Monday, July 06, 2009

All I Know Is That To Me

On Friday morning, I brought fresh strawberries, sour cherries, blueberries and a loaf of garlicky spinach mozzarella bread to the hospital room. Sunday morning, it was grapes and Pepperidge Farm cookies. Last night, I smuggled in a bottle of Bailey's, paper cups and my laptop full of pictures. I have an adorable grandson, and I know how to use pictures of him. Anyway, when I broke out the bottle, Isabella cheered right up. She took a few drops of it and rubbed it on her husband's tongue, knowing that would be his wish. We then gave him a few drops of water on the sponge, which he drank even in his morphine drowse.

Isabella poured the Bailey's with a question not quite reaching her lips.

Tata: We [I pointed around the room at all of us] are the bad kids.
Isabella: Why do you say that?
Tata: I've known us a long time.
Isabella: Most people didn't know that about me where we worked together.
Tata: You held your cards close to your vest.
Isbella: And two aces in my bra and a bottle in the bottom drawer.

Isabella has been my friend for a very long time. Her daughter Trout and I met when she was 17, naked and unabashed; I was 14, terrified and trying to stuff myself into my gym locker. You know: to save time. Later, Trout's brother Neil was one of my best friends and dance partner in some high school musical. For four people attending a deathbed, we laugh a lot. It's a little jarring to the doctors when they walk in on us yapping about pictures of my red dining room or time trials on the first day of the Tour de France. Neil's daughters play soccer at a serious level, so they were thrilled that I'd had physical therapy in the same gym as the players of Sky Blue FC.

Tata: A Brazilian player on the next stationary bike laughed at my jokes, though she didn't speak English.
Neil: Which player? Rosana?
Tata: I think so. There was also one woman with fantastic tattoos.
Neil: That's Natasha Kai. She runs onto the field and fouls someone. BLAM! Hi, I'm here!
Tata: I totally wanted to talk with her about the tats but I was always doing something stupid and awkward when she walked by. I couldn't bring myself to pretend I was cool while ankle weights made me keel over sideways.

Isabella's youngest son is married to the daughter of the Head of Housekeeping in the hospital. This means special things, like a fan for the patient, which seems to have come from the Payroll Department surreptitiously. We wonder if the hospital's checks are going out sticky, but there's nothing to worry about. Auntie takes care of it.

For days now, I've been level and bright in the hospital room, and exhausted at home and at work. This morning, I arranged a place for the inevitable memorial, which I worked out with all the patience of a German shepherd gnawing a soup bone. Tonight, Isabella caressed her husband's arm and said to him, "It's okay. Go for a long walk into the woods." For the first time, I averted my eyes and lost my breath.



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