It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s quiet except for beeping noises down the hospital corridor, the occasional nurse calling out a question to the one on-call doctor. Most of the rooms are empty. Edith and I sit quietly, occasionally launching into the kind of conversation you can only have in the pre-dawn hours. Quiet. Slow. True. We talk a little about the emergency room at Children’s Hospital where she spent her share of time when her son had leukemia. We don’t talk about it often. It seems to me like another lifetime. I have that luxury since it wasn’t my kid who was sick. Now he shaves and writes research projects on octopi.
Edith looks unjustly attractive and well put together. Way too nice for someone whose friend has called them up at 1am and said “ I need to go to the hospital now” to look. She wears her usual unflappable look (though I’ve seen lots of flapping in the last few months – an honor) and as Kris says she exudes calm. She knows how to hold the silence and when to break it to make an always useful suggestion or ask the perfect question.
“Please go” I implore her several times but I’m met with a look that is both loving and condescending. As if to say “if you think I’m leaving you’re insane.” Sometimes no look at all, just a quiet grin or chuckle. She’s like that. I try a few strategies until finally success – she’ll call Lisa at 5 and go home, rest then catch a nasty cold from staying up all night. I know Lisa will say aye and I will take her word – but Lisa is another profile for another day. Today I will tell you about Edith.
I'll tell you about a port in a storm, a blanket of calm over a scary and profound evening, full of tremendous, childbirth-level pain and sweet moments of connection and the utter hilarity of scab nurses. I think of myself as pretty stoic but it was a tough tough night made tougher by the indignity of the circumstances. All this fuss for a little constipation. That’s right. Tried to shit but only farted. ( now you understand the title of this blog, don't you?) No appendix, kidney stones, pancreatitis – just a rilutek/als side effect – a new fun thing to watch for.
But back to Edith. No vibe about waking her up, leaving her kids alone. She just says “I’ll be right there”. And she is. Edith deals with financial issues for me, drives me and Mac around fixes my jewelry, frames my pictures, calls social workers and healthcare professionals, makes my thank you cards, shops for me and most importantly just sits with me if I need to cry. One day while at the bank setting up a fund for my medical needs she says to me “ I thought of something I can do for you…” “Well it’s about time you chipped in” I quipped. I mean really – when do these women stop giving?
Edith is the glamour puss of my group of friends. She always looks perfect. Perfectly accessorized, perfect color combos – a walking work of art. She doesn’t die her gorgeous black hair so it is streaked with silver and looks glorious. She never wears contact lenses. She looks the same with or without makeup ( I found out that little tidbit at 1am….the bitch!) and she calmly dispatches her self-imposed duties with the élan of Grace Kelly. She also has a wicked sense of humor and is not afraid to deliberately run a red light when her friend is in pain. She runs red lights in a very dispassionate way (“oh this is silly.” Then Vroom!) Very independent movie.
Edith was there the day of the diagnosis and told me she and Kathy were there with me all the way. I knew they weren't just words. I love how Edith smiles impishly about her kids even when she's reporting that they are doing something less than adorable. I love how her husband has just stood in my general vicinity of late and I've felt his support even though we haven't exchanged many words. I love that her parents and sibs have supported me even though her sister is the only one I really know that well and all I really know about her is her penchant for cuddly kitten T-shirts and 85 year old lovers.
I like that Edith finds the same people insufferable that I do. Just before administering the morphine, the scab nurse at the hospital said “Praise the Lord, Jesus and Mary “ or something to that effect with this smile that made her look like she was a cartoon character that had just been hit in the face by a two-by-four. I looked over at Edith who seemed as alarmed as I was. I don’t want someone religious putting drugs in my arm…..unless she knows I’m still a sinner and I’ll be going straight to hell if she isn’t very careful….but I’d hate to think some chick thought she was doing me a favor to send me to Jesus. I could tell Edith was on my side on this one and understood the mantra I repeated over and over :“most hospital deaths are a result of medical error. most hospital deaths are a result of medical error. most hospital deaths are a result of medical error.”
Speaking of Jesus, I had this image of him reading The Secret up in heaven and all the other gods making fun of him and him saying “Hey, if it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me.” I’m going to put it in the play.
There are other magic moments to this bizarre evening: Lisa lovingly massaging my feet and hands, brushing my hair, putting sweet smelling lotion on me and later me wiping a tear from her cheek, Kathy sweeping in with such purpose and strength that the X Ray tech said admiringly “Man, she’s on it!”, Natasha the nurse hitching her pants down and shirt up so I could see her “Made in Canada” tramp stamp ( that’s a tattoo on the low back for you older folks), the homeless man leaving robe untied in back with the IV still in his arm shouting “Ya’ll be hearin’ from ma’attorney!”, Kris offering to be the go-to gal in the ever-daunting 4 am hours, Kaila overcome, crying “Oh my god, your dad wrote a blog comment” and giving me her amazing and haunting CD dedicated to me ( and someone named K. Mell which sounds suspiciously like a rapper name) and finally, lying in Alison’s lap while she stroked my hair and cooed to me softly.