(Simple Minds reference)
I do not know why it took so long for me to get this. Maybe I got it a long time ago and forgot (I leave it to you to decide whether ChemoBrain is an option here).
The other night, in the midst of some discussion that I have also forgotten, my wife left the room, and came back with a small booklet. It was a construction paper job. The exterior was folded over purple construction paper, and somehow, the artist and author and director of this thing, my daughter, had managed to stick white folded construction paper inside, without staples. I still have not figured that out.
The front of it is titled “While You Were Out…”.
It is about my first surgery, the one where I was purportedly being cut on for 15 hours or so, the one where I was left in an unconscious state for four days following the surgery.
It begins, inside, with a photo of my wife in the waiting room. She looks lovely. She is smiling, and I wonder how hard that was for her, knowing how much she worries over me. I hate to consider the option that she was hoping for an alternative ending (:)). I have brought that up before: why are they all smiling?
There she is though, and she looks so much younger than she looks today, and by that I mean that all of this has been a big hit on her. I forget that all of the time. I think of me. I forget, sometimes, often, the big hit it has been to her. She is sitting there in the waiting room with a sandwich in a baggie in her hands, there for the long haul. Beneath the picture, the message is, “Your number 1 fan!”
My daughter added, in parentheses, “(Mom)”, as if I might come awake, see this booklet, and forget who she was :).
Next are my dad and his wife. At the time I did not know they were even there, and they were gone before I came to, and it was much later that I learned they were there.
I will advise that while in post-ICU morphine land, I thought my entire family was out in the lobby arguing, my side of the family and my wife’s side, all of them, including my parents, her parents, my siblings, her brother, my children, all of the other children I know about in the clan, about who got to come see me :). Such is the nature of the human mind, I suspect: it was all about me.
They were not out there arguing, of course. By the time I got out of the coma room, almost all of them were gone. It was all in my imagination. My dad and my father-in-law were not coming to blows. A nurse was not calling my daughter a foul-mouthed whore (she is a happily married college graduate about to complete her Masters degree in Psychology, in case you wonder about dad’s personal assessment being rosy-colored), and no one left because they were insulted by treatment by either family or the medical staff. That was all in my morphine-addled mind.
(As an aside, I will admit that, later, when my daughter came in to see me, I asked the nurse why she was permitted to see me (rather than others, I was thinking, thinking that she had won some epic family battle), which must have upset her and certainly addled the nurse. I wrote a note on one of those erasable boards, but it turned out, as I later saw, to be complete gibberish, and even today I wonder what instinctive language I was using to try to get my point across, even though I do not remember the point. Morphine has its uses, but cognitive awareness is not one of them, as a general rule.)
There are my dad and his wife Ginger smiling. Why is everyone smiling?
And beyond them, I had no idea Melinda came. She is a friend of my daughter’s, a friend of the family, now, and she was there with her two young children. It must have been hard to make that happen. She was not there for me, of course, but for my daughter and my wife, I’m sure. While it’s true that I have wanted her badly from the first time I met her, she has never reciprocated, and I am sure, or fairly sure, that the older I get, the less likely such a scenario is. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.
But, I didn’t know she was even there! And, now that I think about, where was that punk-ass husband of hers, who really does love me?
Oh yeah, probably in Iraq. Never mind.
On the next page we have Fely, a friend, but one who has not returned a treasured book I lent to her. I guess she showed up knowing I would be in no condition to ask where the hell my book was. (It is a Harlan Ellison collection. If you like science fiction, I recommend it highly.)
She is also smiling.
Next up are Kathy and Silas, with Kathy getting a page and a half, which she deserves. I have known her exactly as long as I have known my wife. I will not get into details here, but will tell you that among women, she is my best friend. I can talk to her and know that it will stay between us. I know that I can nott have her, either, even though I have forever, because of some stupid rules that women who are truly friends make up between themselves (the rest of us call it morality, and some times it gets in the way of a good time as far as I can tell. I’m just saying.) We are friends, and the older she gets, the less I want her :). But I love her. And there she is. Smiling.
And my brother in law takes half of one of those pages. He and I, of course, go back a long way, and there he is too, smiling in the waiting room.
There are pictures of my father-in-law and my mother-in-law, along with pictures of some family friends I didn’t expect to be there, and a co-worker of my wife’s, a nurse. The only people not smiling in those are my father-in-law and the nurse. I wonder what they knew?
Turning the page, I see my old assistant soccer coach, a teammate of my daughter’s, a young lady who was very self-conscious when she came to work with me, but who grew and is now coaching full-time at the college level. There she is…smiling :). What is it with all of these people?
And on the opposite page, my buddy Ray, golf partner and former co-worker of sorts. He too is smiling, but I am really astonished that he is there. How did he know? How did he know where I was or what was going on? I have a suspect, the lady on the first page, but still, it is really nice that he is there. I have not been giving him his proper due of late. Having seen him in these pages, I need to call him, to let him know I love his Scottish ass (but not that way) and that we need to hit the links again soon!
Beyond that, we have a picture of my daughter, the author, with her husband and somebody else’s kid. We now have Scooter, so that if there is a next time, they will not need a surrogate :). In point of fact, she included a picture of her damned dog. I’m sure she was not at the hospital, so I must assume this picture was taken at home, where she was fertilizing my yard with relish (among other things). A very big dog.
And then, just closing pictures of people partying in a waiting room. It turns out there were so many of them, making so much noise, that they were given their own room. Among the people I mentioned above, there is finally my son, along with a buddy of his (and Ryan isn’t smiling either, in any of these pictures).
Finally, on the last page, a picture of me headed for the OR, wrapped up in green and gauze but before they drew all over my face. The caption exclaims “Dad! Our hero!”. But of course, they are the heroes and heroines. I look at the picture of me with my daughter, I look at the picture of me in my hairnet or whatever they call it, a big old grin on my face (I’m smiling too!!!) and I don’t remember any of it. But they do. They all remember all of it.
The last two pictures before those pictures of me strike me the hardest. In one, my dad and his wife are sitting with my father-in-law and my mother-in-law. In this one, they are not smiling. Perhaps they have been sitting for too long, but the smiles are gone.
Beneath it, my son and his friend, Charlie. Charlie is still smiling, but Ryan, my son, looks beaten. I have never seen him look beaten. Ever. It takes its toll.
Pictures: better than a thousand words.