Hey, Lady. Well, how's life? Does it still beat the alternative? Yeah, sometimes I'm not so sure anymore, either.
I know I usually call you on Mother's Day, but that's just not possible this year. The phone lines don't reach that far. The oddest part is right now I'm sitting here, just a few feet away from your hospital bed. And we've never felt farther apart.
So I'm writing to you this way because they tell me you can't hear me. Even if you could hear me, they said, you wouldn't remember it anyway. I'm not sure I believe that. I'm not even sure they believe it. Because they keep telling me it's good to talk out loud to you. And they do it, too, every time they come in to check on you, their science project.
So, what the hell, here it goes. First off, I have to say I hate it here in the land of cold, white walls and anti- microbial hand rubs. I'm sure you know what I mean: You've been in here for a week, with no end in sight.
But what's a week in here, huh? Time feels irrelevant in hospitals, especially here in the intensive care unit, where joy and heartbreak are updated on the quarter hour. Every time I glance at the clock on the wall, it seems to jump forward a couple of hours. Stranger yet, below the clock is a calendar and, once a day, someone sneaks in and pulls off the old date. One of these nights, I'm going to catch them. I suspect it's Judy, that motherly day nurse, but I'll tell you when I find out for sure.
Hey, your doctors stopped by today and offered us something we've been short on around here lately: hopeful news. I guess the cancer has shrunk quite a bit, especially in the liver. If we can just get you through this pneumonia, we might have something.
What? No, don't worry, I'm not giving them all the ugly details. Yes, I'm well aware you never wanted to be a recurring character in my columns. But as I've told you, I'm practicing for when my kids grow up and do precisely what I tell them not to. Only then will I fully understand what I've put you through.
I have to say it's been amazing watching you change here in life's twilight. The old loner on the farm suddenly loves having people around. Craves it, really. It's OK, I had to learn that one the hard way, too. Remember when I was in my mid-20s and you were always worried I was going to kill myself? I never told you how close I came. What? Yes, that was in the dark, homeless period. Hey, I thought we weren't going to bring that up anymore.
Anyway, like I was saying, once during that time, I actually went two weeks without seeing or talking to another person. And I remember walking into this store to try to buy something, but my mouth wouldn't work. I had forgotten how to talk to people. It was strange, and I didn't like it. My point is, I liked the loner image, too, but it wasn't healthy for me, either. People need people. Just like sons need their mothers.
You know, I'm really not good at these one-way conversations. I feel like the people I ridicule for talking to plants. I really don't have much to say except I sincerely hope there is some reward for all this. And I hope your reward is measured in years, not months or weeks.
Well, it's midnight now and I've got a five-hour drive ahead of me, with work in the morning. Oh, stop worrying about me, I'll be fine. Lady, I can keep this up as long as you can. So keep fighting the good fight, Mom, and I'll see you again in a couple of days. Be well.
AND ANOTHER THING: A month or so ago I wrote a column about the difficulty of trying to explain to my sons that their grandmother has cancer and isn't expected to live a whole lot longer.
In response to the column, I received numerous e-mails and phone calls offering encouragement. So many, in fact, that there was no way for me to respond to each one, which I normally try to do. So, for those who offered their kindness, I wanted to say thank you. So: Thank you. There, I said it.
Until next time, friends, may your road lead you everywhere except hospitals.
Bee columnist Ty Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 874-5716.