Mondays are generally unpleasant. Today is even more so because it’s Rohit’s surgery and it has me reliving Mom’s second open-heart surgery. Ten years ago, my brother, Dad and I spent the entire day in a Mayo Clinic lounge waiting in a zombie like state. We didn’t speak, watch TV and lost our appetites. I couldn’t even read. It took two hours to get through three paragraphs and I gave up. The walls of the waiting room felt like they were closing in on me so I went the gift shop and bought word finds. I did puzzle after puzzle like a robotic machine because I had to get the thought of Mom being kept alive on a heart-lung machine while a surgical team replaced her faulty heart valve with an artificial one out of my mind.
After the surgery Mom was taken to ICU for a three-day stay. We were only allowed to see her once a day for five minutes. Dad went first and my brother and I followed. The image of her small, frail body enveloped by a huge, white hospital bed is permanently etched in my mind. I can still see the IVs, tubes and cords trailing from her body to the dozen beeping, flashing machines that surrounded her in a half circle. There isn’t anything to prepare you for the sight of seeing someone you believed invincible laying there, pale and haggard. I tried to be happy to see her, and I was. I had never prayed so hard in my life, but I also wanted to vomit. Since I am absolutely not subtle, Dad pulled me aside and told me to get it together or get out of the room. So I pinched the inside of my left hand with my right fingers and temporarily focused my fear and pain elsewhere.
It is no wonder that worry finds me again and I decide to take a walk. I grab my phone, just in case Meera calls and head towards the river. I understand no one really likes hospitals and I’m not the only one associating them with sickness. But I have a skewed perception of loss and death, stemming from the fact that my relatives live 10,000 miles away. It’s hard enough to have meaningful relationships with people you see intermittently because of distance. You cannot foster a relationship without communication so their inability to speak English and mine to speak Hindi never helped the situation. When my relatives began to pass away it was difficult to experience loss because we had lived lives separate from one another. And because Hindus cremate the bodies within hours of death, there are no graveyards to pay respects. Only memories and photos adorned in garlands of sandalwood remain.
Several hours later my phone rings and I pounce when I see it’s Meera. “Hey,” I say quickly. “He’s out,” Meera says. I have ever heard her sound so tired or so spent. “He’s in recovery and doing well. I’m not up for talking, okay?” “Sure, I understand. Let me know if you need anything,” I say and hang up.
They have already told me that the recovery will long and arduous. The doctors deflated Rohit’s lungs so he’ll have to practice breathing again and removed one of abdominal muscles. But at the end of day, all that matters is that he will be fine.