She’d made the walk too many times. It was becoming an unhappy routine. Park on 15th Street, check at the information desk, sanitize her hands, check in with the nurse and then put on a happy face. This time it was 4 East. Same dingy hospital just a different floor. Frazzled nurses and the smell of cleaning solutions. No wonder people didn’t like hospitals.
She was hoping this time would be different. That maybe they had made a mistake and her mom was totally fine and ready to go home. That she would look great and healthy and wouldn’t need her walker. But this time was no different from the last three times. She didn’t look great. She looked tired and old. The oxygen tubes in her nose wheezed a little as one had come out of one nostril. Her eyes were closed and her mouth hung open.
Half of her wished she could back up out of the room and let her sleep and the other half wished she would wake up and see her there and they could have their visit.
Wishing. Hoping. It seemed that she did too much of that these days.
They chatted for a while. Caught up on the latest news and gossip. She complained about the hospital food and asked for more water. After a while she closed her eyes and sank back in the pillows. It was time to go and let her get some rest.
The walk back to the car was harder than the walk in. If she left now would she be there tomorrow?
She made it to the car before it hit her.
She’s going to die.
I don’t want her to die.
Shit. I’m going to die.
Wait. No. I don’t want to die. Crap.
Why am I being so self-absorbed? Of course I’m going to die. Everybody dies at some point.
But she might not make it through the night? I’ve got years to live.
But if she dies then I will die too.
I’m not ready to die.
Beep, beep, beep.
The seat belt light was blinking and beeping at her. The rain had started again and it was getting dark. She needed to get it together before she got home or her seven-year old would know that something was wrong as soon as she walked in the door. She would need to put on her happy face again.
As soon as she walked in the door the questions started.
“She’s good honey. I taped your picture to her bed so she can see it every time she wakes up. It made her really happy.”
“Is she going home soon?”
“I hope so sweetie. I really hope so.”
“Does she know it’s my birthday tomorrow?”
“Yes, I told her.”
“How old is Granny?”
“How old will you be when I’m your age?”
She had to think about that for a minute. Quick math wasn’t her strong suit.
“Ummmm. Ninety two”
No, wait that couldn’t be right. She looked at her husband hoping she was wrong. He nodded. Yup. She would be ninety-two. Shit.
“I’ll still love you when you are ninety-two.”
“Does Granny know that you still love her?”
The Best Thing in Life is simple reminders that life is precious and it’s never too late to say I love you.