Saturday, January 26, 2008

Room 207

I spent a short time today in Room 207. It's just down the hall not far from the room my father spent time in; around the corner from rooms my mother occupied at one time or another; kiddy-corner from the one my friend Ed stalked out of trailing an I.V. and some choice expletives. Room 207 is directly across from where Shaman was mis-diagnosed, and it's next-door to the room where my father took his last breath, the room where I last kissed his forehead and said a final goodbye.

That's the thing about a small town. The hospital is small too, and, unlike big city medical centers, it becomes familiar. I know where to get juice (the same place the nurses would get it for you if you asked them to) and where the extra blankets are kept. Even the doctors have first names.

It was 5:00, and there was my son-in-law with his heated tray of pseudo-healthy dinner, the victim of what he called "a glorified physical" set in motion by a few sharp chest pains. He was up-beat, grandson was getting a kick out of exploring and checking out the oddities of institutional living; my daughter was cheerful. The building has seen the extremes of the human experience, and it struck me how the same set can stage everything from the comedy of ill-designed hospital gowns to the tragedy of a body giving up the fight.

Today he's home again, and thoughts of Room 207 once again fade. This time its memory will be fleeting and unremarkable, and that is a good thing.