Marking Time

After high school, I was busy going to college, working a couple of part-time jobs. Honestly, I wasn’t THAT busy. In that period, I lived in two different cities. Each one had a hospital that was much better, bigger and advanced than the one in my home town. Hence with my mother being the youngest of 7 siblings, there were, inevitably, a relative or two who ended up in those hospitals, while I lived in each of those cities.

I loved living in the city. I loved that I could be at the grocery store in less than five minutes at any time day or night. I wouldn’t have traded it for the small town any day. But, I was lonely, sometimes, for the people I knew. After walking through city streets all day, seeing unfamiliar after unfamiliar face, it was a nice thought to put my head down on the pillow and think that somewhere, not to far away, was someone I actually knew — who knew me.

Without hesitation, I would show up at the hospital and visit the relative, every day after work, as long as the hospital stay lasted. (Such a big girl, in the city I was — like THAT GIRL or Mary Tyler Moore) showing up for a visit at the hospital. One was my Grandma — and one was my aunt. I can remember feeling privileged to visit them there. I just assumed, this was what I should do — to help support not only the one who was sick — but also everyone else back at home — to save them the trip of driving to the city everyday for a visit. “I’ve got this covered here on my end.”

There was nothing really to talk about at my visits — I remember just sitting there — truly just being content to sit in their presence. As if I was absorbing “familiarity” to take out of that room to carry with me as I sat at the bus station the next morning. As if I was “absorbing armor” and the longer I sat there, the longer the armor would last. Just marking time. The bonus was, for my relative, they wouldn’t have to tell their friends, how “lonely they were in the big city, in that dreadful hospital.”

I remember now, the surprised look on my aunt’s face when I showed up in the hospital room — just jotting in, between classes. She never expected a young girl to have time for such things. (Maybe she wanted to get some sleep, I was cramping her style?)

I made the time.

Maybe, I was there more for me, than her?

I am writing this by memory — precisely because I want to remember what that kind of unyielding loytaly felt like. Because, I would not make those visits today. This truthful realization makes me sad. Somewhere, between the responsibilities of having babies, my kid’s school projects, practice schedules, the demands of getting meals on the table everyday, and walking across sticky floors that should be mopped sometime this week, I became strapped. Pinned down — with absolutely no wiggle room whatsoever.

Leaving this life, to go visit another life, would be practically unheard of. There is no room for such things — I can’t even imagine having that kind of time.

I am grateful for that mindless idle time lavished on my Grandma and Aunt. Just marking time — precisely because they are not available today. They are gone.

There’s a selfish reason I feel so pinned here, though. This time, I am surrounded by people I love here. There is no empty apartment — there are faces here I know to keep me company, who speak words that make me laugh and yell, and they pull pranks on me too. Selfishly, I don’t want to miss a thing — and thank goodness that sticky floor gives me a chance to linger in the kitchen a bit longer just to chat with that one sitting at the table concentrating on his homework.

But there was a time, before all of this, when I was THAT GIRL, who had time to make visits to the hospital — and worried about walking in empty handed, because I had no money for flowers.

I hope I get the chance to have a THAT GIRL come and visit me someday when I’m in the hospital — because I’ll tell her — I’ll tell her the truth about her life. That someday these free minutes will no longer exists — and how excited I am for her to have those busy, hectic days ahead of her, and to be so tired at the end of it all that she won’t even be able to lift her head by the end of it.

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