I don’t remember much about my life during my surgeries. I guess it’s a defense mechanism my mind built in from the traumatic events of that year; or it could be that I really don’t try that hard to recall anything from then. But ever since the diagnosis that I had little more than 72 hours to live I’d been… am... trying much harder. It comes in little flashes now-being hooked up to so many machines I could barely move, their constant beeping one of the few comforting things in that over-white room that smelled too strongly of antiseptic. I was forced to face my demons face first. And, for the only time in ten years I went willingly into a hospital to look at my old room.
It was much smaller than I had thought it was. Maybe it had been all the morphine and antibiotics, or that I was eleven, but in my minds-eye it had been a dark and cavernous space…
Always too cold or too hot, never equilibrium. Now, all the fright of a child was gone and I could look at it for what it was.
A small room where I had stayed for two weeks. That’s all, just two weeks. How those two weeks had been such a powerful force in my life until my dying days was beyond me in hindsight now. The scar on my face tingled a bit, as if in recognition of the place it had been born, but I ignored it. Instead, I focused purely on the overwhelming sense of peace and acceptance. As if my mind had been roiling this whole time in an effort to get me here, to heal itself…
Now, it seemed silly how my palms had sweated and body shook when rolling up to the tall and imposing form of the Seaton Surgical Center. So many bad memories had come to my mind and we had sat in the car for over an hour, one precious hour, as I had cried and wanted to leave. Though this was one mountain conquered in the remaining two days I had there was another that haunted the very house I lived in. Even miles away that drawer in the entertainment center called out to me. The one that held visual proof that my tumor, my trauma had been real and had changed my life forever in those short weeks.
It wasn’t until I turned around; content with the knowledge that this room had been what had helped to save my life when I was young, that my eyes fell on my mother. She looked as white as I felt. With her blue eyes looking glassy in the lost memories that the bed held she was staring at where her cot had been. Right next to mine, seated there day and night, and I felt a profound sense of gratitude. If she hadn’t been there… I don’t know if I would be as forgiving for this moment as I was.
“Mom,” I said with a small laugh in my voice. A laugh I hadn’t meant to voice but came bubbling to the surface anyway. I was always bad at hiding my emotions.
She started out of her revere and swung on me, her blond hair bouncing at the sudden movement.
“What?” it wasn’t impatient but it had a small snap to it. I couldn’t help the somber grin that spread across my features.
It had hit her hard that she would be the one to bury me and I was starting to realize that she had just as many demons in this room, in my life, than I did.
“C’mon, I want to go home. I wanna look at the pictures in that drawer,” my voice broke at the end of the sentence. I still wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to look at them. When we had found them moving last year I had a breakdown right there in the middle of the living room. I had firmly locked them away and swore that I wouldn’t look at them again. I pressed those emotions so far down into my being that feeling them now it was ten-fold as what it had been then.
I was terrified. As we both exited the room I gave one final look back, not sure what I was hoping to see. Part of me had both died and been born in that room. I guess I owed it one last glance as mother and I made our way out.
The pictures were harder to take than I remember. They sat in front of me on the floor, the surfaces shined over by the glare of the sun, as I rested my back against the couch. I couldn’t remember the last time I cringed so much just looking at something. And that looking had brought on things I wasn’t prepared for. The smell of knock out gas, I never suggest anyone use bubble gum flavored it will make you gag-in fact just get the I.V. it hurts but its faster-the feel of them pulling out the drainage tube that had been inserted into the right side of my head, and the feel of the gauze being all over me. It made my stomach churn.
I suppose I was going through all the stages of grief at once. Anger, denial, bargaining, and now I just didn’t want to look at them ever again. Why had I done this again? Firming my lips together I realized that this was purely for me because mom had taken one look at those pictures and sighed, her features creasing. She had never looked her age until that moment.
Frowning, I slid down from my perch and once more picked up the corner of one of the five pictures. It was sharp and crisp, the effects of me not wanting to be near it and no one touching them since the day I had my surgeries, and pressed into the pads of my fingertips. The first one was me laying there, my head pressed into the Sylvester cat fleece pillow mom had bought for me just the night before the surgery. There were tubes running from everywhere. An oxygen mask covered my face-I still remember how funny it had tasted and caused me to vomit a few times-the yellow feeding tube that stretched its way over my head from the depths of my right nostril, the I.V. was hooked up to two different bags, and finally all the heart monitor wires crisscrossed over my chest to the machine.
Gauze was wrapped tightly about my skull and you could see where they had shaved my head in order to get the muscle they needed. I had been born with a rare lymphatic tumor and when they had removed it parts of it had moved into my facial muscle. They had to take some from my skull and attach it to my face. I nearly gagged at seeing the gruesome wound that was on my face. They had to remove nearly half of the bottom right of my face and there were huge pink suture were what was keeping the side of my face unaffected by the tumor and the newly injured tissue together.
My fingers found their way to my scar in an absent minded touch. It was shocking but now I couldn’t look away. It brought back all the bad memories, sure, like having to have something shoved up your urethra. No matter what they say, that is always more than ‘uncomfortable’, it freaking hurts. It also brought back the good memories. Like, even though I wasn’t supposed to have solid foods my mother got me a burger and fries for my birthday. It had been, and probably always will be, the best burger of my life after not being able to talk or chew anything for three months.
After the shock and the rush of negative emotions came the same odd feeling of… everything being all right. It didn’t define me anymore, and it hadn’t in a very long time. A chuckle managed to squeeze its way out of my tight chest, my stomach clenching and tears forming at the corner of my eyes. Why had it taken so long? Why had I waited so long to do this? I could’ve been a different person, I could’ve enjoyed High School, I could’ve dated whoever I wanted; there were so many could’s it was dizzying.
Shaking my head I fought off the tears with resilience. That same stubbornness I had suffered to form during my surgeries and my life, a belief that crying solves nothing. It was a problem it seemed I would die with.
And I was okay with it. With all of it.
I'll be blunt with anyone who's reading this. I have had some serious issues and all the surgeries part did happen-it's kinda the reason FOR my issues but I digress-and I was asked to take part in a competition where the prompt was we had 72 hours to live. What would we do? Mine was pretty simple and humble, I just wanted to go back to my hospital room and confront something that's been haunting me since I was eleven.
Don't even get me started on the pictures. They're still there, in the drawer, but I don't think I have the strength to look at them yet. So, they'll just have to wait for me.
This was therapeutic in a way. I came to peace with a lot of my problems through this, so hey, even if I don't win I still get something out of it.
Created: Jul 29, 2010Document Media