Saturday, August 11, 2012

Living in a hospital's shadow

Protective
Montreal, QC
July 2012
On a sunny Saturday afternoon last month, we took our kids to the hospital to visit their grandmother, Debbie's mom. I'd like to say that we barely know this place, but I'd be lying.

Both Debbie and I were born here. After that, it was all downhill for both of our extended families: I spent a good chunk of my childhood here, my late father's litany of illnesses played out here over 12 deteriorating years, and now this, another chapter to add to a book that already contains too many.

Our kids are old pros at this by now. They know what questions to ask, how to behave, even how to say just the right thing to brighten up an otherwise gloomy hospital room. Like most kids, they've learned, conceptually, that life often is not fair. But here, over the course of years of coming here - Dahlia's first trip here was 10 days after she was born, just before my father's first bout of heart surgery - they've been able to see first-hand what unfairness looks and feels like. They get it, and this is one lesson I wish could have waited just a little longer to be learned.

I've long struggled with how best to record this journey, this place that's now colored three generations of our extended family. On this day, all I had was my iPad to capture the uniquely depressing tone of this darkly lit rabbit warren masquerading as an ER. In the end, it was all I needed.

I'll have more reflections from the hospital in a future entry. For now, suffice to say it's a place I hope we won't see anytime soon, but fear my hoping so won't be enough to keep us away. Life seems to have its own script, after all, and we're not always in full control of the pen.

Your turn: Do you have a hospital memory? Why do you suppose these places hold as much influence over us as they do?

6 comments:

Tabor said...

Spent much time there with my mom, my sister and my mother-in-law, all of whom are no longer in my life. Hospitals are places that are quiet except for nasty crying and yelling and they smell funny. I don't like them. I hope never to see the inside of one again...but maybe I will be a grandmother again someday, so shouldn't say that.

Patti said...

I do have hospital memories, specific to the first year of our marriage.

Three weeks after our wedding, my new mom-in-law suddenly had a stroke and passed away.

Eight months later, my new husband had a brain aneurism ... was air-lifted to the city ... brain surgery. I remember sitting in a waiting room with some friends and family around, while a doctor read me a list of possible side effects of the brain surgery, and then asked me to "sign here". After I signed, he left, and I looked at my mom and asked - "What did he say?"

He recovered, against the odds. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary. I'm very grateful for that.

Happier hospital memories - the birth of both my nephews and my niece. I adore them. They are visiting us this weekend and are downstairs watching "The Lorax" as I write this.

Patti said...

I do have hospital memories, specific to the first year of our marriage.

Three weeks after our wedding, my new mom-in-law suddenly had a stroke and passed away.

Eight months later, my new husband had a brain aneurism ... was air-lifted to the city ... brain surgery. I remember sitting in a waiting room with some friends and family around, while a doctor read me a list of possible side effects of the brain surgery, and then asked me to "sign here". After I signed, he left, and I looked at my mom and asked - "What did he say?"

He recovered, against the odds. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary. I'm very grateful for that.

Happier hospital memories - the birth of both my nephews and my niece. I adore them. They are visiting us this weekend and are downstairs watching "The Lorax" as I write this.

Karen S. said...

I think because we journey there for reasons that touch our lives deeply. Whether it's birth or death or mending something you wish hadn't broken. I have four grandchildren that have been born since my mother passed, after spending everyday with her there for almost a month, those moments break a person's soul. We need these places to heal(usually) but they always change us in some way. I hope all goes well for your mother-in-law.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Living across the country from my own mother when she was spending a lot of time in the hospital, I don't have those same triggers in my mind. Couple that with mostly happy surgeries (3 out of 4 kids received ear tubes, plus births) and even a bad incident that ultimately turned out to be good (hysterectomy) -- plus the fact that my husband worked in hospitals for 22 years, I can view them somewhat differently and almost matter-of-factly.
HOWEVER... I find I have a hesitancy about the telephone when it comes to talking with family. Whenever my sister or brothers call, it nearly always involves my dad's deteriorating health. Prior to last summer, it chronicled my mother's useless cancer battle, including the final goodbye.
Perhaps the thing or place that connects us to heartbreak and loss becomes a marker in and of itself.

My heart goes out to your family as you journey this path with Debbie's mom.

laura.forestdreams:) said...

the ONLY 'good' memories of the hospital...is when my 2 sons were born.
it was downhill from there!

the only other times since then i HAD TO visit a hospital was because someone close to me was either very ill or dying. i have been there...at their bedside...holding their hand...as they passed from this life...to the other side. my parents, my sister & brother...and a few close friends and clients.

i don't like hospitals. no matter how hard the staff tries to be warm and efficient...it still feels cold. unfortunately, the bad memories overshadow the good ones.