beyond the double doors
maybe you’ve been to that place. the invisible line, where someone you love is in the hands of strangers you’ve not before seen. and, at the very last instant, the strangers turn to you, just barely, more like over their shoulder they remember you’re there, call out, almost a bark, “this is it.”
so you, quick, grab a kiss. you gulp, and you stand there, just this side of the big swinging doors. with barely a whoosh then a clunk, the doors open. then swallow the someone you love.
and you are left standing there. trying not to worry. trying to chase all the thoughts from your head. the ones that sometimes bang around in your brain. sometimes make you afraid.
or, not quite so dreadfully, there are the gallumps in your heart. the ones that remind you that forever–even though you are now gray, and drive your own car–the someone they just took from you, she is the one who long long ago kissed your knees when you banged them. she alone knew how to scramble your eggs the way you liked them the best. she, too, was the one who, that hot summer night when you were nine, maybe 10, sat in the dark with you, your backs against the door of the fridge. and together you nibbled away at the pan of fudge she’d slipped from the shelf where it set for an hour or so, after she’d poured in the cream and followed the steps on the little blue box.
you don’t quite line up those thoughts, one after the other. more like it all comes at you in a wadded-up ball. and as you watch the back of the big double door swing finally shut, sealed, you turn, all alone, and you realize how much you really are helpless.
there’s only so much we can do for the ones who we love. we are, in the end, passersby in this play. there are times, and there are places, where we can’t be and can’t go.
so we wad up our worries and prayers, and we get through the hours till we can be there again. can be the one to put cool washcloths to heads. can hold onto an arm. can dial the brothers–far, far away–give them the word: she’s out from the OR. i’ve talked to the surgeon. she’s resting. she’ll be all right soon.
and again, you sit by her side. you wait for the flutter of eyes. you wince as you see the arm you’ve long known and long held, now puffy and bruised, all sorts of tubes running under a gown that’s starchy and doesn’t stay closed.
you remember, your mother–who to you is so much a part of your story, your ups and your downs, your wings and your clodhopper feet–you remember she is, like all the rest of us, bones and flesh, veins and lumps that need to be cut and removed.
if you’re like me, most of the time we prefer to think of our mothers–and all those we love–as well beyond bones. we are not so much accumulations of tissues and cells, we like to pretend, as we are long spinning spools of story and myth.
we are narrative arc. we are themes that recur. we are denouement, and climax. we are character, deeply nuanced, and, more often than not, rather predictable. we stick to our lines. some of us work hard at refining, and raising our sights. some of us get stuck in a rut.
but always, we are eager to turn over each page. to see where this story is headed. to find out if, ever, we say what we mean, and we get at the truth.
sometimes, it’s sitting there at a hospital bedside that we are most keenly aware of just how deeply we’re tied. and how tender our hearts are for the one who is lying there, listless, and dopey on drugs.
sometimes what they do beyond the double doors is stir up our souls. re-jiggle the plot. lay out the players, starker than ever.
the one they return to us, we remember, is not and will not be here forever. and so we move with more care, and more purpose, as we tend to their wounds, put cool sips to their lips. and kiss them goodnight in the tenderest way.
my mama is all right, now. a little bit bumpy there, but now home in her very own bed. hospitals have a way of wrenching open your heart. whether it’s your story, or one you happen to catch unfolding down the long lonely corridor. home looks sweeter and finer than ever, once you’re back to stay. have you left someone at the double doors, marked “restricted area”? what thoughts have you thought while the clock ticked the hours away? how sweet, the reunion?