to go, I made sure he was comfortable, checking the bed, and asking him if he was okay if I left. "Oh yes, of course, Carolyn, I'm fine, dinner was delicious"...nothing irritated him, not a certain patient wandering by, IV rattling, innumerable times; I asked,

"Dad, are you sure" and he reassured me.

Of course he did.
Parents spend their whole lives worrying over their children; you, as their child, spend your whole life from age thirteen on, or so, rolling your eyes at such worry.
So I left; he was in a nice bed, he had been well-fed, he had two magazines he wanted to read, and the drugs needed to continue to drip until the bag was empty.

I hugged him good-bye, re-assuring myself to allow myself to leave.

I was going to walk home, to my empty condo, and just have some dinner. I wasn't going back to my office for the afternoon the way he had so many times before.

The day, with all its nuances. Sometimes it's all we have.

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