"I am large. I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In the Waiting Room

"I hate hospitals," my dad tells me in the waiting area.

"Pa, the only time I think we're happy in hospitals is when we welcome a child to this world," I reply.

"What's that medical term for dizziness?" he asks and I can see in his face that he's trying hard to remember. It's an effort that he'll make in defiance of the two strokes he's already had. "I think it starts with a J."

"Are you sure it starts with a J?" I say, because I don't need to have had two strokes to get me going with questions like this one.

"I think so," says the lawyer as he proceeds to ask any person in scrubs who passes us by.

Then my parents' doctor strides in. I see him from afar. I haven't seen him in over two decades when we went to high school together. Who says your prom king in high school doesn't amount to much?

I call his name. Once. Twice. Three times. He looks at me, without seeing me. I am almost embarassed that he doesn't recall who I am. Then with a sudden recollection, he says my name, in a way someone says "Eureka!" and says he didn't recognize me because I was so thin (Really, people, was I that fat in high school?? Don't answer that. That's rhetorical.)

I talk to him about Ma and at the tail-end of the conversation, just before he rushes to the operating room, my 68-year-old father grabs him by the arm and asks "Doc, what's the medical term for dizziness?"

"Vertigo," he answers, quickly and effortlessly.

"Vertigo!" my Pa repeats with glee and a smile that money can't buy, pleased that his hardship is over.

Vexed, I look at him and say accusingly "You said it started with a J!"

He laughs. "I thought it did." He smiles. He lets it go.

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