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Sunday, December 4, 2016

In the Hospital

It's December 2016. The thoughts of December 2015 have been haunting me lately. They spring up at unexpected and minor provocations and hit me smack on the nose.

My mother was first hospitalized in July 2015. The second time was October. The third and last time was Christmas Day.

What pop into my head nowadays are all these mundane details in memory, sharpened by the anxiety and horror in those moments.

For example, what just occurred to me a moment ago was the adult diapers she had to wear during her hospitalization, which were sometimes replaced by urinary catheter in order to collect urine samples for lab analysis. The discomfort and indignity of being in a hospital really irked her, and each time she was desperate to go home, particularly the last time.

She was always quite particular about her appearance and comfort, both of which cannot be maintained in that environment. I am much the same way. Even as a child I was not very tough in rough conditions. I chafed at noise and other disturbances and required a slightly compulsive level of cushiness. When my dad took me on a trip to Hunan, I was miserable in hot, crowded trains buzzing with mosquitoes, suffering in agitated silence. So I understood her irritation with the hospital gown, the inability to bath or shower for days, the endless needle pricks, and the lack of familiar faces and voices around her. I understood, in my bone, her horror and hatred of spending night after night alone in a hospital room.

All three times, I flew to LA and visited her every day. The second hospitalization lasted almost 10 days and frayed everyone's nerves. One day she complained to me that my brother was too selfish to come visit her and avoided his responsibility by "sending his younger sister to do all the heavy lifting." I secretly agreed with her and resented his absence. Later however I realized that his avoidance was driven by a terror, because he was weaker than I and much, much more afraid of the stench of death. I was not. On this particular issue, I am quite tough.

I still am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of hospitalization, just like she did.

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