Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fresh Lipstick and the Unconscious Family Code

Right after I arrived at work yesterday - I got a phone call. It was my sister, telling me simply, "Mom is in the Emergency Room. I'm on my way there."

Since that phone call, my life has been seemingly on hold.

I know I've talked about my mother in other blog entries, but I'll still begin this with a slight preamble. My mom is the chick who works in a hospital as a Patient Rep, but seems to hate doctors from a personal health standpoint. She's the one who stays awake during procedures if at all possible, believing it's simply unnatural and she may die from being put under. She is the woman who has surgery on her eye and drives herself home (looking like a pirate and swerving as she sees double, I assume), only to tell us about it three days after the fact. She is the woman who, when they ask, "What's your pain level on a scale from 1 to 10?" she will answer, "Oh, it's a 4." We know damn well that her 4 is the rest of the world's 10. She's the mom, when I was a kid and I wanted to stay home from school because I didn't feel well, that would look to see if my eyes were bleeding. If not, I'd have to get my butt to school.

She's not the kind of Mom who goes to the E.R.

To back up even more, last week was one of female family drama, where many past emotional traumas had come to the surface. Basically, my sister, mother, and I were in the process of "having words," as I like to refer to it. It was one of those "we put the fun in dysfunctional" type of peaks in the rough terrain of that treacherous family mountain range.

So, when I got the call, after my helacious morning in traffic, I didn't hesitate. I packed up my crap and I got right back into my car to make the trek back to the south side of town. The drive - the action of me getting in the car - was like blinking.

I showed up at the hospital to find my sister already there.

After 2 and a half hours of waiting, my sister, the nurse, started getting irritated. I don't claim to know a damn thing about hospitals, so I just tried to find something besides "Saved by the Bell - the Vegas episode" - on the television in my mom's examining room (while cracking a joke every once in a while to lighten the mood). Apparently, a nurse is supposed to check a patient's pain every 30 minutes or so, and moreover, my Mom is a friggin' employee at the hospital. My sister was slightly put off by this and subsequently ripped the staff new buttholes. A surgeon was in the room within 20 minutes. I was beaming with pride.

A lot of things go through your mind when you see a swollen belly and understand that there's a level of pain. The worrying mind tends to think of ovaries and tumors and the "C" word. We all think that crap. Especially when it runs in your family. Much to our amusement, though, Mom was diagnosed with appendicitis, and it had to come out as soon as possible. We were relieved, because it was a tangible outcome. So, we broke into the "dance". You know...that sibling dance that's done on the "heavy" occasions. I assume all siblings do it. You divide and conquer. You decide, in a very short period of time, what needs to be done, who will do it and how. I take this, you take that, drop off that car, pick up those clothes, stock her fridge with those groceries for her recovery, prep the bed, get some lunch, make sure we get her pain pills and antibiotics, alert the family, man phone calls, and of course, pick up her lipstick. She asked for that specifically. I knew she would also require lip liner. I realized at that moment that no matter where I went or how far I strayed from her, I was indeed her child.

This is the time when I tend to thrive, and it makes me wonder if I wouldn't have been a good hostage negotiator or something that requires on-the-spot, adrenaline-rush decision making. But, it's that unconscious auto-pilot thing we all have when a family catastrophe, or a bout with appendicitis, ensues.

It's funny how her appendix became inflamed after several harsh words and a few days of female family drama. I could get all hippie about that, but I'll save it for another day. It's funny how when faced with a situation such as this, my sister and I just stepped up without even thinking. It's funny how you do things for your family in such an unconscious way. It's amazing how a little appendix - a useless, meaningless, piece of the human body - can bring out the good in people.

Back to normal tonight. Mom is safe in her bed, tucked away with painkillers, her pocket solitaire, and some cheesy Saturday night movie. And, it's comforting to know that the family code prevails over drama.