The Elephant in the Room

She’s bored and she wants to go home. Being awake is taking a toll. She doesn’t enjoy the hospital. Every time I move around the room she asks me where I’m going. Then she asks if she can come home with me. On the bright side, she’s giggling again. She’s back to recounting obscure comedic moments from her favorite films. Then her face sours and she laments being connected to wires and tubes. She is cross whenever she feels the port. It is not the device itself, but the tape holding it to her skin that she abhors. Though we are blessed by the return of her wit, it is accompanied by the return of sharp observations about her own condition. She told me flatly, “I don’t want to be sick anymore.”

I arrived late this morning. Both girls were fast asleep. I left my things and grabbed a cup of coffee. When I returned, Jeanette was awake and off to the shower. Jordan was curled in a ball lengthwise across her bed. Her sleep cycle is discombobulated. She kept her mother awake from 2-4am rambling on with thoughts and anecdotes. As noon approached, the nurse suggested we wake her to get her back onto a normal schedule. I curled beside her, kissed her cheek and whispered that her breakfast was waiting for her. Her eyes fluttered open and then she sat straight up. She smiled and tackled a stack of pancakes. Between bites, she caught up with me and began lobbying to flee the hospital.

She has trouble walking. With each baby step she wails a whimpered cry of trepidation. She’s using the restroom again, and she’s very happy to be back in her own undegarments. She resented the diapers, defiantly telling us she was not a baby. She was so insulted by them that she insisted we find pajama breeches to match her hospital gown. I told Nettie that the surest sign of our daughter’s recovery was the resurfacing of her mad streak of independence and stubborn attention to fashion.

In the afternoon, the hospital chaplain stopped by. I had phoned my parish earlier in the week, and they called Father John. He was a kind man who brought Jordan a fleece blanket and pillow patterned with lady bugs. She put them to immediate use. We talked with Father for awhile, me reconnecting with my tortured Catholic guilt. Whenever I realize how infrequently I practice my faith (and it truly is infrequent) I fear the clergy will ask me to turn in my reg card. But Father John was understanding and offered to sit with us just to talk, if we needed it.

I asked Jordan if she wanted a blessing, and she said yes. Father asked her if there was anything specific for which she’d like to pray. She asked him to pray for her grandfather (my dad, who died in 1998). Father was surprised that Jordan wanted to pray for the dead. He reminded her that her grandfather was still with her in heaven and told her that it was very good that she wished to send him her prayers. He told her that he was sure grandfather was praying for her, too. She ignored his observation and then she asked to pray for Max – her dead cat. Sensing a pattern, we held our breath as Father agreed to include Max in the blessing. He was about to start his prayer when Jordan added, “and my friends. I want to pray for my friends.” (Fortunately, they are all among the living.)

Father started the blessing and said some very sweet words about all of the people Jordan wanted to pray for. Then he asked God to bless Jordan and help her feel better. I glanced over and saw that she was frowning. Her mouth was melting and her eyes were puffing up. I asked her what was wrong.

“I’m scared,” she whispered.

Father paused for a moment. Jeanette and I held Jordan’s hands and offered quick words of comfort while Father finished the blessing. Jordan snapped back and charmed the priest with stories about her cats. As we shook his hand and thanked him for visiting us, Jordan shifted her attention to the Disney Channel. There would be no further talk of dead cats and relatives, nor discussions about her illness.

She doesn’t know about the seizures, and we haven’t quite figured out how to tell her, or if we even need to. She does remember the accident. She told her mother that the light post tripped her. Then she cursed it and gave it ample blame for putting her in the hospital. She still thinks her birthday is due to arrive, though we tell her it has passed. We plan to celebrate in good measure when she gets back home.

The doctors are talking of her sending her home soon. She’s making the transition from intravenous to oral medications. A game plan is in the works for her new chemotherapy protocol, and we have a team of specialists ready to examine and work with her in the days ahead. She is acutely aware of the fact that people are watching her and giving due scrutiny to all her actions. Every so often she will tell us, “I’m zero.” At first, we psycho-analyzed this statement and assumed she was feeling low self-worth. In fact, she was referring to a sign on the bulletin board across her bed. There are six stick figure faces, with differing facial expressions. The zero is a happy, smiling face. The six is a very unhappy, painful face. Jordan reminds us whenever she can that she is happy. The better to convince her doctors and us that she is ready to go home.