Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Part 6, of 6: After five more days in the hospital, I receive the sermon of Jesse, a black cat

The Providence Children's Hospital sits on the third floor, adjacent to the orthopedic surgery ward. As soon as I was able, Dr. Duddy ordered me to walk. It was natural, then, that I would walk into and through the halls right next door, the halls of the Children's Hospital. Yet I tended to stay away. Those halls gave me a bad feeling.

After one has a bit of experience with a hospital, the sight, sounds and smells of the place will simltaneously evoke both the warmest and chilled feelings that exist in his soul.

My first intimate experience with Providence Hospital came on Christmas Night, 2007, and extended into the early hours of December 26. On that night, Sunflower and I positioned ourselves to the sides of Prickly Pear's bed as Toast Ed held her hand and massaged her back. She clutch-hugged a life-sized, stuffed, St. Bernard doll as she panted, groaned and sometimes yielded to a brief scream of agony.

Then came that first cry, tiny but strong, made by naked, blood-covered, baby Wry - our first grandchild. The agony that had distorted Sunflower's face was quickly replaced by a peaceful expression of love and she brought her new son to her breast. Joy and hugs filled the room. Tears, the good kind, were shed in abundance.

From that day forward, Providence Hospital would for me forever evoke the warmth of Baby Wry's birth.

Two months later I received a call from a good friend who told me that his brother and sister-in-law were at Providence right then, watching over their baby daughter, who was in critical condition.

I hurried over. As the mother collapsed to the floor in tears and the father bent over her and held her, I viewed that beautiful, precious, unique, little person, whose short experience upon this earth was about to end.

This had happened in the children's ward. From that day forward, Providence Hospital would also evoke the cold bitterness of that moment in the Children's hospital.  

Finally, though, I grew bored with the limited hallways of the orthopedic ward. Finally, I stepped into the Children's Hospital, just to lengthen my walk. I allowed myself to be charmed by the most wonderfully painted and decorated hallways of any hospital that I have ever been in. Walking through those halls is like walking through the great outdoors of Alaska. There are mountains and trees, waterways, animals and birds, dog mushers, a 3-d float plane, children of many origins frolick upon a dock - and there is a little playhouse.

In the window of that empty playhouse, I found the above cat. I knew that this cat had many stories - a multitude of stories given to it by each of the many the sick and recovering children who have ever sought or ever will seek pleasure and escape within the walls of the playhouse.

Isn't this getting ridiculous? Me going into surgery and then waking up later to look into the doting eyes of loving family members? But this time there was only two - Rye and Fire. Everyone else was in Arizona for the Apache Sunrise Dance. 

And yes, between the surgery and the greeting by these two, I had, as before first come to in the dim strangeness of the recovery room, where I again found myself tended over by a middle-aged woman determined to engage me in a strange, intense, conversation that I would never again be able to put together.

There was one big difference this time, however. After the first surgery, I had come to in a loopy, drugged-up state that was actually pleasant in a dopey kind of way. Not this time. This time, I came to in hell - the hell of excruciating pain.

Remember the nerve deadening block? This time, the doctor had ordered an even more powerful block, because he knew that the damage that he was about to inflict upon me in order to repair me would not only be greater than that of my first surgery, but would come directly on top of it. My pain would be severe. I needed the more powerful block, just to help me endure.

But this second block did not take. It was as if I had no block at all. So I awoke in hell. My IV included a morphine drip that I could release with the push of a button, but only after a specific amount of time had passed by. If I pushed that button before the alloted time had passed, nothing would happen.

I pushed that button. Nothing happened. I pushed it again. Nothing. Again and again and again. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Then finally I pushed and got a beep. I had received a dose of morphine. If that dose gave me any relief, I did not notice it. So I repeated the process, then just kept repeating it. Push, push, push, push; nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing - then beep. Push, push... For hours. All day. All night. 

I could not get enough of that morphine to take away the pain.

I could look out my window and see the silhouettes of people passing through a hallway in a wing parallel to mine.  These people struck me as shadows, living in a shadow world. 

I fall into one of my many brief, uncomfortable naps. Then I come to to see Fire and wife Stephanie. They think I am too groggy to notice. But I catch the moment. They do this kind of thing all the time. Perhaps someday, they will give us a grandchild. After that, I doubt that we will see them do much more of this kind of thing, probably hardly at all.

They bring me more fresh-baked oatmeal cookies, and Moose's Tooth Pizza - the best pizza in the world. I used to think New York City had the best pizza and then someone opened the Moose's Tooth, right in Anchorage, Alaska and New York City pizza fell to second place.

Shadow boy with spoon, across the way. In case you wonder, people walking through that wing can look over at the patient rooms - at my room, with the curtain drawn wide open - but they cannot see inside. It is the way the patient room windows are tinted. You can peer out, but you can't peek in.

From way down in Arizona, Sunflower places an order for daffodils, through Fire. Fire cannot find daffodils, but he does find yellow flowers to brighten my room. The beautiful woman in the reflection on the window is Tiffani, Rye's girlfriend. Stephanie picks lilacs and brings those as well. 

Sunflower is not scheduled to return to Alaska until June 28, but she cannot take it, and so books two flights for June 22, one from Show Low, Arizona to Phoenix and the other from Phoenix to Anchorage. Am I anxious for her to return?

Oh, geeze! Or should I say, "Oh, geese!"?

I make arrangements to have a chair that transforms into a bed brought to my room, so that Sunflower can sleep here the night after she arrives. Hopefully, I will be released the next day and then we can go home and hang out with the kitties. That will be good, but scary, too.

Hey! What gives??? Rye and Tiffani, playing hand games.

A scene from the wall in the Children's Hospital. In the afternoon of May 22, I get a call from blazing hot Phoenix. It is Sunflower. She is at Sky Harbor Airport, and she is about to cry. She had booked her flight from Show Low, a town that borders the White Mountain Apache Reservation,  to Phoenix on a commuter air service called Great Lakes Aviation.

About one hour before her scheduled departure, she called Great Lakes to confirm that she was coming. Only then did Great Lakes inform her that they had canceled her flight. It seems that no one at Great Lakes could be troubled to make a call to the few passengers that would have been on that small commuter flight, to let thom know that it had been cancelled.

By car, about three hours separate my wife's reservation from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The scheduled departure time for her flight from Phoenix to Anchorage was in three-and-a-half hours.

She decided to go for it. Tryskuit and Nabysko drove her to Sky Harbor in a mad rush and then Sunflower checked in at the last possible minute, without a single piece of luggage to slow her down. She only had her purse as a carry on. Time was tight, but the lady at the counter thought she could make and so called ahead to the gate to let them know that one more passenger was coming.

Even as our daughters began the three-hour drive back to the reservation, Sunflower rushed to Security, but the line was long and slow. By the time Sunflower reached her gate, the doors to her jet had been closed. The engines had been fired up and the plane had begun it's roll to the runway. She had missed her flight back to me, here in the hospital, by only minutes - all because someone on the staff of Great Lakes Aviation could not be troubled to call and let her know that her flight from Show Low to Phoenix had been cancelled.

There was nothing for Sunflower to do now but to find her way to a nearby hotel.

Hospital staff took away the bed that they had brought to my room for Sunflower. The night proved long and lonely - both here and in Sunflower's Arizona hotel room - and now I would have an extra night to spend in the hospital, in addition to this one, that I had thought would be my last. 

Sunflower finally appeared in my hospital room the night of June 23. You can see how exhausted she was. Hospital staff returned the bed back to my room and that night, she slept beside me.

Earlier on the 23rd, as I waited for Sunflower to return on her rescheduled flight home, I took a walk through the halls of Providence. I soon came upon on an open office door beyond which lay the scene above: a figurine crafted into the form of a sleeping cat, at rest in the glow of a lamp. It reminded me somehow of the moment that I had stepped, all alone, into a viewing room of a mortuary in Murray, Utah, to look upon my mother for the first time since life had left her.

The scene brought back another memory as well, one from the early 90's. I had gone Christmas shopping in Anchorage with Sunflower, Tryskuit, and Nabysko. Shortly after we stepped into a mall gift store, I heard a shout. "Oh! Cute! Oh, Daddy! Look! How cute! Daddy! You must get one for each of us - for you, too, Daddy. And Mom. Buy one for Mom."

There, being petted, caressed, stroked, and fawned upon by my young daughters were perhaps the most realistic cat figurines that I had ever seen. They came in sizes from tiny to to as large as a small cat and they were charming. "Yes!" I thought, "I will buy one for everybody."

Then I looked closely at these stuffed kittens and saw that their fur was real - real cat. Here was calico - just like Chicago, who had yet to come to us - there, tabby - just like Little Clyde Texaco - here, black - like my own Little Guy - and there, orange and white boy - just like our beloved Thunder Paws. I ushered the girls out of the store.

Sometime afterward, I saw a TV news special, about how cats in China were being killed by the thousands so that their fur could be sewn into cat figurines that would then be sold in the US and Europe.

On the door to the room with the still, lamp-lit, figurine was a picture of a woman surrounded by cats and other animals, complete with wording that called upon all who saw to laugh and find joy. 

Elsewhere in the office, there were other cat pictures and knick knacks. I could tell that this was the office of a gentle woman, a woman of good heart, who loved and admired cats. Arleta Hefler soon returned to her office. I introduced myself. I told her how I could see that she was a person who loved cats. I told her about this blog and how I would like to take some pictures for it.

I also told her about the mixed feelings I had felt upon seeing the cat figurine. She agreed. The figurine had been a gift and she found it adorable, but had also been worried about the fur. She had inspected it closely and had determined that it was rabbit fur, not cat.

I looked at it closely. It did appear to be rabbit.

She brought me into her office, where she showed me pictures of all four of her cats, one of whom was 22 years old. She told me that besides being a counselor, she was a preacher; had a chapel and a congregation.

Another of her cats was black. His name was Jesse. She told me how Jesse had once inspired her to write down a sermon that she delivered to her congregation.

The internet being what it is, Jesse's Sermon wound up traveling through cyberspace to chapels in all quadrants of the world. She received many comments from parishioners as far away as Australia who had been inspired by it.

I told her that I would like to have a copy of Jesse's Sermon. "I'll bring you one," she said.

I was lying in my hospital bed early in the afternoon of June 24 when Pastor Arleta Hefler showed up with a copy of Jesse's Sermon. Attached to it was a photograph of Jesse himself.

I want to share Jesse's Sermon with you, my billions upon billions of readers, but I am going to wait just a little bit, until I am more recovered. I will then have Sunflower drive me to Anchorage and I will visit the good Pastor and her cats. I will photograph Jesse myself and I will drop a number of his pictures into the inspired words and thereby let Jesse deliver his sermon himself.

It is an excellent sermon. It will be worth the wait. I promise.

Finally, in the mid-evening hours of June 24, Dr. Duddy came by, and released me from the hospital. A young woman wheeled me to the elevator, down to ground level and then out the main entrance, beyond which Sunflower waited with the car. I took a seat and she buckled me in. "Could you roll down your window?" I asked, just as she was about to drive away. She did. Again, I photographed the statue of Jesus.

As we crossed the flats on the way home, a military transport passed overhead. 

We pulled into the driveway. There, straight ahead, was My Little Pistol-Yero in the front room window. I knew that the rest of the Kracker Cat gang waited inside.

1 comment:

Taddie Tales said...

Ah such love for life and you family you have. It shows in your writing. Thank you so much for sharing this story.