February 19, 2018

a corner

P.J. is having gastric sleeve surgery next week.  This marks the culmination of a frustrating year-long journey, a winding road dotted with the lemonade stands of insurance bureaucracy and less-than-perfect communication from her providers that resulted in delay after delay, each one a pang of injustice.  She has put one foot in front of the other with fortitude and has now arrived resolute at the gate at the end of that road.

I'm ready to be her Wonder Woman support person.  No, not ready.  Chomping at the bit.  I'm nesting, cleaning the house so that she'll have a tidy, spotless environment to come home to from the hospital.  Bleach the shower.  Linens in super-hot water.  Dust.  Jesus Jumped-Up Christ, those shelves in the refrigerator.  Is there room to put what she needs in the kitchen cabinets?  Toss stuff.

I'm going to make sure she has hot and cold running liquids and protein shakes and soft foods.  Break out that little food processor and the portion-control dishes.  Watch the clock and bring meds.  Add e-books to her Kobo.  All this will only be needed for a few days once she's home, but I want to serve as soldier and mother and everything in-between.  I will provide for her.  "When you're needed is when you shine," she told me.

I'm also scared shitless.

The odds are a good bit lower than 1% that there will be anesthesia complications and she'll never wake up.  She's had surgery requiring a general twice before.  I get that.  Logically.  And she's chosen this of her own will and any pain and discomfort that accompanies it, and the path afterward, learning to be a sleeved person, are also her choices.  And she's safer having this surgery than she is out driving on any given day.  I know that.  Rationally.

But I have this minor problem with people taking her away and sticking needles in her.  A wee, itty-bitty problem.  She had to have an injection at an outpatient center once, years ago, and I drove her there and sat in the magazine-strewn sitting area for People Who Sit And Patiently Wait.  They took her away, to a room, and I couldn't follow.  Yeah, she was in a room a whopping thirty feet down a small hallway, and she made the appointment and asked for the injection, and I can't keep her from pain in life, but they took her away.  I was wound up so tight that you could have plucked and played a tune on me.  They had her in a room and they were hurting her.  Any time a random nurse would walk past, I would start to jump up.  A lot of random nurses wandered past in that eternal forty-five minutes.  My quads got a workout.  I sat with clenched fists and very good posture and the inherited shaking leg, pupils probably dilated.  I was fighting an impulse, you see, to go back there and take the baseball bat I didn't have to all of the doctors who might be considering approaching her with a needle or sharp tool or anything else that would hurt her.  When she finally emerged (just fine, of course) and went to pay at the check-out desk, I stood rigid against the wall behind her.  And when we walked outside, into the parking lot, I collapsed and wept and shook uncontrollably, in spite of awareness that this was becoming All About Me and wasn't supposed to be, as I wasn't the one who just got all shot up with a great, big needle.  They hurt her! something in me screamed.

She'll have the same surgeon I had.  I trusted him with my life - twice, as I had revision surgery two days after the first operation - and I trust him with hers.  But what this should look like is me sitting in the spacious but crowded waiting area, tense, the clock moving so slowly it sometimes jumps backwards, knowing that a bunch of people have taken her away and are hurting her, cutting her open and sticking things inside of her body and taking things out, guarding her very life's blood.  It should look like me jumping up and running down the hall, bursting through the doors of the operating area, knocking out any interfering personnel on the way Jackie Chan-style, and then -- what?  What?  What would I do?  Impulses don't plan so well.

It isn't going to look like that.  At all.

For one thing, I do martial arts about as well as a four-year-old.  One who hasn't taken tae-kwon-do classes.  At our local dojo, there are classes for toddlers who could whoop my ass.

And I won't be in the waiting room.  I've done my tour there, waiting for them to tell me that my baby boy made it through surgery after they took him away and cut him open, broke his rib cage, meddled with his heart, and many hours later, returned him as a swollen mummy, sleeping peacefully and engulfed in bandages.  I remember the carpet and the walls and the secretaries of the waiting room, the smell and the coordinates on the Earth, the exit and restroom signs and the April 1998 copy of Golf Digest on the table to my left.  They've since remodeled, but I don't forget.

We've been mindful for months of the need to find me alternative accommodations while I wait.  About six hours to kill, knowing my Klonopin will be sugar-pill pee-water against my volcano of anxiety.

They're taking her away.  What if I never get her back?

Yesterday, we went to the hospital and walked around.  We vetted a few places for me to pass the time, but all of them had room for loads of people and the chairs looked uncomfortable and there was that smell.  Nothing qualified, until we found a little-used meditation room tucked away in a forgotten corner of a low-traffic area in the hospital.  Inside, it was dim-lit, no hospital smell, and a corner of the tiny room held an invitingly cushioned love seat, a small table, and an electrical outlet, which will be needed if I'm to plug into my lifeline, my chosen family.  Just those things, and a table across the room containing a Bible and the Q'Ran for those who find comfort in such things.  I can park the suitcase with all of the things for P.J.'s room later that evening, and get updates regarding the surgery on my phone.

I sat down on the love seat and claimed it.  "This.  This right here.  Yes.  Me.  Here," I said.

P.J. is having surgery.  She is not thinking of herself.  She is taking care of me, soldier and mother and everything in-between.  She has provided for me.  She continues to be the bravest person I've ever known.

I will be blessedly alone (but not alone) while I wait for them to bring her back, and the sense of being tucked away and hidden in a safe pillow-fort room has calmed much of the internal storm of panic and dread.  I will have a place to be.  I will have a corner.

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