This is a story I wrote based on an actual conversation with my mom. It was last summer, when she was in the hospital.
A Hell of a Way to Run a Hotel.
“Annie, lock that door for me, will ya? I had people walking in and out of there all night. Anybody off the street can just walk right in here on me. Lock it.”
“Mom, I told you, that’s the door to the bathroom. Nobody is going to come in here from that door. That door doesn’t go outside.”
“Bull. I went out that door last night and I was walking in a huge field. It was full of these yellow flowers. Like a big field of yellow daisies, and the sun was shining. And that guy was there and he…was…doing… something? Anyway, and I saw your Dad and that little girl. And we needed to go over, and, well I can’t remember now…”
“Mom, what are you talking about, you didn’t go anywhere. You were right here in this hospital bed. You’re on the third floor. There can’t be any big field through there.”
“I’m in the hospital? This isn’t a hospital. What am I in the hospital for?”
“Don’t you remember? You fell in the bathtub and scraped your leg. The paramedics were worried about your blood pressure. So they brought you here, to this hospital. It was last night.”
“Paramedics? Annie, what are you talking about? I don’t remember any paramedics. This isn’t a hospital, it’s a hotel. This seedy joint, they have me in here in this old back porch, it looks like a mess. Full of all this old junk.”
I look around at the pristine walls and floors of the hospital room, taking in the IV stand, the vitals monitor hooked to my mother, the oxygen tube and drip of saline going in, the urine catheter going out. She seems so frail, her hair a white soft blur around her head. I need a moment to compose myself. What did my sister say, redirect, distract, change the subject. “Mom, I heard on NPR that there’s this guy who has to dress up as a whooping crane to go to work. He feeds whooping crane chicks and they try to fool the birds into thinking that the guy is their parent, that he is another whooping crane. Isn’t that crazy?”
“Oh my word,” she laughs. She fiddles with the blood-ox clip on her finger, the monitor beeping softly. “Honey, I hate to interrupt you but I have to get to a bathroom and pee. I’m gonna pee this bed if I don’t get up.” She moves in the narrow bed, tugging at the blankets.
“No Mom, you can’t get up, they have a Foley catheter in,” I say, using the medical term I heard from the nurse. “If you get up, it’ll pull out. Just go ahead and go, it's okay.”
She looks confused, more confused than usual. Her hand goes under the blankets to verify this information. “I don’t know. What do they have that in there for? I never heard of such a thing.”
“Just relax, Mom. Everything is okay. Hey, you know they said on the news today they tried to rescue a cat out of a tree… he was stuck up there for a week. They ended up using a fire hose, blasted that cat right out of that tree. They caught him with a big tarp, like a trampoline. He was wet and mad as hell, but he was alive.”
“Well, that’ll teach him,” she says. She looks around vaguely. I can see the next question forming behind her eyes.
“Hey, Mom. Did I tell you I quit my job? I was working at the orange juice factory but I couldn’t concentrate. Then they were going to hire me at the Goodyear plant, but I was too tired. I guess it was better than my job at the sewage treatment plant, where the boss was always giving me crap.”
She laughs. Simple puns and knock-knock jokes work best, now. She used to be able to follow elaborate stories. “You’re funny, Annie. Hey listen, do me a favor, lock that door for me, will ya? I had people coming in and out of there all night, last night. Lock it, okay?”