Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Musings(tm), 30 January 2016

Good morning,

I awakened early, long before the sun, long before the alarm, even earlier than the winter songbirds.  The surrounding silence soothed me, broken only by the illusory noise in my ears and the rare whisper of the furnace.  Morning in Brookside -- before the traffic's roar on Troost Avenue rises into the air -- silent and satisfying.

I lay thinking of the exchanges that have colored my week, the human, the real, the virtual.  I contemplated a week-long dance with the schedulers at Stanford who had promised to add a third appointment to the two set for late February.  I closed my eyes and sighed, letting the echoes of their apologies and assurances roll through me.  Monday, Monday, Monday, we promise we will get it done on Monday; never mind that I was hearing their promises for the second sequential Friday.

We promise; so sorry; we promise.

I'm thinking of my mother; of being a child, and visiting a doctor with her.  I've had three warts removed from my hand.  We've come back for the doctor to tell us what we know -- the small surgical procedure succeeded.  My mother is tense.  I do not understand but I know that it is so.  She holds her mouth in that funny way she has.  I see it when my father rages.  I see it at the grocery store when she counts her dollars.  I  know it means something has upset her but I don't know what.  It could be anything.

A white-clad woman ushers us into a small room.  She takes my temperature.  I think she's a little rough.  I glance over at my mother but she's not watching.  Her eyes are closed.  I don't say anything; I just submit.  Now the nurse tells me to sit on a tall table and she turns her back on me.  I stand in front of the table and wonder how I am supposed to get onto it.  The nurse has put a hard packet of papers on the end of the table.  I stare at it; I see my name.  I'm about to open it when the nurse barks, I told you to get on the table, young lady, and my mother jumps.

The nurse does not wait or  explain; she puts her hands on my waist and lifts me.  She makes that noise which I've come to learn signals displeasure with a disobedient child.  I sit up very straight because I have used the tactic with my father and I know it makes some grown-ups happy when you sit up straight.

But the nurse already stands by the door.  The doctor will be here in a few minutes, she tells my mother, and then she leaves.

My mother stands and walks around the room.  She works in a hospital; this room reminds me of the little alcove in her office where she does EKGs on clinic patients.  I like the white; I like the cleanliness.  I let my shoulders slump and lean back, against the wall.  My mother returns to her chair and we wait.

I don't have a watch and there is no clock in the room but I realize that more than a few minutes have passed when my mother stands again.  She approaches the door and leans her ear against it.  I think she's listening for footsteps;  I worry that the doctor will suddenly enter and my mother will get smashed backwards.  But nobody comes.

It shouldn't be much longer now, my mother assures me.

I'm feeling drowsy.  I settle against the wall and stare at my shoes.  I'm still in my school uniform, a heavy blue jumper. I'm wearing brogues, which I don't like.  My Nana buys me penny loafers when I visit in the summer, but my mother thinks I walk better with these tie shoes.  I'm swinging my feet against the table when I suddenly realize that my mother is crying.

At that exact moment she sees that I've noticed and she changes her small sobs to little hums.  Then we play a guessing game about colors.  I know she's letting me win but I still feel a little thrill.  After five rounds, she declares me the champion and we fall silent again.  And then I hear it:  A loud noise; something I would not think that you'd hear in a doctor's office.

The sound of a vacuum cleaner.

My mother hears it at the exact moment that I begin to feel afraid.  She opens the door and looks out into a dark hallway.  I hear a little scream and then the woman who has been cleaning the office comes forward and says What are you doing here? and my mother gasps.

A few minutes later, the cleaning lady has unlocked the front door of the doctor's office so my mother and I could leave.  My mother clutches her purse in one hand, and holds tightly to me with the other.  We get into her old Dodge, the one she bought from Nana and Grandpa when she finally got her driver's license, and my mother drives us home.

A few days later, my mother tells me that the doctor's office has called her and apologized for forgetting us.  She sounds as though she does not believe them.

When the scheduler at Stanford called me yesterday afternoon, gushing and remorseful, tripping over her words, I thought of my mother.  The woman had reached me on my cell phone while I was driving. I pulled over so that I could concentrate, even though the call came through the hands-free Bluetooth in the vehicle.  This is exactly what I was afraid would happen, I thought.  This is why I pressed this lady last week for a commitment, for a return call on Monday.  A call which never came, not even with repeated messages through the patient portal and on her voice mail, messages during which I tried to use my very best non-violent communication.

Now she's promised results by Monday.  The third Monday in a row when I'm to expect a confirmed appointment with this additional specialist.  I thank her.  I do not believe her but I thank her.  What else can I do?

The sun has risen and the rush of cars on the nearby boulevards tells me that my neighborhood has awakened.  I have high hopes for this day.  Fifteen or so women will gather at my home this evening.  It's a loose and ever-changing assortment of ladies from their thirties to mid-sixties, some married, some divorced, some widowed, some single.  I started this gathering two years ago when I needed a tribe around me.  I considered drinking; I considered despair; I considered suicide.  I decided instead to start a Women's Potluck Supper Group.   I have no regrets; I chose my comforts wisely.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.