Sunday, January 9, 2011

Being A Daughter, Missing My Kids (Babble)

Hospitals are strange places.  They are environments entirely about providing care to vulnerable people, with little in those environments that succeed in making those people feel comfortable.  Health care workers are people just like anyone else, so most of them are attentive and kind and a few are brusk and dismissive.  But it seems to me the whole experience of being stuck in a hospital room could be improved if we could just get some clever design people on the problem.

Spending days in the hospital in Detroit with my dad has been both sweet and disheartening.  I’ve had time to observe what things here work well and what things could be better.  It’s amazing how far a gentle word from a nurse can go, and frustrating to see how much can (and does) go wrong when people don’t communicate.  My dad right now has me and my brother and my mom, as well as friends who happen to be doctors popping in from time to time to check on everything, and all of us advocate for him, double check what we’re told, and are working to keep my dad’s spirits up.  I can’t imagine what the hospital experience is like for people who must endure it alone.

In terms of my dad’s condition, everything seems to be one step forward and another step back.  Recovering from surgery is more difficult since he also has a broken arm.  Certain elements are in conflict.  One minute we’re being told he needs to start walking, and the next they discover something which requires he keep still.  Nothing is simple.  All of it is painful and confusing.

But I am here.  I am my dad’s daughter, and although I’m not a doctor I can prop his hand on a pillow when it gets too swollen and scratch his back when he sits up and write emails as he dictates messages to people.  It was more upsetting dealing with the fact of my dad being in the hospital from afar because helplessness is stressful.  If I can make my dad smile I don’t feel as helpless, and it’s easier to make him smile from his bedside.  I’ve been playing my viola which my dad has enjoyed.  (The staff asked if we could please leave the door open so they can hear it in the hall, which is flattering, so I had a larger audience than I had anticipated, but the only listener who truly matters right now is my dad.)

It’s interesting being once again firmly a member of my original family.  Ian is home with the kids managing our life in Milwaukee where I am the mom, and I am back where I grew up being a daughter and a sister.  It’s a strange shift, but not an unwelcome one.  My brother and I are trying to tend to my mom as much as dad.  We’re making sure she gets time to sleep in and finish some work while we’re at the hospital, and in the evenings together before we go to bed we laugh.  It’s good to hear my mom laugh.

I miss my kids, though.  I know they are fine, and I’m sure they miss me once in awhile, too, but as much as I like the break from being responsible for their needs for a little bit, I miss the snuggles and the hugs and the little voices and the unexpected cute moments.  The only other time I’ve been away from them this long was when I took a trip to Alaska a year and a half ago.  I hadn’t realized how much I’ve liked Mona’s recent habit of seeking me out for a quick snuggle before she goes to sleep until it was missing.  She finds me wherever I am in the house after she’s brushed her teeth and put on her pajamas and says, “I thought you’d like some company.”  And we hug and cuddle before I tell her she needs to climb in bed.  I miss Aden showing me how far she’s gotten in the book she’s reading.  I miss Quinn looking at me like he can’t believe his good fortune that I’m there.  But I’m not there.  And I won’t be for several days yet.

But this is part of being in a family.  Love comes with responsibilities.  My children are safe and warm and fine at home with their dad and they can survive without me for awhile.  My dad and my mom and my brothers need me now.  I want my children to know they can trust me when I say I will do everything I can to be there for them, and this is part of the proof.  I’ve made that same promise to the family I grew up with, and my children can see me following through.  Love needs to be stronger than our individual comforts and desires.  It means doing the right thing even if it takes me away from my kids from on occasion.

Here in the hospital, I’m enjoying time with people I seldom get to spend so many hours with.  I like filling in the spaces on a crossword puzzle for my dad since he can’t use his own hand, and helping my brother find the right word for an email he’s working on, and getting to sit quietly and have lunch with just my mom.  Despite the scary circumstances and the assault on my father’s dignity, time in the hospital is not gloomy.  We’re taking each challenge as it comes and finding humor and beauty where we can.

I apologize if this post is more disjointed than most.  Time in the hospital is strange.  It’s like waiting in line.  There is a lot of time, but just enough constant interruption that you can’t get anything done.  Most of these sentences were written many hours apart.  We sit.  We entertain dad until he needs to rest.  We stop everything for pulmonary specialists and surgeons and people checking blood sugar and blood pressure and fluids and oxygen….  Sometimes we go with dad as they wheel him in his bed downstairs for more tests and we wait there for a long time.  Lots of time and no time at all.  Being in the hospital is the temporal equivalent of “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

And now I’m just homesick and I miss my kids, so here is a mess of photos I just downloaded onto my computer and want to post purely for my own amusement.  In the spirit of this weirdly cobbled together post, enjoy:

Mona’s favorite Christmas gift this year was a potholder kit.  We now have many potholders.

We recently made applesauce.  Quinn liked to stir and add apples to the pot.  Mona and Aden did a bunch of peeling.  There were peels everywhere, but the applesauce tasted great.

A neighbor gave us a gingerbread house kit.  I was impressed how well the kids worked together on a single house.

These were habitats Mona was supposed to make for some reason for some other kid’s presentation at school.  I still haven’t figured out what the whole story was there, because I don’t believe (the way Mona tells it) that the teacher announced the night before it was due that she was supposed to build three habitat displays for some other kid’s report, but she got her sister to help and they were busy all evening with paper and scissors and tape.

And this was the last picture I took of my kids before I hopped in the car to go to Detroit.

Love those little faces.  Time to finish that crossword puzzle with my dad.

No comments:

Post a Comment