it’s good to be useful

There have been a lot of bad things happening recently. I don’t want to write about those right now; instead I want to write about something good that happened. Because, as the Doctor says:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

This, what happened at the hospital Monday, is definitely in my pile of good things. And I need all of those that I can get.

My bestest friend, Amber, my sista-of-anotha-mista, lives with her great-aunt who raised her. We will call the great-aunt Miss Clavel, since I’m sure she’d prefer not to have her name on the scary scary internets, and she is often awakened by a sense that Something Is Not Right. These fantastic ladies are family to me; when I need someone, they are always always there. Miss Clavel had a pacemaker put in, decades ago, and then another to replace it, years ago, and it was time for a third. So when it was time to circle the wagons at the hospital, I only asked two things: do you want me there, and when should I show up?

We were a bit scared. Well. We were more than a bit scared, to be honest, but we tried to hide it, because Miss Clavel is seventy-eight years old and has a raft of health problems besides. She’s unhappy a lot because of them, though there’s nothing can be done that isn’t already. It’s gotta beat the alternative, though.

We were scared, but we hid it well. I locked mine down — long years of practice with that — because, going in there, I knew it was not about me. Nothing that happened in there, nothing I did, was about me. It was about being there for these people who love me and have taken me into their lives, and doing whatever I could do to make all of this easier. I had a Plan B, if things went wrong, though I hoped I wouldn’t have to use it; Plan A was mostly hang around, fetch and carry, keep things light, keep everyone feeling okay. I think I did that one all right, because luckily that’s what wound up happening.

I rolled up, parked the car, and walked in with such a lost look on my face that a volunteer asked if I knew where I was going. Nope. Not a bit. I told him what Amber had told me, which floor, which area. Instead of giving directions the man went with me, to the elevators and up them, around the busy hospital floor, until I was exactly where I needed to be. I thanked him then, profusely, and when I saw him again later I thanked him a second time too. He said he was happy to help.

I have a theory about people: if helping others (be they human or animal) does not feel good, if you do not consider it part of the standard list of things required to be A Decent Human, then there is something very wrong with you and I do not want to be anywhere near you. Which probably explains why I’m instantly mistrustful of most politicians.

I found the preop room, where Amber and Miss Clavel and Amber’s mother all were, and there were hugs all around, and jokes too. Miss Clavel seemed resigned perhaps, or expecting she wouldn’t make it; she kept saying she’d be okay no matter what the outcome was. It worried me, because if you are facing surgery that involves Odds, and you do not care what the outcome is, then… something is unhappy in your head and it needs care. But I didn’t say any of that then, because it wasn’t the right time; what I needed to do, and what I did, was keep the mood light, be reassuring, show confidence I did not feel completely, and stuff any fear I had so far down that nobody would see it.

“You’re gonna be fine,” I kept telling her. “Don’t be silly. You’re tough as nails.”

We talked to the anaesthesiologist (am I getting that wrong? I think I am; Firefox thinks so too), a few nurses, and the doctor doing the operation. He was interesting; he was from London and explained that for a procedure like this, he is more of an electrician, since the job mostly involved hooking a new pacemaker up to wires and ensuring everything went smoothly.

Amber’s mother left the preop room a while before it was time for Miss Clavel to be taken to the surgery. She doesn’t like hospitals, and she was very uneasy about the whole thing. I strongly dislike hospitals too, but again: it wasn’t about me. It was about what they needed, what they wanted. Before Miss Clavel was taken away for the operation, I asked if they’d like me to fetch Amber’s mother back. They said no, that they wanted me to stay with them, so that’s what I did. When we said our see-you-laters before they wheeled her off to the surgery, I kissed her cheek and told her I loved her, and she hugged me so tight.

She’s strong, though she looks frail.

Left a lovely face-smudge on my glasses, too. “AARGH I’M BLIIIND,” I said, Frankensteining down the corridor. Easily wiped away, but I needed to be funny about it first.

We took refuge in the cardiac-floor’s waiting room, which was pretty nice, with huge picture windows, a bathroom, snack machines, and a television telling me everything I didn’t care to learn about The Royal Baby.

In the caridiac waiting room. Note the Bordello hoodie, in case of cold.

In the cardiac waiting room. Note the Bordello hoodie, in case of cold.

View from the picture-windows in the waiting room; Tampa skyline center and blurry.

View from the picture-windows in the waiting room; Tampa skyline center, distant, and blurry.

The doctors had told us it would be about forty-five minutes, and it was: I’ve had to wait longer to get my oil changed. After that, we met up with Miss Clavel in the same pre-and-post-op room, where she was zonked out from the anaesthetic, but communicative. She told us she was thirsty, and asked us to drink lots of coffee and water for her. Easy. She had a problem with the cannula putting oxygen up her nose, so I reached over and adjusted the tubes behind her ear. “You should be a nurse,” she told me. “You fixed it!”

Later, she remembered none of that at all.

The nurses told us that Miss Clavel needed rest more than anything else, so we headed out, Amber’s mother looking lost and Amber herself looking like she had no idea what to do next.

“NOW WE EAT!” I told them. “LET’S GET SOME FOOD IN YA.” Because, when in doubt, food.

We went our separate ways then; I went with Amber for a fast-food pitstop (NOM) and then back to her place to let sweet little Charlie the dog outside, call everyone to let them know the surgery went okay, and have naps. Everything is better after you’ve had a nap, unless you’re me, because I cannot sleep for less than five hours without going totally loopy, and when it was time for us to go I failed at folding a throw blanket and made about as much sense as the Swedish Chef.

Um de hur de hur.

We got back in the scorching afternoon heat, where the feels-like temperature was a hundred plus, Too Hot For Mammals, and blasted the blessed aircon all the way down the interstate.

At the hospital again, we found our way back to Miss Clavel, and she was up and chatty, though in a good amount of pain. We stayed and talked with her for a nice long time, telling jokes, encouraging her, keeping her mood up as much as we could.

Amber hugged me in the parking garage before we parted ways, and thanked me for being there. I said of course, because you’re family, but what I meant was: thank you for wanting me there. Because I needed a day like that; I needed something to go right, I needed to have people want me around, I needed to know I was helping people I love. I’m sure she knew that’s what I meant.

Miss Clavel is, as I write this, at home, and feeling well enough to disregard doctor’s orders to stay in bed and rest, getting up for this and that, driving Amber to distraction. That’s good. Better than the thing we feared. I’ll call that a win any day.

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