Take this one from me: you never want to be sitting in an empty hospital room at night, waiting for your mother, after what you have been assured was a short, routine and uneventful operation and get a frantic phone call from the surgery recovery room. You don't want to be standing in a recovery room hearing a nice doctor tell you, worry all over his face and body, that your mother is tenuous. Tenuous, you think, is not a word that should refer to your mother, who has been many interesting, definite things in her life but never tenuous. You don't want to see three nurses and a doctor huddled around your mother while machines beep loudly and flash red. You don't want to sit in a surgery waiting room that's been specially opened up for you, trying and failing to read an article about Dolly Parton and hear that your mother now has a machine breathing for her, since she can't breathe on her own right now, and, from the kind and worried doctor, "I'm sorry, but I'd like to talk to you both about what we should do if her heart does stop."
No. You don't want this.
However. If all this is gone through and then you are in another waiting room that is unbearable because of a television set and it's late and getting later, it's better, oddly enough, to be standing in a bright tiled fluorescent hallway, talking to your brother about long vanished third cousins. It's even better when an incredibly nice nurse ushers you gently into a spaceship that is called ICU, where you have to wash your hands two times to get in and two times to get out of the locked doors and then the nice, the wonderful, the beloved nurse tells you that your mother is stabilized. Even though you finally cry, then, and lean over and say gently into your motionless mother's ear, "It's okay. I'm here. We're here. It's all going to be okay." it's even better afterwards to go home and smoke too many cigarettes and hug your children and cry a little more and sleep a couple of hours and go back to the hospital to find your mother actually awake.
Awake and confused - "What day is it?" she writes on a pad with a sharpie, her fingers swollen and hard to move around the tubes and wires. "Was there a bomb? Is this the operating room?" - and still with a machine breathing for her and many IVs and bags and tubes and Enterprise style monitors blinking jagged lines, but awake for the first time since the banal conversation finally faded into silence and the gentle anesthesiologist rolled her out of pre-op and you kissed her and told her it would be fine and you'd see her in a couple of hours and wondered, briefly, why all the conversations you'd had with her since this whole roller coaster began 48 hours before had been so meaningless. But, you think as you walk off with the plastic bag that says Patient Belongings, what else are you supposed to do? Say "Got any last words, Ma?" Better to keep it light.
Yeah. Well. It's been a long long 24 hours, or 36, or however long it's been. We think she's finally beginning to get better, although she's still in ICU. My younger brother, after a frantic epic dawn journey from NYC, is here. And I'm fucking exhausted and prone to break into seeping tears at any moment. Keep the good thoughts coming.