“Why won’t you use a wheelchair,” I asked my mom, hating the impatient tone that had crept into my voice.
She had no problem pretending to need one at Disney, when it meant moving her grandkids up to the front of the line, or at the airport, so she could breeze through the TSA check on her way to a cruise ship, where she would no doubt be walking miles, stem to stern. Why now, when she was at an effing hospital, was she refusing a wheelchair?
“Because I am not dead yet. I can still walk. Why are you are so impatient!” she said.
These were the only words my ballsy mother had uttered to me in the past two hours. She probably wished my brother were with her instead of me, and I didn’t blame her. I felt like an awful daughter.
I was inept at navigating the big city hospital and it was exacerbated by the stress of my mother’s illness. I walked five feet ahead of her, helpless without an app to lead us to the MRI suite for her final scan of the day. I had one job and I felt like I was failing miserably.
My mother walked along slowly behind me in her green puffer, her muscles visibly aching, the puffer falling off her left shoulder. We walked in one direction, and then another. Passed the Garden Café twice. The gift shop three times. I felt like an awful daughter.
“Go to the Nuclear Medicine Department at the end of the hall,” one very busy looking doctor told us. We trudged on.
“Go to the Women’s Health Center, down one level,” the Nuclear Medicine people told us. We shuffled over to the hospital elevator to go down.
“Go up to Radiology Lab on the third floor,” the Women’s Health Center receptionist told us, without even looking up.
We both snapped at the same time.
“If we miss this appointment I don’t know when I’ll get another. I can’t miss this. I can’t wait any longer to get these results, my mother cried.
I know! I’m doing the best I can with the little l have,” I cried back.
“Where are all the helpers? Isn’t this an effing hospital? I cried to the receptionist and stormed out, leaving my mother behind.
I stopped and leaned against a wall that had pink mosaic tiles, to regain my sanity and come up with a plan. I put down all the bags that I’d been carrying, the contents of which had proven useless.
I brought my computer so I could work, a novel should I need distraction, a giant bottle of water with electrolytes so my mother wouldn’t pass out from dehydration, a roast beef sandwich so she could get some protein, lemon wafers should the roast beef be too heavy for her stomach, and all the usual contents of my purse, along with hers. All a waste since neither of us had the will to even look at our phones. We were mostly silent, wondering what would happen next. I blame it on our lack of experience with cancer.
I looked up and saw masked medical people moving in all directions like little minions. Some were looking for a place to eat their boxed lunch. Some just came out of surgery, dirty scrubs, exhaustion in their face. Others were happily chatting. A little too happy, in my opinion. It wasn’t fair.
That’s when I launched into DEFCON 1 and stopped a pair of nurses by blocking them with my right foot. I grabbed one by the shoulder, pointed to my pathetic-looking mother, and asked for directions one more time, to the effing MRI suite so my mother could have an MRI to determine if the cancer in her lymph nodes had spread to her brain.
“Oh honey. We are happy to help,” she said, soothingly. I guess she knew from experience that I wasn’t a terrorist; just a stressed-out daughter trying to do right by her sick mother.
“We’ve been here forever and know this hospital up and down. The MRI suite moved to that little corner office a few months ago. They really should put up a sign. Does your mother want a wheelchair”
“No, but I do.”