Friday, August 19, 2005

Day Thirteen: Hospitals suck.

Didn't blog yesterday, well, because hospitals are weird and strange places. We all know that they are. We're supposed to go to them to get better, to be made whole, but, basically, they're set up in ways that make that almost completely impossible. Maybe it's reverse psychology. Maybe the theory behind them is "let's make this place as unpleasant, uncomfortable and unwelcoming as possible so people will want to get better quickly and go home." Maybe. Or maybe they just suck.

To back up, the Deadbeat Dad (which is the absolute opposite of what he is, especially since I'm mooching off of him right now) has been having some heart issues. While I was out of town this summer, he had an angioplasty (I had to look it up myself; I've heard it before, but had no real idea what it was) and got some stents put in. He needed one more, though. So yesterday morning, the Deadbeat Stepmom took him down to the hospital he works in (an X-ray tech for north of thirty years: my whole entire life) and he had surgery. By all accounts, this is routine surgery at this stage in the medical game, and there was little risk of anything bad happening. Still and all, my presence (as the dutiful, I mean son) was requested. And I dutifully complied.

However, as you might have guessed from where I started this off, I dislike hospitals, kind of intensely. I don't like the vibe of the places, I never have, even when I was a little kid and I'd go there to hang out with my dad. I got sick about ten years ago (my god, I'm old) and had to spend a couple of days in the hospital. That cemented it. I don't like them, and I certainly don't like just...hanging around in one. Which is what I had to do yesterday.

My dad's surgery was scheduled for absurdly early in the day, which, in my role as Deadbeat, I knew I wouldn't be there for, but I was expected to show up sometime after, at least to spell my stepmom, so she could come home and move the car. So that's what I do.

When I get there, the surgery's done and they're moving my dad to the recovery area. So we wait in the waiting room. That's a weird thing, too. Now this isn't the emergency room, so it's not really a high tension place. Most of the people who are here are like me, waiting for someone who's having a relatively routine procedure, something scheduled and planned in advance. We're all kind of bored and uncomfortable (because it's a hospital and comfort was the last thing on the designers' minds), but not really trying to connect with anyone, even the people we came with, because, well, frankly, someone could die and we all know it and we don't want to be caught thinking that, or be responsible for it. And there's somewhere else that we all want to be and we don't want to get caught being selfish, either.

As usual, my stepmom and I are the only interracial family in the place (my stepmom is white and somewhat...old. (I'd say "elderly" but she actually pretty spunky for an old lady)). So, also as usual, no one really knows that we're together. Which gives me a neat little view into the world. Remember that Eddie Murphy skit? The one where he puts on make-up and pretends to be white? It's kind of like that, when a Nice Jewish Lady (with a schmatte, no less) gets up and gives all the older white women cookies, ignoring, obviously ignoring, the darker skinned folks in the room. It's one of those New York gestures that's both cute and disgusting all at once.

Then another woman narcs on the whole lot of them, complaining to the nurse that there's supposed to be no eating the waiting room. Mighty funny.

Finally, the doctor lets us go back and see my dad and he seems okay, groggy, but good. Everyone seems relaxed and happy. I get that sense that I get on a plane. I'm not the best flyer in the world (I'm not the worst, either, but not the best) and the one thing that I use to keep myself from the full-on screaming mimis whenever the plane makes a noise is was the stewardesses (oh, excuse me, attendants). If they're not freaking out about it, if they're just going about their business, then it's cool. I'm not sure what I'd do if I saw one of them running up the aisle in a panic, though. Anyway, since everyone is cool (I almost wrote "backstage") in the recovery room, no one is urging us to say important things or hustling us out (a la the last bit in She's Having a Baby), then all is fine, my dad will be fine and I can go home. Except I can't.

I have to wait for him to get to his room. Thankfully, I get to leave and get something to eat while they do that, glom onto the free internet at Starbucks, etc. But then, back to the hospital I go. And I wait some more.

And finally my dad's in his room and seeming okay. A little tired, and who wouldn't be with people poking around in their innards all morning, and stitches and whatnot. But still, I sit there, with him, while my stepmom goes and gets some food for herself. And we proceed to have one of those conversations you only really have in a hospital. That's the thing about it. You're in a hospital. Death is prowling the halls and everyone knows it and all the art prints and pastel colors can't mask it. So you have these Serious Conversations that sort of mean something, or you want them to mean something, because, well, there's nothing else to do.

It was good to talk with my dad, and we were kind of continuing a conversation from a couple of days before, but still, there's always hanging over your head that in an instant something could start bleating, beeping, someone could come running down the hall and the whole thing could take a turn for the very much worse.

Still, I spent all day there. We watched most of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. My aunt and my almost-uncle (they're getting married in October) came up. And we all just stood there, semi-forced smiles on our faces, trying to, I don't know, pretend that we weren't in this utterly impersonal, antiseptic (which, yes, I acknowledge as good in a hospital), uncomfortable place, and that we're weren't all here against our wishes, really. Which is kind of the good part. We were there because my dad was going through something scary and uncomfortable and we were scared for him, but we didn't want him to be alone. Which is pretty decent of us, I must say.

Doesn't change the fact that, man, oh, man, do I hate hospitals.


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