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?
Barb, you hit these sentiments perfectly. Wow.Your mama has a daughter whos is a writer who is also a nurse by her side. What could be better? Maybe if there was a foot model at her bedside, that would be even better-oh wait–you are that too! She will recover super fast!
I don’t want to try to add much now. Just– thank you beautiful one for writing the truth in love. This piece of yours touched a deep place in me that keeps resonating from a pattern of personal experiences–open your eyes wider, live larger, let go of comfort, and check out the view from this place… awe-struck! The price is high, but the gain is immense, if it’s wisdom you’re after.A friend once shared with me that in Chinese, our English word ‘crisis’ translates into 2 characters, the first means ‘dangerous’ and the second ‘opportunity’. (I feel like egg foo yung for breakfast, but no bean sprouts in the frij!)Speaking of breakfast, thanks again for building a sturdy table and set of chairs that can carry all this. Pass the ice water, please, I’m really thirsty.
The photo is hard to look at for very long. Painfully truthful. Excellent.
blessed M, only you could go from dangerous opportunity to egg foo yung for breakfast. it’s why we love you so, you with the many many octaves under your fingertips. thanks for coming to take a bit of a spin through the waiting room with me. i knew you were all right behind me, and surrounding mama like the ring of angels you’ve all always been. you should see her now, she is radiant, and glowing. and the one from maine comes tomorrow. hallelujah, bring out the chorus. you all are missed every minute of every day. especially now. xoxox and carol, bless you for making me laugh. yes, foot model, what every neck patient needs…..
i don’t know if I can accurately describe what the image of those double doors did to me……………… for some reason the ‘photo’ as compared to ‘real’ double doors that i’ve since been in front of had an incredible impact on me…….. I was immediately back at a different, yet similar, set of double doors thirty years or so ago in a NJ hospital as a teenage girl with my own mom being wheeled through……. the feeling is ‘immeasurable helplessness’ and ‘fear’…….. and while watching the world you’ve known pass through them I recall the feeling of turning from the doors, facing a world that had suddenly taken on a much more ominous tone………… the uncertainty is the worst….. what happens from here…….. will a few hours make everything okay or will things only get worse…….. you realize that no matter how independent you may have thought you were you’re really only as strong as they have helped you to be…………. i don’t think your years on the planet make any difference……… those double doors represent the reality of just how fragile we are and how much we need, rely, love, and appreciate the ones who have nurtured us….. I’m so thankful ‘Mom’ had a successful procedure…………Hugs from me……………..
vam, you always put it so perfectly. i read your words and my own thoughts, feeling, unverbalized truths come spilling out ever more clearly. you amplified what i wrote. and, you remind me that not always does relief come at the long end of those doors finally swinging back open. there are places in our lives where we cannot go–we are told not to take one further step. trust us, the sign suggests. and we have no other choice, do we? trust and prayer, a powerful cocktail. i am forever blown away at how the layers of words written here deepen and grow each other’s grapplings, as we tower together to get to the truth of the world as we know it, in so many colors. bless you, vam, for adding your truth.
glad to hear your mom is recovering. i am lighting a candle and sending love your way.
The “restricted area” that comes to my mind is the place reserved for those who are facing their death. My big brother used to go there sometimes, and although I had vowed to companion him to the end, I knew I couldn’t accompany him through those doors. He would come back, intensely present, ever teaching us to love in the here and now. Still some nights when the moon is full, a door opens a crack, just enough for some delicious mysterious moonlight to peek through…I’m glad your mama is on the mend, bam. I get to go see my dear parents tomorrow, and you remind me of my gratitude for their good health.
hallelujah, mm, that your travel time is finally here. i hold you in the light as i believe you have an ocean or two to cross, or maybe you are already back in the states and only crossing statelines to get to where they are. but i think you might mean the big trip–the faraway trip, at so many levels–home from rwanda for a brief spell. may the ocean, once you get to ride upon it on that blow-up raft you once mentioned, carry you and fill you with all the life and breath you need to fill your mighty lungs. be well. and to sosser and all who lit lights my mama’s way, thank you and bless you. she is strong tonight….
Haven’t pulled up a chair in a LOOOONNNGG time, but needed the warmth of the comfy chair, and found this, which is beauty and truth. Pure poetry. THANK YOU for resurrecting my faith in human kind. Which should not be surprising, since you are the kindest human I know! xoxox
Imagine my surprise on Friday at the Chicago Botanic Garden, when right in front of me, clad in garden jeans and a Volunteer Nametag, was none other than Mother of BAM. She said she is doing fine. Back to volunteering at the garden, as she has been for 31 years. Showed me her surgical scar on her neck and lamented that the surgeon did not take away the double chin. So, I can see she still has her humor in tact too!
bam,what a beautiful piece and tribute to your mom. just last week i watched my mom go through those doors and later witnessed her vulnerability and almost childlike demeanor as she lay in that bed hooked-up and spaced-out on the pain meds. thankfully both old gals sound like they will be with us a little longer. god-speed dear friend to both you and mom.
egad, my mama will gasp to read herself referred to as ol’ gal. let us amend that to her preferred, which (as we have the same first name) is barbara the wiser. oh, yes, indeed. just kidding mhm, but i must be on the record defending the one who as carol writes is back at it, with full gusto…..