The Lucky Ones
My gallbladder was removed last Saturday, an out-patient procedure that didn’t go well. I had a reaction to the pain medication, something no one could have known since I’ve never had general surgery and I don’t make a habit of experimenting with opioids. I spent the night of my procedure vomiting bile and, eventually, dry-heaving, hoping all the while that my stitches wouldn’t tear. (They didn’t.) I tried calling the after hour’s number but that turned out to be a machine claiming the wait to speak to a human was five hours and to try Emergency. The ER was filled with the promised surge of patients, Covid and otherwise, frightened families waiting their turns to talk to a single triage nurse. I remember thinking this is what it’s like to be scared, in pain and turned away, a completely new experience for me. This is what we were warned about, hospitals and medical centers like mine who have skilled physicians and competent, compassionate, exhausted nurses who have no beds left and not enough staff to go around.
In retrospect, five days later when I’d re-thought my few hours of frightened desperation and realized that things could have been worse, I realized that I’m actually one of the lucky ones. I have resources many people don’t. My children are both medical professionals and one is an MD who can write prescriptions even from far away. It’s definitely a bonus to have family who know that I needed a sublingual nausea medication, (not the pills,) and that certain hospitals have 24 hour pharmacies that can process and deliver.
The real bonus, however is that first part. I have children, grownup, calm, smart children who care deeply for me, worry about me, include me, visit frequently and need to hear from me. There was a time, predictably the teenage years,
when I wasn’t sure that was true. During those overwhelming years, I secretly envied friends whose households were child-free. Childless-by-choice people usually have more money, a stock portfolio and a retirement they can’t possibly go through in one lifetime. They are well traveled, able to afford first and business class seats and they sleep peacefully, without interruption, all the circumstances I thought I wanted, especially the sleep part. During those before cell phone years I spent what seemed like lifetimes without sleep, worried, staring out the window, pacing the floorboards. Many times it was needless, but it still added up to exhaustion. Childless-by-choice people wake up with a full eight hours behind them and they sleep in on weekends. Not so, the parents of babies, toddlers and teenagers. Stress is, after all, exhausting.
There are parts of me that are no longer in prime condition, my gallbladder, for example. Along with this new level of sensitivity has come the realization that it’s no longer necessary or even possible for me to protect the children I’ve created. That overwhelming instinct, the mother instinct, to champion those who are mine, has instilled itself in a younger generation. My children now have that very same instinct and, thankfully, it includes me. I am their mother, the only one they will ever have. They are of my blood, aware of my eventual mortality, still some distance away, hopefully, but inevitable all the same. I’ve made some regrettable decisions in my past, ones I wish I could do over, but the choice to bring children into the world and raise them isn’t one of them. Because of my son and daughter, I have a forever place at two tables. I will have Sunday visitors at the assisted living facility, moral and professional support at medical appointments and someone a great deal more detail oriented than I am to proof the withdrawals in my checkbook. Best of all, my family has expanded. Along with my original two, I now have a son and daughter-in-law, both patient and kind, and four little people who will grow up thinking my name is Grammy.
Here’s wishing everyone a peaceful, Covid free holiday season.