Monday, November 30, 2015
When I was a kid visiting a parent in the hospital was not allowed. I don’t mean that as in visiting hours only, or accompanied by an adult. It was No Children, period. It was considered to be too unsettling for the patient to see their children; or so the patients were told. Of course that was a load of crap; the most unsettling thing for a parent when they are in the hospital is not seeing their children. And the children feel the same way. Somewhere around 1970 that all changed; and now hospitals are probably too full of visitors for anyone’s benefit. But that will have to be someone else’s story. My story takes place in 1960 when I was about 6 years old.
Everyone should have an Aunt; or two; like Aunt Sissy in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” It seems like childhood would be incomplete without someone like that in your life; an adult, but not subject to the usual rules. I was fortunate enough to have 2 such Aunts; my father’s sisters Gladys and Gloria. I've written about them before. They were just the right age to be Aunts; being my Dad's younger sisters. That's them with my grandmother "Nana" before I was born.
In 1960 my mother began a series of illnesses which would color my childhood, and later on take her life. But not before she gave everyone a run for their money; and not until she was ready. Mom was tiny, but formidable. The point is that she was always in the hospital and I couldn't see her. My Aunts thought this was absurd, and so a plan was hatched, whereby we would be able to see our mom.
I remember the turquoise walls of the hospital; it seems like they painted all the health related buildings in that color. They may have called it turquoise, but I called it “puke green”. The plan was fairly simple; my brother and I would go up the stairs to the floor my mom was on. The only hitch was that at each floor the stairway entrance was directly opposite the head nurses station; making detection very likely.
I think it was Gladys who would emerge from the stairway and engage the head nurse in conversation, or question, as Gloria, my brother and I slipped past to the next flight of stairs. When we got to the next floor we would repeat the process until we got where we were headed. Once there Gladys had to do a prolonged version of diversion as Aunt Gloria quickly hustled us down the hallway to y mom’s room. Hey, sometimes we actually made it!
Other times we failed dismally. My brother could never get it right when we would pass each floor. The sequence went like this; Gloria would go first, and then call to one of us, who would then dash across the opening in a streak so as not to be seen. But my brother had a hard time with doing the quickstep and we got caught; and thrown out; more times than we got in. Ah, but you should of seen the glow on my mom’s face when we did.