Shortly after I graduated from high school and a few days after I turned eighteen on August 8, 1965, I entered the hospital for surgery. A chronic pain on the left side of my abdomen had intensified, making it impossible for me to leave my bed.
I was numb. I barely noticed Ma holding my right hand and Dad holding my left. My cheeks felt wet, but I had no awareness that I was crying. I lay in the hospital bed and realized that my future was as barren as the dull white wall across from me. My hope to become a mother was shattered. My hope to become a wife was destroyed; no one would marry a woman with only a minimal chance of becoming pregnant.
The next day, Ma and Dad brought me a gift: a plush monkey, my favorite animal. Like me, my monkey wore a bandage around its tummy. Unlike me, my monkey grinned a grin of hope.
For the rest of my hospital stay, I clutched that monkey. I whispered my concerns to it. It always listened–and always answered with a smile of hope. When the nurse removed my bandages, I removed the bandages from my monkey. Together, my monkey and I went home. Every time I had dismal thoughts about my future, I would hug my smiling monkey and feel hope.
That monkey traveled with me to college, graduate school, my marital home, and the delivery room–twice–when I gave birth first to my son and then, two years later, to my daughter. It went with me when my “female problems” led to a hysterectomy.
Although my medical problems were real ones, which threatened to erode my hope, I had the best medicine ever: a cuddly monkey with a hopeful smile.