I woke up at four a.m. today!
FOUR FREAKING A.M.
It's not the first time I've woken up so early to take someone to the hospital for surgery and I'm sure it won't be the last. The last couple of decades I've visited practically every hospital in the city and am quite familiar with the brightly lit, antiseptic terrain.
Today, the surgery is for my husband while a few weeks ago it was for my son. As a family (extended included) we've had surgeries for our noses, brains, legs, heart, feet, and multiple internal organs. We've dealt with heart disease, cancer, degenerative disc disease, and everything in between.
I've spent more time in hospitals for my parents than most people my age and have become quite familiar with the frustration of waiting and sitting for hours on end. While many of my loved ones have had their various procedures I’m usually the one sitting in a waiting room full of strangers.
Sitting. Waiting. Staring. Anxious.
It's not that my family isn't healthy (at least not most of them), it’s just that the damnedest things happen. Often, all at once.
So here I am, once again waiting.
While I'm waiting, I'm writing which is what I do most often when I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room. Many blog posts and chapters have been written in a hospital, with countless characters created and scenes edited. I could spend the entire time reading or Facebooking but writing requires concentration which keeps my mind clear and keeps me awake. Writing makes all of this better because I'm being useful and productive, while the words and emotions flow onto the page.
When I'm not writing in the hospital, I love people-watching. There are so many interesting people also waiting for loved ones. Currently, there's an older woman and a younger woman, both coloring in adult coloring books, a foursome who look more like they're having a card party rather than waiting. There's a reader and a texter, and a son who is occupying his elder mother while they wait and talk. As I look around the room though, it’s mostly full of women.
Strong and solitary women, all waiting like me.
Wondering about these people often occupy me, giving me fodder for more writing. The party people are a little annoying and loud, but I've seen much worse. The TV is on, but only a couple of people are watching until a cooking show comes on and now even I'm interested.
But it's far better to wonder where these people come from and where they're going, so I make up stories about them in my head like I've done my entire life. They'll stay trapped in my head until they're ready to appear in a story at just the right time, even though I'll surely forget where they came from.
For my son’s surgery a few weeks ago, there was a young man who either had the flu or was extremely distraught, or both. He was a sleeping, sniffling mess of a man who dumped his coffee on himself and couldn't even clean himself up. He was a disaster and he both intrigued and disgusted me. I can't wait to use him one day!
The worst of the hospital trips, and there have been some doozies, was when my dad had surgery at age fifty-four and we found out hours after recovery that he'd had a massive stroke. He was nervous before he went in and I’d held his hand and reassured him that everything was going to be okay.
But it wasn't.
After that, nothing was ever the same.
Then there was the time my mom was rushed to the hospital in a coma on THE SAME MORNING my husband was going in for knee surgery.
he same damned morning.
And then there was the time my niece was diagnosed with a brain tumor…
It's funny how when life is fairly normal you forget about all of those moments and how each one changed you and the people you love, making us into who we've become.
I don't think too much about my hospital life when I'm living my normal life, but I know that it's always lingering in the back of my mind. I can't even begin to know how much it's changed me or what I would've been like without these experiences but I do know that I'm merely a human. I understand my own mortality like most people don't and realize that every day is a gift, which annoys the crap out of my kids because I hug and kiss them like a crazy person. It’s not because I'm affectionate because only my children and whiskey make me 2 that way, but because I want them to always remember how much I love them.
Kissing my child moments before they've been put under anesthesia, has made me value them in a way that minimizes my frustration when they're testing my patience. It's true. If you haven't ever done it and then have to, you'll understand. It's terrifying.
Now all I can see when I look at them are big eyes and beautiful hearts. Believe me, they still get on my nerves, but there's another layer that I can't explain and I find more love than I do anything else. I didn't know that it was possible to love them any more but I do. Two small surgeries for my boys have given me a very small understanding and great love for parents who live with chronically ill or terminal children. I couldn't imagine teetering on the precipice of loss and love every day the way they do, and those parents and kids are truly my heroes.
These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I sit and wait.
While I don't wear my worry on the outside, I punish my teeth and jaw by grinding them, and I write. I tell my loved ones that everything will be okay, because I truly believe it will, and then I kiss them good-bye. But I'll tell you a secret. It wears on me.
It's the privilege of being a mom, wife, aunt, niece, and daughter. It's being the rock. It's showing no fear and keeping everyone's demons at bay, including my own. I'm a glass-half-full type of person anyway, but I do believe that a positive mindset is crucial in life.
It's almost like using the Jedi mind trick to make sure that every surgery, every illness, every recovery is successful and goes well. It's juggling, waiting, anticipating, and when needed, it's fighting. But that's what the person who is the rock does.
You sit. You wait. You pray. And you expect only the best outcome. Only. The. Best.
Then … you write. At least, that's what I do.
Jennifer Sivec writes beautifully broken stories with heart.
She is attracted to and writes stories with characters that are complicated, flawed and completely imperfect. Her books are often a reflection of life, encompassing difficult subjects such as cancer, addiction, abandonment, and abuse. She writes with a raw, complex, yet hopeful approach often weaving tragic stories with honesty and grace, creating unforgettable characters.
Jennifer has been writing since she was in the fourth grade but didn’t publish her first novel until 2014, and has been writing non-stop since. Her passion for reading and sharing stories gives her perspective and peace of mind.
She lives in Ohio with her husband, two boys, and two dogs who create balance and levity for her. She loves her crazy life and wonderful readers, and is grateful for all of it, every day.
Whatever your nest looks like, it's the people and animals in it who make it a home. This page is dedicated to all things family: raising kids, juggling schedules, corralling pets, or navigating changing parental relationships.