That sterile hospital smell

Yesterday it was a beautiful autumn Sunday, but I went to the hospital. I went because my Mom was at the E.R. with an irregular fluttering heartbeat that lasted four hours. "Atrial flutter," they call it.

  What better way to recover from a scary episode than with a large mug of caffeine?

What better way to recover from a scary episode than with a large mug of caffeine?

I got to the E.R. and she did this little shrug, she made this "oops" face: I know this isn't supposed to happen, she was saying. While the look on my face was probably a mix of numbness plus quivering mortal fear. This isn't the first time she's gone in with a heart problem. But don't worry. She's okay now.

The thing is that this is the same emergency room where they tried to resuscitate my Dad. (Though I wasn't there for that; I was overseas, unreachable.) And so I sat there yesterday listening to the beep of the heart monitor and smelling that sterile hospital smell. And what I thought about while I sat there was entirely selfish. I wasn't worrying about Mom. I was thinking what's my plan if I lose her, too. That's nonsensical, I know; there's no planning for grief. Plus she's fine, she's okay.

But a person can develop a nervous habit, or two or three, after loss. Fear, for instance. Fear gets to be a pretty constant companion. For instance, one morning in my college bedroom my then-boyfriend, now-husband was putting his pants on and he was going to get in his truck and drive to class at his own school, thirty minutes away. And I was suddenly terrified that something would happen to him. A car accident, or anything. And I sat there silently and watched him go and what I was saying to myself was, "Please no. Please please no."

So anyway, Mom's fine. She's okay.