So it’s been a stressful week. I mean, really stressful. Mom in ICU, four days later blood counts too low to release her, no solution in sight. My days are dizzying: Visit Mom, try to remember what three nurses and two doctors said and all their names, decipher nursespeak like FFP and POA, determine which cellphone in the room is ringing, pick up sister from train, pick up Mom’s mail, visit Dad at nursing home, e-mail updates to family … you get the picture.
People use the word zoo to describe weeks like this, though every zoo I’ve ever been to is a sea of tranquility compared with this. An elephant languidly swinging its trunk and emitting the occasional bellow? Yes, much calmer than nurses, aides, orderlies, and doctors madly sprinting past each other, then sliding to Mom’s bedside for an earnest heart-to-heart. Mid-sentence, they fumble in their vibrating pocket to grab the cellphone whose ring has been programmed to ironically mellow Yanni-like keyboard riffs. Then they dash off, phone plastered to ear. I can’t help but think of scenes from the Jim Carrey movie Mr. Popper’s Penguins: Flippers flapping, penguins speedily slip-sliding on wet hallway floors.
Which brings me to Dad’s Alzheimer’s unit. Believe me, I mean no offense to dear folks with Alzheimer’s, but my visit to Dad right after the ICU zoo, struck me as funny. Their bubbly activities director had lined up some folks in wheelchairs in the sunroom to watch the Doris Day movie Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. While Doris Day’s four mischievous boys dropped water balloons out a second-story window onto pedestrians below and tangled her phone cord and asked a million questions, a lady two wheelchairs down from Dad’s constantly repeated, “Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary …” Maybe she was praying for Doris Day, who knows? In the middle of on-screen chaos, Doris Day’s doorbell rang. At the nursing home, bubbly activities director’s pocket rang, so she grabbed her phone and began to yell into it, which I suppose she had to do since the TV volume had to be loud enough for residents to hear the movie. Just then, the one lady in Dad’s hall who still walks hobbled to the sunroom’s aviary and began pounding flat-palmed on the glass to get the birds to fly around. Ten colorful little birds flitted and swooped but as soon as they lit on a branch, the lady pounded on the glass again. I laughed and thought, “Oh, this is perfect.”
But I was wrong. On my drive back to the hospital to check in again on Mom, I passed a man riding a bicycle. On top of his parka hood was a beanie with a propeller whirring. He was too bundled up for me to see his face, but I’m pretty sure it would have looked like Alfred E. Newman’s of MAD magazine. A propeller beanie? Okay, now it's perfect.