International Writers Magazine: Life Moments
Elastic Always Gives Up
I had gathered
up a garment bag of clothing and shoes for my friend and neighbor
who had wrecked her car. It was a terrible, one-car accident leaving
my neighbor hospitalized with a broken back and concussion. While
driving to the hospital, I was thinking of the feeling of absolute
aloneness in that hospital bed. My friends family was far
away and elderly. I was her only lifeline to her home. The responsibility
was daunting and the delivery of the clothing was not a simple task.
I relayed a bit
of the phone conversation Id had with her that morning
blue checked top that is hanging in the blue bedroom closet, the navy
blue slacks that are hanging in the study closet,
" Very precise
definite easy to follow. Id taken a garment bag and overstuffed
it as was habitual with me. Not it was sliding around in the backseat
of my car. I couldnt wait to get rid of that bag, couldnt
wait to pretend things were normal, usual. The Christmas spirit didnt
urge me to spend time in a hospital. I could almost smell that invasive
antiseptic colorless smell, hear the starched uniforms rustle.
Not present day, I was back to that most memorable of all my past Christmases.
I was ten. Emergency surgery had not prevented my appendix from rupturing.
This was meaningless to a 10-year-old. All I was aware of was four people
holding me down while a foul smelling black rubber mask was held over
my face and green smoke swirled in front of my eyes.
Four days I had spent in a sort of twilight sleep only waking to be
put back to sleep. Though barely conscious, my memory of the hospital
smells, the hushed voices of visitors, and a crying child were indelibly
inscribed on memory and would pop into my consciousness at unsuspected
This was a moment I expected the memories and I wasnt surprised.
The automatic doors whooshed open and I was in the lobby totally empty
of people, information deskemptyelevatorempty. I pushed
"7" and silently hoped I was on the correct side of the four
Amazingly, I walked straight to my friends room, without guidance.
I adjusted the garment bag and fixed the smile on my face. Briefly,
those grim faces and heads shaking from side to side flashed through
my memory like an electric shock. Grim looks did not belong in the hospital.
The room was tiny. I scarcely had room to step inside. The bed in the
center of the room held my friend, her blonde hair waving through the
shampoo. A nurses aide in pink smock was squeezed behind the bed,
washing my friends hair.
"Hi!" I smiled brightly. "Bonnie, scoot over a little,
I need a shampoo, too." I joked.
"Jessie, Im glad to see you. Did you have trouble finding
everything?" Bonnie asked. I knew she hated to bother me.
"I think so, youll have to look to be sure."
"Thank you so much," Bonnie said squinting as a glop of bubbles
ran over her forehead. "This is my friend, Jessie, who has brought
me some clothes."
"Oh-h-h, such a good friend," said the aide with a Spanish
"Can you stay a while?" Bonnie asked.
"No, not this time, Bonnie. I have to go home to rescue my underwear
from my husband. Hes helping me by doing the laundry, but he always
puts my underwear in the drier and ruins the elastic. Most of the underwear
I have now, has no elastic and it sometimes falls down."
Bonnie and the nurses aide laughed loudly. "There, see Im
already making you laugh and upsetting you."
"No, its good to laugh," the nurses aide said.
"Well, I promise to be back soon," I meant it at that moment.
"Im going to the re-hab hospital tomorrow." Bonnie said
it matter of factly.
"Dont they think thats soon?" I asked.
"No, they say not."
"That must mean youre on the mend! Im glad, but Ive
got to go now. Rest as much as you can."
I turned on my heels and walked quickly down the long hall retracing
my steps. Outside, the doors, I took a deep breath. Could I have been
holding my breath so long? Of course not, I would have passed out long
ago. The cold air felt good on the exposed skin: my cheeks, hands, ankles.
I felt like walking for a long time because I could. I no longer meant
to revisit. Too painful, too difficult, too memorable, too ----.
Two weeks later, I received a call from the hospital social worker.
My friend had taken a turn for the worse, her family had been called
in. Once again I made the hospital trip. This time to the critical care
A different experience awaited me. The critical care unit was arranged
in a semi-circle around a large nurses station. The fourteen rooms,
or cubicles, had curtains instead of doors. Most of the areas had a
single straight wooden chair, many filled with a person reading or silently
Area 10 was assigned to Bonnie. She was asleep on the narrow bed. Her
right hand made small jerks. I watched for a while. The nurse approached
from behind me. "Her infection seems to be responding to medication
now and I think she will be moved to another room tomorrow."
"Im glad to hear that," I mumbled.
"Do you want to wake her?"
"No, no. Let her rest." Once again I was released. This time
there was no joking about the ruined elastic on my underwear, no laughs
or fun just reality.
That move to another room did not happen. When I returned to the critical
care unit, I found the cubicle with the curtain drawn. The young male
nurses aide cleared his throat when asked about Bonnie. He finally
told me shed "passed away 15 minutes ago." I stood there,
stunned, not knowing what to say. Then I turned to leave. There was
nothing else to do.
No more funny stories to tell, no more laughs. Now only memories of
the elastic that always gave up in the heat of the drier of the day
to day life.
Dumler March 2008
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