Sometimes scattered amongst life’s dramas and hospital visits are some funny stories.
About 2 weeks ago, my 70-something year-old dad went in to have keyhole surgery to remove gallstones and his gallbladder. That night, when I phoned my mom to find out how he was doing, the news wasn’t so good. She had visited him that night, only to be informed that he had been moved to the ICU ward. She found him in the ward with an oxygen mask, and a bag attached to his side draining from a larg incision that had been made. Apparently they had found an abscess when they had a look inside, so had had to cut him open to deal with it.
I went to sleep with an anxious feeling that night. The next day, my mom and I went to visit him in ICU. The man in charge of the ICU ward checked his clipboard and confirmed that my dad was still in ICU and still in bed 15. Fearing the worst we made our way to his bed in the corner, and my mom hurried to his bedside. At first glance I was sure this was not my dad. He had no colour to his face. His dark eyes looked sunken. He looked like an old man. I was sure there had been a mistake, but my mom said nothing. I felt as if I wanted to be sick. I had not realised, from my mom’s phonecall the night before, that he was in such bad shape! My brain was trying to figure out how he could look so different. Maybe the drugs and surgery gave his eyes that shrivelled up raisin look. But he suddenly had all grey hair. The last 2 days must have caused him to go all grey – totally ageing him overnight! I couldn’t bear to look at him, so looked away. If his appearance had change so rapidly, things must be really bad. I found myself looking at the sheets trying to gauge if he had lost any weight – usually the telltale sign that someone who has gone into hospital is in a serious condition. His huge stomach was gone! Oh my god, how does someone lose a huge stomach in 2 days! Maybe he hadn’t really had a stomach and it had been his abscess all along!
My mom moved to hold my dad’s hand. I didn’t want to ask her if this was really my dad in such a serious moment. I didn’t want to reveal my anxiety in front of him. Didn’t want to voice the nauseating feeeling in my stomach that was asking “Is he going to die?” “Is my dad going to transform from a healthy vibrant man into a vulnerable, old person overnight?” My dad is the picture of perfect health. Far healthier and fitter than I am at less than half his age. But there is something about knowing that someone is over 70 that makes it hard for you not to worry that little bit more than you would if they were younger.
As she started to stroke his hand with incredible tenderness and great sorrow, I was still sure this couldn’t be my father.
“Who are you?” he said.
Sounding like she was going to burst into tears, my mom said, “He doesn’t recognise me.”
“I’m not your husband.”
It was then that the penny dropped! My mom awkwardly asked the attendant if this really was Mr Scrazzolo. Turns out is was a Mr Kent!
The shame of not recognising your own husband! My mom and I hurriedly made our exit. As we exited amidst the throngs of anxious visitors waiting outside ICU for news of their relatives, the two of us couldn’t help emitting howls and cackles of laughter! It was all so surreal after all the drama that had ensued in the previous days. Like something on a sitcom. Our fullbodied laughs resonated deep from our bellies and were uncontrollable. I am sure that the onlookers must have wondered how two people leaving the ICU ward could be in such good spirits. But I didn’t hold back – it was the sweetest feeling I have felt for a long time and I savoured the incredible taste of RELIEF.