As I watched my friend sleep I suddenly thought,
"I should give him something he can hold to comfort him."
Initially I envisioned a stuffed animal. But how crazy would it seem for a 47-year-old man to be found lying in ICU holding a stuffed Curious George (which by the way, I want if I am ever in a similar situation).
The reason for thinking I should give him something to hold felt so organic to me that I started to wonder why I thought of it in the first place. What inspired such a thought?
My mind swept back to my last hospital stay for the answer.
I was 6 years old and suffering through another endless little league baseball game that my 8-year-old brother Wally was playing in. Since I had no interest in this I headed off to explore the trees and paths that outlined the edges of the park.
I vividly remember singing to myself as I ran along the paths, stopping every so often to watch an anthill. In these wanderings I came across a little girl walking alone in the woods. She was a bit older than me, perhaps 10. I remember skipping past her on the narrow dirt path and waving to her as I went by. A few moments later I heard her yell something like "hey you". I swung around towards her and was hit in the left eye with a large stone.
I immediately put my hands to my face and blood flowed through my fingers. In stunned silence I watched the girl climb over the tall chain link fence without so much as an "I'm sorry". She was probably as shocked as I was because I do not believe he had meant to hurt me - she just had bad aim.
Seconds later I ran screaming back towards the ball field navigating the path using my one good eye. When everyone saw me they rushed over. I had succeeded in bringing the game to an end. The assistant coach, who was also a volunteer fireman, scooped me up in his arms and directed my mom to get in his car. He proceeded to speed through traffic with his siren blaring. As I lay on the front seat looking up I could see the traffic lights whizzing by on our way to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York.
The emergency staff told my mom that I would have to be admitted. My mom explained to me that this meant I would have to stay overnight in the hospital without her.
In the hospital WITHOUT MY MOMMY?!
When this sunk in I totally lost it. I felt betrayed by my mom when she said she agreed with the doctors who said that this would be the best place for me. I screamed and held out my hands while they dragged me down the hall.
It turns out that I had to have both of my eyes covered with patches for a period of time which left me blind and with strangers. I was scared. To my relief my mom did come back and when she did I refused to let her leave again. When visiting hours were over and she began her good-bye I cried and held on tight.
One day she said to me "I'm leaving but I'll be right back. I'm just getting something to eat. I will leave my pocketbook with you. These are my keys (which she jangled and let me touch). You know I can't drive home without my keys."
So, I let her leave and clutched that handbag tightly until I fell asleep. When I woke up mommy was there again. All was right with the world. And so it went day after day.
It wasn't until I was much older that she told me that it was all a clever trick. That was not her pocketbook at all. It was an old one she no longer used into which she put some found keys, an empty wallet and some other carefully selected items.
But the trick worked. It served its purpose. I found the comfort I so desired and she got to go home to take care of my dad and 2 brothers.
I wish I were as clever as my mom - to be able to take away worry and fright with one well chosen object. But I am not. I am out of ideas. What would my mom do?
Get well soon Ed.
Get well soon Dad.