Two floors below is Labor and Delivery…headquarters for joy and hope and tender beauty. Youth and happiness. New beginnings. One floor below is Oncology…beginnings and farewells. The twain in contest.
Every elevator ride here hosts a load of native humanity. Disease and dotage pay but vague heed to where you went to school and who your daddy was. I just rode up with new friends I’d made in the lobby…two little African American girls dressed as ballerinas. So damned cute. Instant ear-to-ear smile on my face. I couldn't help but feel joy making its way out of my heavy heart. Their grandma was taking them to see their new little brother. One was all-in…ready to see her baby. Her little-er, cuter sister couldn't have given less of a damn. She had a singular mission. To push every button on the elevator panel and she did. I liked that the elevator became a local. It caused us to take longer to get to our floors and I giggled with the ballerinas. Grandma didn’t.
These critical care nurse angels—they just finished bathing and pampering and moisturizing and swathing my vegetative ventilated mother. She smells good and her skin is pink and soft and healthy looking. And I'm still talking to her as if we were sitting at the kitchen table. And then it feels stupid because even if she might be hearing me, she's unable to respond to any command...any half-hearted "squeeze my hand if..."
And trust me—the fact that all of her adult children are in town, standing beside her bed holding her and talking to her and loving up on her—if she could respond—her eyes would be wide open. And she would tell my little brother that he needs to lose weight and my sister would hear my mama say apologetically that my sis is still pretty...even with the ravages of the lupus that mother passed to daughter. She’d tell me that I look tired and I’d tell her that she’d look tired too if she’d slept the last three nights in a recliner by her ICU bed—anything but lulled by the lock-step never miss a beat cadence hiss-puff of her respirator. And I'd tell her that I'm happy, insistent actually, to be spending night four in the same spot since she'd spent many a night never leaving my side.
I desperately need some of the life affirming delight that lives elsewhere in this chamber. I'm going two floors down to look at those other guests and welcome them to earth while I manage the ennui associated with my mom not being able to decide to exit it. I’ll angle for another dose of joy from little ones who are also pink and swathed and bundled and smelling good. Little ones not yet burdened with reconciling the value of remaining in this temporal world while sorting out their readiness to let go of it—the twain in contest. Their motivation and focus is sweet and pure and simple and I envy it. Their twain?
Tatas and Milk.