Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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No Steamer Trunk or Man Servants Needed

Before my husband, David, was officially admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for treatment for AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia), his doctor said, “You’ll like the rooms. They’re quite nice.”

Even the nurse doing the pre-admission test agreed. “The doctor’s right. You can decorate any way you want, too.”

That’s all I needed to hear before I started packing everything he and I would need to make it a home away from home. Not that I was silly enough to imagine the Ritz Carleton, but I did wonder whether the style would be more Marriott or more Hampton Inn. Didn’t matter; I was sure I could work with either.

When David realized my intentions, he eliminated the second suitcase and scaled down from an extra large to a medium. By the time he was through, we could have used the small one but for his size 15 slippers.

“I’m going to the hospital,” he said, “not on a fancy cruise. I don’t want to walk in with a steamer trunk and two man servants, saying ‘Nurse! Show me to my stateroom!'”

Davd and Man Servants

I’ve gotta say the medical staff’s idea of a “nice room” is a bit different than what I had envisioned. Everything is white, off white, or gray. Not a pop of color anywhere. Unless you count the red blood cells bag hanging on the rolling pole—which I do count, but not as décor.

I played with the idea of asking my friend (who’d made my matching toaster and mixer covers) to make some stylish covers to hide those unattractive, beeping machines attached to the IV poles. Maybe some throw pillows would be nice. Dumb ideas, I know, but these are the things you think about when you don’t know what to do when someone you love is sick. (Okay, these may be the things I think of, not you.)

Pop & FloSince my husband isn’t allowed to receive flowers, I offered to hang his get well cards up around the room to make it more cheery. He was not interested. Instead he keeps them stacked nearby on a bench near his (white) paper towels. When he wasn’t looking, I was able to rearrange his Pop Tart boxes and Flonase package on his dorm fridge to give the space more color and balance.

Instead of me taking care of David, it’s still the other way around. It took me a few weeks to feel comfortable driving into the city and finding the parking garage. He instructed me on the simplest route, and I’ve stuck with it. I pray daily, “Get thee behind me detours!”Detours

Since I get to park free in the Dana-Farber garage, I have to traverse the maze of additions, bridges, and hallways that connect to Brigham and Women’s.  For the first two weeks, I got lost every day.   Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a natural dumb look, which alerts security I’m in need. “May I help you?” Presto! I’d be pointed in the right direction! (I’m gonna use that look more often.)

Finally, it was David (the guy who’d been wheeled in on his back on a gurney) who searched online for maps of both hospitals, overlaid and spliced them together, and drew red arrows from one place to the other. When even that seemed overwhelming for me, he gave me a simplified cheat sheet to help me on my way in and another one for my way out. It’s been three weeks now, and I still cheat.

My sense of direction isn’t my only deficiency. It’s the little things I have to remember now because he isn’t with me. The first night back from Boston, I locked myself out of the house. Fortunately, David had thought in advance to give my neighbors a key. More than once, I’ve gone to bed with the TV on because it was his job to shut it off. And, if I wanted a working radio and CD player on my trips to visit, I had to learn to drive the Venza, since that was “David’s car.”

[Speaking of the Venza, did you know you can’t put a desiel hose in its gas tank? I tried, I really did. Those gas station pump people are pretty smart, I tell ya.]

When I thought I lost the Venza fob (keyless thingamabob), David called valet parking and asked them to search for it. In the light of day, I found the little bugger. It had blended into the black-carpeted floor of the car—along with the black gloves and black earmuffs I thought I’d lost the week before. He also apologized to them for me.

And, as you may have guessed, I needed David to do the Photoshop job of himself in actor Michael York’s ensemble from Murder on the Orient Express, and the one of our friend, Jeremiah Peters, as one of his man servants.

I’m all set now because I have a list which I review before I leave the house:

  • David’s clean laundry Check!
  • David’s snacks Check!
  • Lunch for me Check!
  • Phones – both my old dumb one and my new smart one (which I don’t know how to use yet) Check!
  • Fob Check!
  • Sunglasses Check!
  • Electronic parking pass (which I wave randomly at anything bolted to the concrete wall until the gate goes up) Check!
  • Cheat sheet Check!
  • House keys Check!

Before I headed out yesterday, I mentally reviewed my list. Satisfied I had everything on it, I opened the door and stepped into the garage. Something didn’t feel right. I looked down.

I was in my stocking feet.

On a more serious note, even though the effects of chemo are extremely unpleasant, David is coping well emotionally and spiritually. He says of his time in the hospital, “I liken it to my stint in the Navy. I’ll follow orders and do my time until I get discharged.”

As for me, I prefer not to compare David’s hospital stay with his time in the Navy. Why? They kept him for four years! Can you imagine the damage I’d do in that time?

Car in parking garage

Thanks for your well wishes and prayers! Shalom. 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)