Tuesday, July 19, 2011
We Are Invincible
We do not have health problems in my family.
We do not talk about what ails us, at least not what might be serious anyway. Peeing blood? No biggie. Cancer? A minor inconvenience. Rheumatoid arthritis? They have drugs for that, right?
Something is always nothing with my kin. Did the house burn down? No? Then everything is fine. Did anyone die? No? Then it will be fine. We are Mid-Western stock, where every crisis is weathered with stoicism, humor and good dose of burying our heads in the sand. We are super great at the latter.
When my mom was diagnosed with RA a few years ago it was month before I was told. "I didn't want to worry you," she said.
When my dad was having a stent put into his heart five years ago he was already under anesthesia before my mom decided it was important enough to tell me about it. Again, they didn't want to "worry me."
It was that one when I came unglued. I flew into a rage so swift and so immediate that my parents are still terrified of me.
"You're not going to storm through the house crying and slamming doors again, are you, Gina?" my mom asks me.
"I might. It depends on what you're hiding from me," I tell her.
So not surprisingly, it was a full 24 hours before I was told a month ago that my dad was once again under the knife.
My mom's first voicemail sounded perfectly reasonable and calm. Nothing to see here, I figured. I'll call her back later. But then she called again a few minutes later, this time, more anxious.
"Gina, you need to call me back. It's... kind of important."
Gina... She never uses my name.
'Kind of' important... Oh god, the shit must be hitting the fan.
By that time my dad had been sick for several days, had been to the doctor and subsequently sent to the ER in Marion, then ferried by ambulance to Ft. Wayne, where there is a bigger hospital with actual surgeons and machines and stuff.
When I called back she said, "Well, you're dad's out of surgery. He's in the recovery room now."
She said this as if it neatly summed up everything and next we'd be chatting about the weather.
"Why, for God's sake, are you just now telling me this. Recovery room? What happened? What kind of surgery?"
He was sick and throwing up, "turned orange as pumpkin," she said, something was blocking his liver but they couldn't figure out in Marion what it was. So they took him to Ft. Wayne. He'd been in the hospital in Ft. Wayne for 24 hours before she called me.
I was in public when I called her back, standing on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant. I debated to what degree I could lose my shit there. I considered walking back into the restaurant and flipping a table over.
I don't like to be too hard on my mom, and I could tell she'd had a rough few days. But in a word, I was pissed.
"My God, mom. Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"
"I didn't know anything."
"You knew he was sick."
"We didn't know what was wrong. I didn't want to worry you."
I wanted to come unhinged. I could feel my blood boiling.
The next morning I drove to Ft. Wayne to see my dad, who apparently had a necrotic gall bladder, which was reeking all kinds of havoc on his insides, in addition to turning him "orange as a pumpkin." The surgeon told him it was "the gall bladder from hell," and extracting it turned the rest of his hair white.
I sat on the edge of my dad's hospital bed as my mom told me that what was supposed to be a simple, hour long surgery turned into a several hours-long procedure as they negotiated my dad's scarred insides from previous ulcer surgeries.
Because I am mature and was raised to be a reasonable person, I squinted at my mom, lowered my voice and said slowly, "Great. Well, the next time something happens to me, like, ohhhh, cancer or peeing blood or a head wound or whatever, I'll just call you when everything's blown over. I. Don't. Want. To. Worry. You."
Then I considered pushing my dad's hospital food tray onto the floor. You know, for effect.
Except, this is exactly what I'd do. I'd tell them once everything was a-ok, because seriously, I am totally fine. And I'd probably the start the conversation with, "Haha, funny story, mom... I have a hole in my bladder."
But that's because I'm invincible. I don't know what the hell happened to them, but somewhere along the line they became mortal. And I don't like it. I don't like it one bit.
Posted by Gina