I was the obvious choice to drive my mother to her surgery. We had to leave for the hospital by 5:30 am and my father couldn’t, at that point in his life, be ready so early in the morning.
So Mom and I had an hour’s drive in the dark as I wondered if I’d be the last person to see her alive. The surgery was serious.
Doctors would open an incision from her throat to her stomach, break ribs and peel back everything to insert a new valve in her 81-year-old heart.
I don’t recall what we talked about. You’d think it would have been deep and meaningful, but it had more to do with who was coming and when they’d arrive. Details that would mean nothing to her whether she survived the surgery or not.
We walked through the brightly-lit hospital lobby to the admissions desk with the air pressing on me like a smoky fog. I couldn’t breath deeply and I wondered how my mother could take another step.
But she settled at the desk and calmly answered all the questions.
My throat was stuffed with cotton.
We were escorted to the pre-surgery area where she traded her street clothes for a surgical gown. I got the bag of clothes.
Souvenirs, I guessed, just in case.
Then the surgeon came to me and asked if I had questions. I’m not usually emotional but tears rolled down my cheeks as I tried to talk to him. He ignored the tears.
“I’m not worried about the surgery,” he said. “We’ll get her through that. It’s the next three days that are of concern. She’ll need to be a fighter.”
“She’s a fighter,” I said. Tears kept running.
A surgical liaison connected then. “I’ll give you updates every half hour or so. You’ll know how the surgery is going.”
The anesthesiologist called me back in to Mom’s cubicle. “She’s had a mild sedative and she can talk to you but she won’t remember any of this.”
But I would. I held Mom’s hand, kissed her cheek, assured her of my love for her. She patted my shoulder like a mother comforting a four-year-old.
And then she was whisked away.
I wasn’t long in the surgical waiting room before my sister arrived. We cried together. Every time the liaison came to report that the surgery was going very well, we cried.
“The doctor is pleased with her vitals,” the liaison said. We cried.
Both brothers arrived and they didn’t cry, which helped us a little.
After four hours, the surgeon met with the family to report everything had gone well and she was in recovery.
All good news on that day. And we cried again.