My mother visited me every night after work for the two weeks that I was in the hospital. Nevermind that we had a screaming match in the street hours before I was admitted, nevermind that originally I had blocked her from being able to talk to the doctors, she still came. Occasionally she would bring her friends or my friends, but usually she came along, bearing August-in-Maine surprises. She brought me gazpacho from the tomatoes that I planted in her garden, she brought me her famous chocolate zucchini cake, she brought me my nana’s tomato hamburg soup. Once the staff trusted her, we were allowed to go outside and pick blackberries from the patch behind the hospital. I was still so out of it, but my mother was determined to bring me back, to ground me.
I was the only one who had a regular visitor during visiting hours. Everyone else said their family lived too far away or would never come. Yet, for some reason, I was lucky. The white hospital walls were soon covered in cards from friends and family, bouquets of flowers adorned my bedside table, and I would frequently be called to answer the phone. Granted my head was inflated at the time, but I felt truly loved. Everyone treated me as I just had a bad bout of the flu, and this was a “minor blip on my radar screen”, as one family friend said it.
I would return to college, and graduate, and work, and own a home, and raise a family. I may have been burdened by a sickness, but I was blessed by my socioeconomic class and loving family and friends and safe home state. For so many, this diagnosis meant homelessness and substance abuse and an inability to work or have a personal life. This diagnosis wrongfully
sentenced them to a lifetime of dependence on the government.
I met many whose lives did indeed turn in those dead-end directions. I dimly remember them, dimly remember the woman who showed me her bandages and said it was her third suicide attempt, dimly remember the man who claimed to own a construction company and offered me a job. Yet more than that, I remember a woman in her seventies who shared my love of flowers and only recently found out her diagnosis…