Hallway 2

img_0705There we sat, at the spot labeled H2.

Had I thought of it, I would have pulled out a Sharpie and added an “O” when nobody was looking.

Which was most of the time.

My Emergency Room experience with my daughter was so different from my ER experiences with my father. He is a former physician, a former director of a department in that hospital, a long time staff member, a former trustee of the hospital. She was a 16 year old year with a bellyache.

A literal bellyache.

I was the one who felt like bellyaching, though.

When we reached the 6 hour mark, I began mentally writing a letter to the director of the hospital.

He had once given me his card and invited me to contact him anytime.

Of course, that was when I was there with my father.

On this day, though, I was there with my daughter. We were first placed in a room, then moved to the hallway (H2) because they needed the monitors in the room for another patient, then finally, near the end of our 8+ hours, moved back into a different room.

We watched/listened to the parade of other patients: the little girl who had been bitten in the face by a dog, the teenager wearing sunglasses and a hoody who was hearing voices, the diabetic who began removing his own IV, the little Captain America guy with a cough, the person who overdosed on prescription medicine, and so on. Emergency Rooms are busy places. I get that.

At high tide, lots of people were in hallway beds and chairs.

At low tide, we were the last to be moved out of the hallway.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I wished someone would occasionally stop by and say, “I know you’re still here. We’re working on (fill-in-the-blank). But, of course, no one did.

And I think that was the biggest difference between when I’m at the ER with my father and when I’m there with my daughter — the communication. With him, we are always kept well-informed. With her, I had to seek out nurses for nearly everything.

When she vomited, other than handing her a cup and a tissue, no one came. No one stopped by to ask how she was feeling. No one took the cup full of vomitus. We were invisible.

I was worried about leaving my father home all day. Some days he is so unsteady. Some days he is so confused. Some days, the two walk hand-in-hand.

I spoke with my father’s pastor while I was at the ER, telling her we might need help, but sometimes she just doesn’t get it. I needed help then, but she was two days down the road.

I messaged my brother so he would check on my father. Unfortunately his schedule never allowed him to.

I messaged my 12 year old daughter who was home with him so she could fix him lunch. She did.

I kept thinking, we’ll know more soon. We’ll be heading home soon — or we’ll be heading to surgery soon.

But the waiting. The waiting seemed interminable.

Finally, I told them that I was a caregiver. I needed them to start moving.

Even then the wheels turned slowly.

Please understand, I don’t hate hospitals. This particular hospital has been intertwined with my life for nearly 50 years. My father worked there. My husband worked there. Many other family members have worked there. My children have been born there and my mother died there.

But at the crux of most problems is communication – – or lack thereof. And that was yesterday’s main issue.

I don’t mind waiting. My daughter wasn’t dying. Other people may have been.

Just let me know that we haven’t been forgotten.

We were finally sent home with a we-don’t-know-but-come-back-if-anything-changes.

She’s still not able to eat.

What are my alternatives?

Coffee With Alyssa

If we were having coffee, I would put my hand on your arm and tell you that I’m sorry.

Sorry that we didn’t spend more time together.

Sorry that I didn’t seek you out for a quiet tête-à-tête on Friday or Saturday.

Sorry that I didn’t thank you enough for giving up the concert on the first night so you could watch me eat chicken and corn-on-the-cob (which I didn’t actually eat). Or thank you enough for the beautiful gift you gave me.

I could give you all my excuses — a whole litany of them. Regarding my dad, and my husband, and my kids, and my situation, and a dozen other phrases that begin with “my”.

My litanies do not belong in any liturgy

I used to joke that my spiritual gift was worry. I am really good at it. But I won’t make that joke anymore. It’s not funny.

Worry is a thief. It robs me of the moment I am in.

It robbed me of the sweetest part of the weekend, of being fully present with people I love, people like you.

But this weekend opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of Jesus’ words — “Be not anxious for this life… but seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:24, 33)

I’m a slow learner.

But I’m learning.

Radical Honesty

I just got back from a weekend conference that was full of encouragement and love.

Of course, the words that keep running through my mind are from a casual conversation that happened after the closing session, after the doxology and the revealing of the group art project, after more than a few hard good-byes.

In the standing around that happens as people are leaving, one person said to me, “I didn’t get a chance to really speak to you all weekend.”

Yeah, that happens when there are over 200 people present and none of them like shallow conversation. Everyone wants the deep. And deep takes time.

He continued, “Every time I saw you, you looked grumpy, and I wondered if you were mad at me about something.”

Oh, golly.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I stammered some ridiculous reassurance that I was NOT mad at him and I was sorry that I looked grumpy.

He had no idea that the weight of cares I was carrying was far beyond my strength.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have gone to the conference if I hadn’t promised to bring my daughter to it. To be radically honest, I didn’t enjoy the weekend.

Yes, that’s correct. A weekend full of encouragement and love that I didn’t enjoy.

I couldn’t enjoy.

My father had had a syncopal episode exactly one week before we were scheduled to fly out. I felt all panicky that day, running to get a chair for him because he couldn’t even make it into the kitchen. He slumped in it, staring blankly. His blood pressure dropped to 62/48 — and that was the first pressure I was able to get on him.

The next day, his doctor checked him and we talked about… um, honestly, I don’t even remember. I can’t remember a single word she said. But I remember her smiling and that I felt reassured. She gave me the business card of someone who can help me navigate the Long Term Care morass. I saved it so I could call her after I got back from my time away. It felt like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

My husband stayed with my father so I could go be encouraged. He used his vacation time  not for a getaway, not for something he wanted to do, but for a chance for me to get away. Self-sacrifice that I wasn’t fully appreciating.

My husband worked so hard to have everything perfect when I got home.

He even did the laundry.

I hate it when he does the laundry.

I opened the dryer this morning and found it FULL — and I mean how-did-air-even-circulate-through-this full. Sheets and towels, pants, sweatshirts, underwear, socks. Everything was jammed into one big load of laundry — because that’s how he does it.

I found myself grumbling as I took everything out. Irked. I have talked to him about this. I would have been happy to do the laundry. I AM happy to do the laundry.

It hit me as I was tugging apart pants tangled with sheets, that I am a grumpy person these days. The guy at the conference wasn’t wrong.

Yesterday I had to call a man about an order I had placed several weeks ago. He was grumpy. I could hear it in his voice, in the curtness of his words.

Finally he said, “I’m not aware of everything about this order. I just had major surgery.”

I knew his major surgery was six months ago. I wanted to tell him so, but I stopped myself.

We were like two heavy grit sandpapers rubbing against each other — each with our own hurts and burdens, each feeling we had the greater right to our irritability.

And isn’t that the way of the world?

If I was grumpy this weekend to any of you, I apologize.

Somewhere there is a balance between wet blanket and radical authenticity, between grumpy and happy, being encouraged and simply being.

Even though I didn’t enjoy everything, I was present.

My dry ground was watered — and that water will eventually seep to my roots.