The Hospital Visit MAG

October 22, 2008
By Catherine O'Donnell, Arlington Heights, IL

It was the day before Rosh Hashanah, but I wasn’t Jewish. I was heading into the hospital, but I wasn’t sick.

The lobby was like the starting gate at a racetrack: a line of wheelchairs filled with former patients, a group of healed people with their blinders on, chomping at the bit to go home. Many of them had balloons, teddy bears, and family members for their entourage. Lucky ducks.

My back pocket buzzed; I paused in a corner ­neatly arranged with cushioned chairs to take the call. It was Mom: “Honey, she’s not in the best shape right now. She may be asleep the entire time you’re there, but, you know, that’s okay.” After a few sighs and a good-bye, I managed to move my cinder block feet toward the elevator.

“Oh, he’s just doing so much better. It’s unbelievable! I mean, just yesterday he was practically comatose and now he’s up and walking,” a young woman with a colorful paisley scarf said into her cell phone as she exited the elevator. Lucky duck.

My fellow elevator riders were an older woman and two kids, presumably her grandchildren. The woman pressed the button for the third floor; I was going to the eleventh. I did the usual routine of ­gazing at anything but the other people in the ­elevator. Finding nothing terribly interesting about the certificate of inspection, I threw a quick glance toward the children. Their eyes glimmered with ­excitement. One hugged a teddy bear and the other grasped a construction paper card, complete with stick figures that, as children, we thought ­comparable to “Mona Lisa.” The elevator crept to a stop, the doors opened, and the kids bolted; the sign for the floor read “OB-GYN.”

“Let’s go see your baby sister.”

Lucky ducks.

The elevators opened with a ding on the eleventh floor. I walked to the nurses’ station and asked for ­directions to Room 1155, her room. 1151 … 1153 … 1155. I waited outside for a few seconds, becoming my own coach for a pep talk.

“We have to be strong for her,” my dad had told me the last time we visited. “She’s going through a lot right now, so we have to keep smiles on our faces.”

With a quick exhale, I entered the room. The woman on the bed had white hair and wrinkles. Her eyes slowly noted my presence and then lazily drifted back to the ceiling. The whiteboard next to her read, “Smith, Evelyn.” She wasn’t my grandma.

I stepped to the other side of the curtain. The woman on the bed was sound asleep, her mouth agape, her head tilted to the side. The cancer treatments left a halo of curly hairs on the pillow. Her nails were manicured, but her hands were swollen. She was hooked up to a menagerie of machinery and had a growing collection of bracelets on her left arm. A picture of the Virgin Mary and a rosary sat on her bedside table. Her whiteboard read “O’Donnell, Adonai” with a lopsided smiley face underneath. She wasn’t my grandma.

My 5ƈ" grandma had the heart of a lion and the fight of a tiger. She would tell stories about Boobie and his sister Boobette, troublemakers in the same league as Dennis the Menace, who always managed to cook up mischief. My grandma would sit us in front of her vanity filled with bottles of perfume and makeup, and brush our hair with her silver-­handled brush, a makeover of sorts. She would run her manicured nails through our hair and ask my ­sisters and me who our boyfriends were. When we told her we didn’t have any, she would throw out a few names, her way of “giving” us boyfriends. Mine was Templeton.

A cough roused me from my daydream. She wheezed twice and then settled back into her ­slumber. I rubbed her swollen, latex-like forearm.

“You lucked out with your room, Grandma. You got the window seat.”

The only response was a low grumble from her respirator.

Dad said conversation usually helped her, so I kept the news coming: Major League Baseball, my classes and activities, the details of the homecoming festivities.

Leaving the hospital, I felt slightly reassured. While I had been there, she hadn’t taken a turn for the worse, she wasn’t put on more medication, she didn’t develop further symptoms. She slept. With each of her breaths, each beep of the heart monitor, I felt more certain that she would pull through and be back to her normal storytelling self in no time.

That Thursday, Grandma’s game of ping-pong ­between the hospital and her nursing home added a new destination: hospice.

It was the day after Yom Kippur, but I wasn’t ­Jewish. We were saying good-bye, but I could barely speak a word.



Similar Articles

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 72 comments.


on Oct. 23 2012 at 2:25 pm
HorseFeathers151 SILVER, Amarillo, Texas
5 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
Actions, faces,names, and money are all forgotten in time. Words, words will last forever.

Beautiful writing. It was such a touching peice and connected with me on so many levels. Thank you. 

on Jul. 6 2012 at 4:32 pm
tinytechie SILVER, 34 Ridgewood St., Connecticut
7 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I've been singing since I was born" - Idina Menzel

Fantastic work. The entire time I wanted to know more and by the end, my heart ached for you. great hook. im jewish and the rosh hashanah thing was what got me to read it.

i'm so sorry for... well what you wrote about.

i can sort of relate. i can barely remember a time before my grandfather's ampupations. for the past 5 years he has been in and out of hospitalsand has had 5 amputaions. he is wheelchair bound. some days he is great. some days not so much. I wait.


on Jul. 5 2012 at 11:00 pm
PhoenixCrossing GOLD, Tinley Park, Illinois
14 articles 0 photos 179 comments
Incredibly touching. I'm obsessed with this piece. The emotion was spot on and your writing style is impeccable and almost humorous. I also relate. My grandfather died about two weeks ago and it still hasn't hit me head on. Stay strong <3

on Jul. 5 2012 at 8:00 pm
baby_sunshine BRONZE, Crawfordsville, Indiana
3 articles 0 photos 3 comments
Wow, absolutley beautiful writing and description. I can also relate... My mother died of cancer 3 years ago, and I know exactly how that feels... Going to visit her in the hospital was... traumatizing. Scary and... gave me hope at the same time. At least you had the courage to go. Stay strong.

on Jun. 13 2012 at 2:49 pm
TheShyOne BRONZE,
2 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
We are are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. ~Oscar Wilde

Wow.

 

That is all.


Lindsey31 GOLD said...
on Apr. 8 2012 at 2:21 pm
Lindsey31 GOLD, Rockford, Minnesota
11 articles 11 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
LIVE life ~ LAUGH always ~ LOVE lots

I LOVED this! I could relate to it so much. I lost my grandma to Alzheimer's which I wrote about in my article "Keep Smiling," if you'd like to take a peek at it. You deserved to win the Nonfiction Contest!

irishlass317 said...
on Mar. 17 2012 at 5:49 pm
irishlass317, Jefferson City, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 137 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I asked Jesus 'How much do you love me?' He answered 'This much.' And He streched out His arms and died."

Im sorry about the weird comment posts!! I didnt do that!! I submitted my comment and those came up, really really sorry!!!

irishlass317 said...
on Mar. 17 2012 at 5:47 pm
irishlass317, Jefferson City, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 137 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I asked Jesus 'How much do you love me?' He answered 'This much.' And He streched out His arms and died."

Please keep your comments positive and constructive. We'll remove anything inappropriate. Thanks!

irishlass317 said...
on Mar. 17 2012 at 5:47 pm
irishlass317, Jefferson City, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 137 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I asked Jesus 'How much do you love me?' He answered 'This much.' And He streched out His arms and died."

Please keep your comments positive and constructive. We'll remove anything inappropriate. Thanks!

on Feb. 2 2012 at 8:39 pm
_alannahurt SILVER, Snyder, Texas
9 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.
– Sidney Sheldon

I dont get it

irishlass317 said...
on Jan. 11 2012 at 9:13 pm
irishlass317, Jefferson City, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 137 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I asked Jesus 'How much do you love me?' He answered 'This much.' And He streched out His arms and died."

This is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love it!!!!!!!!! I am so sorry about your grandma, though. You are a great writer!!!! :D

Bambi67 SILVER said...
on Dec. 20 2011 at 2:15 pm
Bambi67 SILVER, Chicago, Illinois
9 articles 1 photo 58 comments

Favorite Quote:
remember that the future comes one day at a time.
Dean Acheson

love it, at some points I felt I was right there watching every step,every gesture you did..an amazing writing,keep it up!

on Dec. 20 2011 at 1:35 pm
JusticeLiberty BRONZE, Portland, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."
Aldous Huxley

This is gorgeous writing! It really expresses your love and your feelings!

on Nov. 6 2011 at 8:54 pm
cyberunfamous SILVER, Melbourne, Florida
8 articles 1 photo 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
Shutting your eyes and pretending something isn't happening doesn't make it not true.

I understand how you feel. My great-grandmother passed away from throat cancer when I was four or five. I love this peice and hope it gets publised in the TeenInk magazine. It deserves it, and so do you.

on Nov. 6 2011 at 12:40 pm
lovelivesinthesun GOLD, Columbus, Ohio
17 articles 7 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
-Sylvia Plath

this is lovely. my grandfather passed away in 2007 on shabbat. they lit the candles at 7:00 pm and it was a true miracle; the candles stayed like until 2:32 am. my grandfather died at 2:31 am.

suprgrl_21 said...
on Nov. 6 2011 at 9:59 am
i really like the theme you choose, although i was confused at some points. Well written though.

Naomi518 GOLD said...
on Oct. 15 2011 at 10:45 am
Naomi518 GOLD, Windsor, Connecticut
11 articles 15 photos 59 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light" ~Albus Dumbledore

I related to so much of this it's incredable. my grandma just died a week before Yom Kippur (I'm Jewish though). REALLY well written!

on Oct. 15 2011 at 3:12 am
IAmWhoIWantToBe PLATINUM, Manila, Other
41 articles 0 photos 650 comments

Favorite Quote:
‎"I’m learning how to drown out the constant noise that is such an inseparable part of my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I only have to follow my heart and concentrate on what I want to say to the world: I run my world." - Beyoncé

I wish Granny wouldn't be tortured by any illness. Great article.

on Sep. 23 2011 at 1:13 pm
littlebirdblue, Camden, South Carolina
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
patience is a virtue

this is such a touching story! my grandmother died in january from altzheimers, i can relate to how you feel. im so sorry for your loss.

freeday15 GOLD said...
on Jul. 19 2011 at 6:13 pm
freeday15 GOLD, Paramus, New Jersey
18 articles 0 photos 62 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Love is Blind" i truly believe in this it is in all of my pieces, and if u read between the lines then u will find it there...

wow this is rele good. my grandmother passed away almost a year ago and this was sad to read, i also wrote a piece on it. But i really liked yours very well done.


Parkland Book