This Side Up

What you need to catch at the hospital


“Oh, I’m sorry. I hope I’m not interrupting something,” said the nurse who followed me into Marge’s hospital room.”

Jeanne, as I learned from her lapel pin, turned and walked out of the room.

Her response evoked a round of laughter from the three of us, just the kind of medicine needed at a moment like this. After all, she had caught the tail end of my father’s comment when Marge declared she had plenty of books to read.

“Well, I hope they’re really sexy,” he said.

Marge didn’t get to answer before Jeanne interrupted us and promptly left.

Marge needed more than a racy novel. Having just undergone a knee replacement, her right leg was swollen and immobile. She put on a smile as my father bent over to kiss her, but you could tell she was hurting.

“So, you’re taking it easy in here,” my father teased.

“Yes,” she countered, “I needed the rest and some good cooking.”

Such repartee between Marge, who turned 87 this August and my father, who will be 95 in February, is the norm. In fact, I believe it is one reason they are so positive and so healthy.

As a retired nurse, Marge knew what she was in for when she elected to undergo surgery. Recovery can be lengthy, not to mention painful and demanding. Yet, she wasn’t going to let her bum knee slow her down. She had lived with it for about a year. It wasn’t getting better and a couple of months ago, she weighed the options and made the decision.

My father, whose expertise is far removed from the medical profession, offered his analysis.

“Knees are pretty tricky joints.”

He talked of his brother, who had problems with his knees, and concluded it would be some time before Marge could give up a walker or, for that matter, get behind the wheel of her car.

None of the challenges were the topic on this first day of recovery. Sunshine flooded the room. The bouquets from family and friends gave it a garden feel. Marge knew who sent what and pointed to arrangements.

Lunch arrived. She perked up but only nibbled the chicken and mashed potatoes. My father quipped that maybe she would be better off coming home.

“Maybe by Saturday,” she said. That was three days away, and I knew he was already counting.

“That’s not bad,” he responded, even though I could tell he thought it was a long time. It is all part of his outlook that the glass is half full. That’s the way she sees things, too.

“Is there anything we can get you,” my father asked, as we prepared to leave. I couldn’t imagine what the hospital hadn’t been able to provide, but Marge had a request.

“Chapstick,” she said, “My lips are dry and cracked.”

I was glad to have a mission; to do something to help. I told her it would only take me a minute to visit the gift shop. I’d be back in no time.

The shop was open and the Chapstick was clearly visible on the shelf behind the register. To my annoyance, the clerk announced she had just closed out the register and they wouldn’t be open until the following morning. I suggested I didn’t need change. She shook her head.

I took the elevator back to the fourth floor and stopped at the first nurse station.

‘No,” I was informed, “we don’t have Chapstick.

The nurse pointed in the direction of the next station and Nurse Jeanne.

“She should have some Vaseline.”

Jeanne looked up from her clipboard.

“Would you have some Vaseline?”

Jeanne looked at me inquisitively.

“What for?”

“For Marge,” I answered.

From a box she retrieved a packet no larger than what you would get at McDonald’s filled with mayonnaise only this was Vaseline. She held it up, but didn’t hand it over.

I hadn’t answered her question.

“It’s not nearly enough,” I said.

She burst into laughter. It was contagious – just what needs to get spread around at a hospital, or for that matter, anywhere.


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