Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I've had only two crying jags

The first was when Justin told me he loved me.

My mom had had emergency double surgery on Saturday -- her appendix was so swollen it had forced its way through her abdomen wall in a giant appendix hernia. She went to the hospital with a bad stomach pain Saturday morning and it was so dire they wheeled her RIGHT into surgery to remove her appendix and truss up her abdomen wall. And she'd had arthroscopic surgery on her knee a week earlier and was still (obviously) recovering from that. One more surgery and she gets the fifth one free!

My family had told me not to come to Iowa after the double surgery because she was recovering as well as could be expected and was so doped up she wouldn't even know I was there. But on Monday at 2:00 they called and said she'd taken a dramatic turn for the worse and I should drop everything and get to Iowa as soon as possible.

Justin was out of town for the weekend, so I called to tell him I was taking off. Right before he hung up, he told me he loved me. I suddenly knew I couldn't utter another word without erupting in an explosive sob, so I hung up. And then it came: the first horseman of the emotional apocalypse. I wasn't sure if it was out of fear or sorrow or shock or the sudden crystaline realization that I'd found someone whose love is as profound and enduring and elementally foundational as the one whose loss I suddenly faced. But my outburst was epic. Greek tragedy epic. Joan Crawford epic. And it was just the beginning.

A few moments later I'd recovered enough to find my duffel bag and my phone charger and I was grabbing clothes out of my closet ... and I froze. Faced with a wall of shirts I suddenly realized I had to pick exactly the right shirt. Because it might be the last shirt my mother ever sees me in.

Again with the post-nuclear sobs.

But I eventually pulled myself together and got on the road and the traffic couldn't have been better and by the time I pulled up to the hospital in Iowa five hours later Mom had rallied and we cried in each other's arms when she saw me. And I almost had my third eruption when my little nephew hugged me and made me promise to take care of his grandma when he went home to bed that night. But I somehow kept myself together enough not to scare the bejeezus out of him with my epic wails.

Mom is now doing fine, but she has a long recovery ahead of her. And before she can leave the hospital she needs to prove that her digestive tract is working again. If you know what I mean. Which of course with me in the room means endless poop jokes. And the occasional awkward prayer circle with a hospital chaplain who asks his god to bless my mom with a fart. I KID YOU NOT. When my mom loopily requested a fart from a hospital administrator who'd poked her head in the room to see if everything was OK, the woman gamely promised to order up a visit from the fart fairy. AGAIN, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

This being my family, there have been many other moments that make us laugh until we fart. At least most of us: The covered dinner plate brought in by the dietitian that when the cover was dramatically removed turned out to contain ... a popsicle. The morphine-induced confusion Mom had between the words popsicle and suppository when she tried to tell us she'd received the latter. The slightly offended OR nurse when Dad promised Mom he'd notify the funeral home before she was put under for surgery. (Mom's working as a funeral home hostess in her retirement and Dad was going to call to tell them she was going to miss that afternoon's funeral.)

But it's late and I'm exhausted and my hands smell like hospital soap. And, come to think of it, *I* haven't pooped since I got here.

I guess we need to pray for more than farts.

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