I never grew Virginia creeper,
this twining shiny vine rapidly
unfurling its five-leafed bouquet,
yet it crept into my garden, stealthily
wrapping its strong tendrils round
stems and bushes and trees
in lusty demanding embrace,
attaching onto the house foundation,
embedding into cement and wood.
Month: September 2019
A week and a half before, I went to Seattle to see my mother for the last time. I tried to coax her to eat and to move, but at sixty-five pounds she was declaring herself no longer part of the living world. She was, quite deliberately, choosing to die.
When your heart stopped, I was surrounded by people who did not know you. People who would not recognize your tired eyes, your weakened smile, the sheepish facial expressions that always accompanied your soft-spoken words. I had already started a new rotation at another hospital and was no longer a part of your care team, though I checked in periodically to see how you were doing.
When I received the news, there was no space to process you. I was standing in a crowd of white coats, and I was utterly alone. These were not the white coats who had spent morning after morning with you, checking in to see if your pain had lessened, if you were feeling more upbeat. These were not the white coats who had pored over each lab, each scan, each part of your history in the hopes of unearthing a clue we had previously missed, of uncovering a piece of the puzzle that would explain what brought you to us a few weeks earlier.
Yet three months pass there across a table.
“The recipe, please!” I ask, eyes widen.
Behind the kitchen stove, a soft response
In foreign tones, “Lo siento, querida.”
“But do not pity me,” says the smile.
Lying in a hospital bed while awaiting heart surgery, I looked at my teen daughter and my parents, then smugly pointed out the irregular slashes on the cardiac monitor.
“See these?” I said. “They’re called PVCs. My doctor is going to fix them. Make them all go away.”
The asymmetrical rhythm, a frequent and annoying pattern of multiple skipped heartbeats, had plagued me for the last three years, despite my swearing off caffeine and alcohol and trying different cardiac and thyroid medicines under my doctor’s supervision.
It was one of those mornings when the light penetrated a window with a fierceness that could drown even a hospital room in a 10-foot blanket of warmth. In room 5307, this brightness shed light on frailty. He felt warm, alone. Bony ends obviated their presence beneath crisp white linen.
I sat beside him, agonal respirations as last words. I shuffled between bedside and nursing station telemetry monitor, focused on the upper right screen. 70. 54. 45. 30. Lifeless waveforms. A pause and end in pulsation. His hand in mine with no flinch, no change, and yet so much had passed.
I did not know to ask for a bereavement day to mourn a baby I hadn’t told anyone existed. Since they did not know, how could I ask for comfort, acknowledgement of loss, special handling in the weeks following the miscarriage? Everyone at work felt mean and cruel and quick.
My husband hadn’t been particularly happy about the baby; we were just digging out from the first two, so I was pretending to be put out. How do you grieve what you said you didn’t want when every ounce of you was thrilled, and no one knew of your rock-skipping, wing-flapping happy?