Thursday, October 15, 2009

A closed window


The view from here
Montreal, QC, October 2009


I know this view well. Virtually every time I stayed in this place* as a child, I'd wander the floors and explore a place many of us would call alien and frightening. It was, of course, and still is in many respects. But between the ages of 4 and 6, it was home to me. So instead of cowering in my bed, I'd often climb down, grab a wheelchair and hit the waxed-floor road. Eventually, I'd run into the solariums at the corner of each floor. And I'd stare out at the big world through windows that would not open.

We spent some time in the 4th floor solarium with my mother-in-law over the weekend. It was a good day for her. She was able to walk the short distance from her room to this bright, happy spot in a place that is rarely bright or happy. The kids looked out the window at the city below. They counted the planes on approach to the airport and saw the giant Orange Julep in the distance. My mother-in-law drank in their energy as they absorbed the kind of vista few patients or visitors here ever get the opportunity to enjoy. I watched all this unfold and realized history was repeating itself.

I'm sorry that my family has so many ties to this institution, that so many milestones for so many generations have been marked right here. I'm sorry that the mere mention of it brings to mind memories of illness and endings. I'm sorry I walked down the corridor beside the OR where we said goodbye to my father before his first surgery 12 years ago, then spoke to the doctor after she was done saving his life. For the first time. And the second. I'm sorry we can't seem to put this place behind us.

* Montreal's Jewish General Hospital (link, wiki)

5 comments:

Lauri said...

Wow that is very deep yet I can relate to it. I too have memories very similar to yours of an hospital that my family has used for years. My most bittersweet one is when I sat near a window just like that one when my grandfather was dying and I held his hand 'til the end. Memories can be good and bad but they are all meaningful. Unfortunately we have ties to these places but they say that you are not given what you can't handle.....so continue to be strong. And great post!

Rinkly Rimes said...

Think how much worse things would be if the patient had to look out at a blank wall.

Gallow said...

We just celebrated 25 years in our building at work. The person who was working with the architect told us that the architect wanted none of the windows to be able to be opened in the building. He argued, and was able to get windows that open. I'm glad he did.

Great photo. The blinds seem like horizontal prison bars.

Michael Manning said...

Very heartfelt. I have chosen to remember my late cousin with the best of memories she inspired through her work with horses. This has helped me create a new frame of memory. I hope it lends some help, as these interiors reminded me of my late father as well. A very good post!

G. Harrison said...

i remember the time spent by my dad in a ward for vets north of Woodstock. I was 16, so I could drive my mom. learned about 'shock treatments.' he was in a lovely setting, near Gordon Pittock dam, but i'd never want to relive those days. at the same time, I'm somewhat glad I didn't live a protected life.

GAH