I entered the hospital room with great trepidation. She’d been in and out of consciousness for days. They had warned me, my siblings had, that she looked bad. “Be prepared,” they told me.
I saw my father standing next to the bed, slightly bent over, and heard him speaking to my mother, his voice soft and low. He looked up and acknowledged my presence, then turned back to my mother and leaned close.
“Jackie, Mary Ann is here. Open your eyes.” Then he stepped out of the way and into the hall, thoughtfully allowing for a moment of privacy between me and Mom.
I gingerly approached the bed and could barely believe what I beheld. Bending down, I looked her in the eyes and held my gaze for a moment without saying a word. I wanted to be sure she was with me on this, and I could always tell by her eyes. Then I reached a hand out toward her head and gently tugged at her hair while I put on a face of disgust. Her eyes were locked on to mine, penetrating and questioning. I groaned and started to snicker at the absolute wreck she’d become during her hospital stay.
“My-gosh, you look terrible, Mother. I mean, look at you. I have never seen you look so bad. Look at this hair – and what’s with these blotches on your face?”
She grinned then snickered and her eyes lit up as though she was ready for anything. She started to laugh.
“You don’t smell so good either,” I added as I bent forward and hugged her. “How long’s it been since you had a bath?”
“You…don’t…m…make fun of me,” she said into my ear while pinching it.
I didn’t let go for a few minutes, hugging my mother and laughing at the ridiculous state she was in. She laughed along with me, relieved that someone was there who was able to shed a little humor on the situation. I knew she was probably sick to death of all the worried looks and whispers, as if we all expected this to be her final day. She wasn’t one for too much drama. It took all the fun out of life.
Looking around the room, I spotted a hand mirror and retrieved it.
“Prepare yourself,” I warned. “You look every bit as bad as they said.”
I held the mirror in front of her face. Her puffy eyes were suddenly wide open and her unruly eyebrows shot up. She gasped.
“Can you believe it?” I asked.
“N..no!” she said lifting her free hand to her head. We couldn’t seem to stop laughing as I thoughtfully pointed out not only her bad hair, but her blotchy skin, puffy eyes, wild eyebrows, tube up her nose, and all the while she was pretending to be mad at me while we giggled and she swatted at me with the hand that wasn’t tied down to an IV. In all fairness, I stayed within reach so she could get in a few good smacks and it was making her feel better, I could tell.
A few minutes later, after we regained our composure I heard my father’s concerned voice.
“She’s going to be all right,” he assured me. “Really, Mary Ann, don’t cry.”
Mother and I looked at Dad as though he’d just flown in from another planet, then back at each other. I frowned and sniffed dramatically as though I’d been crying and dropped my head next to hers.
“Oh, momma, please don’t die.” I whaled, sarcastically.
She slapped my head, “You, stop…it!” she laughed. “Stop….”
I lifted my head and we sighed in unison, smiling at each other. “It’s good to see you smile, Momma.”
“It’s good to…you…too,” she stammered, looking much better for the laughter.
“What the heck are you doing back in this joint? We’re beginning to think you like it here.”
“N…no!” She insisted. “You…can…take… me home.”
And so we did.