Where The Popsicles Are-59

Life goes on.

Saturdays in the U of M hospital, are relatively quiet. There is emergency activity, as there always seems to be in any hospital in an urban setting, and on 7C you would find women who were in for overnight chemo treatments and gone the next day. Outside of that, 7C seems to operate at a slower pace than it does during the week, or maybe that is just how it seemed to me.

Joanie was awake when I got to her room. The lobby coffee cart was closed, but I had stopped by a coffee shop on the corner across from the Radisson for my morning jolt.

She told me she didn’t have a good night, and it was obvious she was still in pain from the surgery, and she was still feeing the effects of the drugs she was taking as a precaution against infection. They help make her groggy. A walk was put off until later. She said she didn’t want to, and I have learned that is often the best reason to not do something.

I did tell her that my sisters were going to show up, so she should conserve her energy. Both Jane, the one from Fargo, and Joni, the one from St. Cloud were familiar with hospitals, Jane because she had been a patient enough times, and Joni because when she was in the Navy, she worked at the Navy Hospital in Oakland, CA. This would be the third time this year they had been to visit Joanie, and because they were familiar, they knew enough to not stay to long to completely wear out the patient. Their energy levels could do that to a healthy person, but in a situation like this, they were able to keep it low key.

After they showed up, spent some time with her, and were able to see that Joanie was doing okay, despite the pain, the three of us went for lunch downtown at The Loon Cafe. They were excited that even though things didn’t turn out as we had hoped, there was no cancer to be seen, “at the present time.”

It was much like the other times they had visited, and it was a momentary reminder that life outside of the place where my energy had been focused since Wednesday was still going on. Any caregiver who lives close to a situation such as Joanie’s, will find you need that reminder from time to time. Besides, the levity that accompanied their visit was also a balm for troubled times, and I appreciated it, as did Joanie.

Back at the hospital, Joanie was dozing. I didn’t think she was sleeping, because she opened her eyes when I came in, even as I had tried to step softly. She asked me what time it was, if I had a good lunch with Joni and Jane, and if they’d left. Then she closed her eyes and dozed off again.

That routine was normal, since it was only the second day since she had the surgery, and her body was still trying to recover from the assault it had experienced. There had been many days like these, since that day in February, that gave me time to think. I had not much else to do when she was sleeping, and wasn’t in the mood to go for walk.

As I sat there in her room, looking at her while she was sleeping, I wondered to myself, “Where’s the profound rage?” I had never seen evidence of rage from her at any point in this process, something I had expected I would see. I expected rage at what had happened in her body, what had happened to her body, how it had changed her body, and how cancer would threaten her life from this day forward. I never saw it, and perhaps my thinking about it said more about me than it did her.

Joanie roused me out of my reverie when she came to, and wanted some fresh ice and water. I obliged. It was dark outside, and it was a quiet night on the floor. She told me we’d go for a walk tomorrow, and told me if I wanted to go, I could. It wasn’t that late, and I had no place to go, so I told her I was just going to have a smoke.

Actually, it was a pleasant night, so I had a couple, as I walked around the side of the hospital, being joined once in a while by a nurse, or doctor, or some other person who was there looking after their patient. It struck me we all had something in common on this night, some being there because of occupation and others, like me, being there because of the necessity of the other’s occupation. I spent most of my time looking at the lights coming through the many windows, listening to the sounds of the city and the traffic on a Saturday night, sounds which were punctuated once in a while by the sound of a far off siren which signaled that someone was in trouble of some kind, and wondering what it might be.

I went back up to 7C, and Joanie was sleeping again. This time I woke her up to tell her I was leaving, and I would see her first thing Sunday morning. That was okay with her, and I left.

As I walked back to the Radisson, I passed young college students on their way to or from some Saturday night fun, heard more sirens in the distance, and as I got to the front of the hotel, I could hear the laughter and the voices from Sally’s outdoor seating area which was across and down the street from the Radisson.

I envied them their salad days, and was reminded again that no matter what manner of medical problem Joanie had, her problem only really mattered to her, me, Dr. Carson, Dr. Dusenbery, her family and her friends. Life goes on.


About Bob Kallberg

Retired reporter. Concentrating now on recounting Joanie's 12 year battle with cancer, a battle she waged with extreme courage, determination and an indomitable spirit, that, for me, serves as an example.
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