Monday, January 08, 2007

Driven To Distraction ...

Funny thing: Even though we use very little of our brains - and some even less than others - sometimes there's very little room for more than a single idea.

Today I met my mom at the hospital. My father was scheduled for an angiogram. His second. His first was before his triple bypass in 2001.

I've spent far too much time in that hospital in the past five years. Knock wood, I've never been a patient, always a visitor. But the waiting, as Tom Petty says, is the hardest part.

I brought a book with me today, knowing full well I wouldn't read it. Sure enough, it stayed in my purse the entire time. We hung around the surgery waiting room for an hour before we were allowed to see my dad in pre-op. Shortly after we were shown to his "room," his nurse arrived to wheel him to his procedure. In a hallway intersection, she said, "OK, this is where we part ways." We wished my dad well and went to the next waiting area.

Could those chairs be any less comfortable? Maybe they could make them out of cinder blocks - with a few nails sticking out. That might do the trick. I mean, I don't need a Barcalounger, but sheesh. Next time - if there's a next time, and I hope there's not a next time - I'll stop in the gift shop and see if I can buy one of those inflatable donuts.

Speaking of donuts, the one good thing about this hospital are the chocolate donuts. Whatever bakery supplies them, they're fabulous. Shortly after I arrived this morning, mom sent me to the cafeteria to see if there were any left. I scored two, along with a "cappuccino," which, near as I can tell, is hot flavored water. There doesn't seem to be anything resembling coffee or espresso anywhere in the mix.

Once we arrived at the second waiting area and I made a quick run out to mom's car to dump off my father's coat which she'd been lugging around, we noshed on our donuts. The sugar buzz did nothing for mom's state of wakefulness. She woke up at 3 a.m. today, so I patted my shoulder and she rested her head against it for a few minutes. Then, in need of coffee, she sent me back to the cafeteria. She reached for money.

"I've got it," I said.

"No," she said. "I have a ton of singles. Here, take some," she said, thrusting a handful at me.

"Were you planning on hitting a strip club later?" I had 10 ones in my hand.

I returned with coffee and a report on the day's "specials." Cheese lasagne. Cheese sticks. Tortilla soup (which, I believe, is made with cheese). Potato bar (with a steaming vat of "cheese" sauce). Healthy much? Drumming up business for the cardiology department?

The nurse/gurney driver from earlier appeared to tell us that my dad was back in the surgery waiting area, that all went well, and that his doctor was filling out some paperwork and would be by to chat with us.

We love my father's cardiologist. I interviewed him for a story for the Tribune following my dad's open-heart procedure five years ago. Essentially, everything's fine. But my father has some lifestyle changes to make. Well, he's had some lifestyle changes to make. He just hasn't really made them yet.

Thanks to a nifty new procedure, angiogram patients can be discharged shortly after the procedure, instead of lying prone for six hours as they had to in the past. So I was home much earlier than I anticipated.

I fired up the computer and realized that I had next to no capacity to focus.

It felt like that delayed emotion you feel when someone dies: Somehow, you manage to keep everything together during those initial days, and it's not really until the services are over and the relatives are gone that your brain really processes the loss.

In this case, though, relief, not grief.

I had nothing pressing for work so Kelley prescribed an afternoon off with a half-bottle of wine.

I skipped the wine but it was good to turn off my brain for the day. And make coffee at 4:30 in the afternoon. Mom came by for a bit and had a cup.

Decaf.

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