I don’t know if the doctors or ICU nurses told me to go outside and wait or it was an unspoken understanding that I would.
I waited with Gabrielle. I waited for permission to see Mike.
I am not a patient person and even after 3 months of sitting, sitting, sitting, waiting for Mike to wake up, waiting for doctors to come talk to us, waiting for elevators to come, waiting for Mike to come out of a procedure, waiting to pick up prescriptions, waiting for red lights while I’m speeding back to the hospital, waiting for someone to return my call….waiting….it is not my strong suit but I did a lot of it. I think I waited better than anyone who knew me would have predicted. But even with the practice of waiting I would grow antsy, impatient, anxiety would hit me and I would have to get up and move around. I’d pace. I would fidget. I would wander up and down the hospital hallways not going anywhere just moving.
It hit me that I had been sitting in this tiny windowless room for a few hours and I had enough! I had to move. I left the waiting room and strolled down the hallway. The elevator dinged and the doors started to open.
Out of the elevator steps Bob and Teresa along with Ryan. Great. My in-laws seemed to have found Ryan lurking somewhere. I approached them ready to tell them what I knew—which was really nothing. I expected…something….a hug maybe? Instead they approached me as if I was a stranger. Bob’s face was set in anger. His face was red and he walked purposefully. I could just tell he was gritting his teeth. He walked past me and I got hit with a wall of anger. My MIL Teresa is about as bright as an unbaked roll of pizza dough and she waddled past me, following her husband’s lead.
As they passed me I just stopped. Forgetting what I aimed to do and why I was in the hallway. I turned and watched them walk away from me. They walked directly to the ICU unit, as if they owned the place and pushed the button to allow the doors to open. I wondered if they’d be able to see Mike, if they’d be let in, while I was cast out.
I didn’t go into the ICU unit then; instead I lurked outside the door. The waiting room was right across from the door so I went in there and told Gabrielle that “they” have arrived.
A few weeks previously Mike was in the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He had been admitted with the hopes of getting treatment. His parents, his sister, his uncle, aunt and cousin had called him to tell him that they would coming to visit. Tension levels had risen considerably between them and me with Mike in the middle. This “visit” bound to be more of the same. Basically they ignored me, treated me as if I was invisible and certainly gave no thought to the fact I was married to Mike. I did not want to be the object of their disdain as I was tired of it. My focus was Mike and their anger can send them all to hell as far as I was concerned. But Mike specifically requested that Gabrielle and I be there before his family arrived.
What Mike wanted, I did. Gabrielle and I deliberately arrived at the hospital well before Mike’s parents did.
He shared a room with another but the bed was currently empty. I asked Mike, what do you want us to do?
He said, “I want you to sit there”, indicating one side of his bed, “and I want Gabrielle to sit there.” Indicating the other side. Oh boy, I thought. He really wants to push them over the edge into their raging anger. Maybe cause a scene, or maybe get them so mad they’d leave and never come back. The fact was though Mike was not aware of the tension level rising. The pain meds he was on made him oblivious to their behaviors. At least it seemed that way to me.
I grabbed a chair from the other side of the room, one chair per bed–and sat where Mike had indicated; Gabrielle hesitated and said she didn’t want to. I told her SIT! She sat. We waited in tense silence for “them” to arrive.
We didn’t wait long, maybe 15 minutes. I was facing the door so when “they” arrived I saw them. “They” saw me but ignored me. Bob walked in followed by Teresa and they both stood at the foot of the bed. I didn’t move though I felt like 3000 bolts of electricity was running through me. Gabrielle found her favorite spot on the floor and stared at it.
Mike’s sister Ilene was next followed by Mac and Deb the aunt and uncle. For the record, none of these people are small. They all tip the scales at 200 lbs or more, they are tall too, MIke was 6’3″, his sister was 5’10 and they got their height from their parents. Mike’s brother towers over everyone at 6’6 so at 5’5, I’m the midget of the family. As they all came in the room became crowded immediately. Standing room only if they stood shoulder to shoulder.
They said hello or some greeting to Mike. No hugs though from these cold-hearted people.
Moments of more tense silence permeated the air. Mike looked at me and then looked at his parents then back at me. He broke the silence by saying, “Hi dad!” He wasn’t fond of his mother and would have ignored her entirely if he could. But he was more respectful than that. So he said, “Mom.” That’s it.
There had been a very nasty message exchange that occurred on a social network. A message sent to Gabrielle by an anonymous person that told her in part, “since I’ve known you you’re nothing but a whiner (she never wines) and I guess that’s what a college education does for you…” “your mother is the devil woman and God is great and she’s getting what she deserves…” I deserve for my husband to die a horrible death from cancer? There was a lot more but those are the two lines that stand out in my mind even to this day.
Gabrielle had sent a message to Ryan to tell him to come see his dad; that he was dying and he needs to stop the drugs to come see his dad. Gabrielle had shown the message to Mike before sending it and he gave her his blessing, “send it!”
This was the first topic of conversation these monsters brought up. Teresa brought it up by asking Mike if he knew about the message Gabrielle had sent.
Of course he did. He told her, “Yes I know about it. I read it before she sent it and I told her to send it.”
They launched into an attack on Gabrielle. In essence yelling at her and telling her she had no right to send the message, had no right to be mean to Ryan, had no compassion for what this was doing to Ryan. Mike interrupted them, yelling at them to stop, to shut up, to knock it off. “Don’t attack my daughter for doing something I told her to do!”
Gabrielle broke then, as I knew she would. She’s a kind, tender soul who abhors conflict. Instead of fighting back, she chose to bolt. As she jumped out of her chair, I yelled at her to sit down! I did not want these monsters to drive her away from her dad. But she was sobbing by then and pushed the fat slobs out of her way and ran out the door.
Mike yelled at her to come back. He started to cry. “Why are you people so mean to her? What the fuck is wrong with all of you?! She was right! Ryan hasn’t bothered to come see me and I told her to send that message. Where is Ryan now? Why didn’t you bring him with you? If you want to do it this way you can all just leave!!!”
I remained seated and silent. Mike had spoken, will they listen? Yeah, when pigs fly.
Mac, who is Bob’s younger half-brother, started to say something about that stupid message but Mike cut him off and adamantly said he wasn’t going to talk about it.
Ilene, standing at the door the whole time focused on me. She said, “what kind of person doesn’t give their chair to an elderly person?!” Huh?
Oh, her mother. Ooops…..well I would normally have offered the chair but for Mike’s instructions to not get up. So….hum…what to do here? I know! Study the ceiling tiles! Commence counting how many ceiling tiles does it take to forget there are monsters in the room.
Mike told his sister that he wanted me to sit there and to just get another chair.
She left to get one. I looked at the chair that Gabrielle had vacated and wondered what was wrong with that one? Teresa is too good to sit in the chair that Gabrielle had sat on? Who knows what thoughts lurk in the minds of mean monsters anyway?
Mac then asked, “Mike can I talk to you?”
“Sure, I’m not going anywhere.”
Mac looked at me in and said, “In private.” Really? In private? You have secrets Mac that you don’t want me to hear? You think you can tell Mike something and he won’t relay it directly to me immediately? Idiot.
Mike looked at me then and said, “no she stays. Say what you want to say.”
Mac looked at me, said, “You won’t like what I have to say.” I think you’re right Mac but I’ll stay and hear it.
He launched into an attack on me, of course. He told Mike that Ryan would have been to see him but hasn’t because I’ve been “there” all the time. He claimed that Ryan wanted to see Mike but I didn’t let him.
Mike sat and listened to Mac. He didn’t interrupt; he just sat and looked at Mac while he talked.
I guess Mac was expecting a reaction from Mike and finally ran out of words. Mike asked, “Are you done?”
Silence is an answer sometimes.
Mike told Mac, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Is this the bullshit excuse my son has told you? She is the reason that he won’t come see me? She raised him! Do you remember that?! Yes she told him not to come around if he’s on drugs. Yes, she told him to behave. Yes, she told him to stay away if he can’t stay off the drugs and I agree with her.”
With each sentence Mike got louder.
He yelled, “I’m sick of you people giving Ryan every excuse in the book to avoid responsibility! I want to see my son and it’s his fault he’s not here not my wife’s!”
Mac said, “Well he’ll come to see you if SHE isn’t here.”
Mike said, “She isn’t leaving!”
See? I don’t have a name with these people. I became, “She who shall not be named.”
Teresa piped in then and started to say some more derogatory remarks about me, about Gabrielle and the doctors, the walls, the trees, the hospital food….about everything….I tuned out but not before I heard her say, “You could at least call Ryan. You haven’t called him at all. He doesn’t have your number.”
Oh come on now Teresa!
Mike said, “Is that what the little fucker is telling you? That I don’t call him?! I have called him every day at least twice a day for the past month. He has my number. He won’t answer when I call. I leave messages and he doesn’t call me back! When are you going to learn that Ryan, like his mother, is just a liar! I love him and want to see him but don’t accuse me of not trying to talk to him! “ He was yelling at his mother by the end.
I guess she was offended since she stormed out of the room.
Ok, let’s count here; Gabrielle is gone, Teresa is gone; Mac, Bob and Ilene are remaining. Whittling them down a little at a time. I knew Gabrielle most likely was down the hall or went to the cafeteria to avoid any more of the monsters so I wasn’t especially worried about it but for the tears flowing down her face when she left. I hated them then. Making this tender child, ok…not a child at 21…but still a child. Dad dying is a new experience for her. She’s a toddler in that sense. I willed them to have a heart attack along with a stroke and die right there. Fall on the floor dead! Unkind thoughts I know but I had endured 2 months of this evil nastiness and was fed up. I can endure a lot in fact but attacking Gabrielle was over the top, even for them.
Alas, they remained standing without any sign of their cold hearts stopping on the spot so I got up.
I’m leaving, I told Mike. They want to bad mouth me? That’s fine I don’t care. They want to act innocent here? Ok but God knows what evil thoughts are in their stupid heads and I don’t care anymore.
Mike looked at me, just at me; everyone in the room disappeared for us just then. It was just me and him in that room for a moment. We could talk to each other without words, and we did that then.
I stood and looked at him, he sat and looked at me and no one interrupted. It was a silent exchange like so many we’ve shared in the past. This one though was different. It was filled with sadness, fear, anxiety and loneliness.
He said, “Don’t leave.”
I responded, I won’t but I’m not staying here. I’ll be near, I promise.
I left the room then without interference from the monsters. I’m sure they were happy to have me go.
I walked out the door and turned down the hallway. I could see Teresa down the hall with her mean daughter and I decided not to go that way. I turned the other way and it was an emergency exit…alarm will sound if door opened…type of door. Blocked! I can’t go either way. So I sat outside of Mike’s room. I sat on the floor in the hallway outside of his room. I didn’t want to leave Mike alone too long with these monsters anyway.
As it turned out I could hear all that was said from my position. Mike was telling Mac and Bob that he loved Gabrielle and Austin (our son) every bit as much as he loved Ryan. That he wants them to be treated equally.
Bob said, “Of course you do. We are treating them equally.”
Mike insisted, “No you’re not! You can’t treat Gabrielle like she’s invisible! You can’t act like Austin doesn’t exist and the only child I have is Ryan! If you’re going to do that I need you to just stay away.”
“When I am dead I want you to take care of my family! They have no one else so they need you to help them with this!”
Bob promised Mike he would. That he’d make sure Gabrielle, Austin and Ryan would be ok.
He lied. Straight to his son’s face. He lied.
I’d heard enough and didn’t see Teresa so I got up and walked down the hallway looking for Gabrielle. She vaporized….I wondered if Teresa chased her further away.
I went back into Mike’s room thinking I’m the timekeeper and these people have had enough of Mike’s time. I sat back at my appointed place; Mike turned and looked at me, “Well that didn’t go well.” No it didn’t.
Right then Teresa and Ilene returned. Teresa stood at the door and said, “Goodbye Mike.”
Mike cried out, “Mom…? Come here. Mom, come here!”
She didn’t budge from the door frame.
Bob finally grabbed his wife’s arm and told her, “Go hug your son.” Pulling her toward Mike.
Mike grabbed her then and hugged her. She yelled, “Let go of me! Let go of me!”
Mike cried, “Mom! Don’t!”
He released her and she fled out of the room. Ilene left with her having no parting words for her brother.
Mac had left earlier looking for his wife. In passing he said to me, “I’ve never had anything against you.” Thanks.
Bob remained with his head down and hands in his pocket.
He said to Mike, “I’ll see you later.” He was able to hug his son.
Finally they were all out of the room and the air cleared a little.
Mike was sitting with his hand over his face, crying. His mother is a cold-hearted stupid woman incapable of hugging her son when he begs. What sort of childhood did Mike have with a family like this I wondered, not for the first time.
A few minutes passed and friends of Gabrielle’s showed up to see Mike. Robert walked in with his wife and children, said hello but turned and looked out into the hallway again.
“That’s a stern angry-looking bunch of people who just left here. Who are they?”
They were Mike’s parents and family.
“Well they certainly need to eat some sugar and maybe lighten up a bit.”
Leave it to Robert, with an Australian accent, to lighten the moment. He was good at that.
I got up, again and announced I’m going to go look for Gabrielle and see if I can if the cafeteria has Rum on tap along with some soda.
- Everyone’s name mentioned are their real names.
- The names of Mike’s family are real. I have no need to change the name to “protect the innocent” because they are not innocent.