I was surfing the internet the other day — OK, actually it was more like I was bobbing along the surface of the internet on an inflatable pink plastic seahorse — when I came across a list called “Things My Mother Taught Me.” Many of the items on the list sounded eerily familiar to me, and I bet they will with you as well.
For example, my mother taught me to appreciate a job well done: “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.” My mother taught me religion: “You’d better pray that your father doesn’t find out about this.” My mother taught me about logic: “Because I said so, that’s why.” My mother taught me about foresight: “Make sure you wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.” My mother taught me about irony: “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll really give you something to cry about.” My mother taught me about medical science: “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they’ll freeze that way.” My mother taught me about wisdom: “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.” And finally, my mother taught me about justice: “One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!”
As I write this, my mom has just been released after spending nearly seven weeks in the hospital fighting an infection in her elbow. She was not in any pain, and up until the last week or so she was comfortable and resigned to doing whatever it took to fix her problem. But she was becoming increasingly frustrated with being confined to the hospital for so long and desperately wanted to go home.
Hers was not a life-threatening problem. At least, not at first it wasn’t. But the longer she was stuck in the hospital, the more dangerous it became — not for her, but for her doctors who I feared she was going to kill if they kept her in much longer.
Fortunately for all of us, one of my sisters is a nurse in the hospital where mom was staying, and Becky was able to check up on my mom regularly, as was my other sister Liz, who is a teacher and therefore off for the summer.
I called mom every couple of days to say hi, ask how she was doing, and to pester her about changing her will to cut out my brother and sisters, all to no avail. If she had stayed in much longer, I was prepared to go down to California to visit her and make my estate-planning proposal in person, which represented a significant undertaking on my part because I don’t like flying, hospitals or California.
Besides being full of sick people, I’m always freaked out by all the weird medical apparatus hanging around the hallways of hospitals. I’ve only been in a hospital three times as a patient. Once when I was born, once due to dehydration related to mononucleosis, and once to have the ACL in my left knee replaced. I probably could have had the ACL done on an outpatient basis, but I think my obvious fear, loathing and general squeamishness amused the doctors and staff at Swedish sufficiently that they decided to keep me overnight to help break up the tedium.
My orthopedic surgeon was kind enough to make a videotape of my knee surgery. To this day, some eight years later, I still cannot bring myself to watch it.
My only other visits to hospitals have been as a dutiful visitor. Our Lamaze class met at a hospital, and I had to excuse myself from the first class to find a restroom where I could splash cold water on my face to keep from passing out. When visiting friends and family in the hospital, I find I do best if I don’t take my eyes off of whatever is playing on the wall-mounted TV sets or whatever is left on their lunch tray, which admittedly does not make me a particularly uplifting or sought after hospital visitor.
So visiting mom at the hospital would have been a challenge for me, but well worth the effort. My mom is tough, and she had lots of people praying for her, and I’m happy that she’ll be able to read this column in the comfort of her own home. If she’s reading this at home, I hope she knows that I love her and wish her a speedy recovery. And if she is reading this anywhere near one of my sisters or brother, I’m sure she’ll let them know that I was only kidding about the will thing. Sort of. And did I mention that mom also taught me about weather?: “Your room looks like a cyclone went through it.”
Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper. This is from his “Classics File.”