Of all the beds in the ER at the community hospital—the hospital where they hooked my father up to an oxygen tank for eight hours before realizing the oxygen tank was empty, which would explain why his oxygen saturation wasn't improving—they had to place him in a bed directly across from the bed where my mother took her last breath one year ago. How could they have known this would, in fact, cause his already taxed heart to break a little more, pump a little less? As I witnessed his limbs swollen with fluid, his eyes filled with tears, I sat sentinel, facing her death bed. On this night—last night—her bed was occupied by an older gentleman, who, from my vantage, was largely unattended. At one point he sat up, disoriented, tearing away at the tape on his hand, yanking at his hep-lock. I yelled out to a nurse, who jumped in to prevent what would have indubitably ended badly.
Too much to bear, I snatched the curtain closed.
Several more hours would pass before they transferred my father to the ICU, as they had transferred her, same hall, maybe even same gurney, a dozen times. A day later—today—he would be moved to a standard room. Crisis averted. For now. As he knows all too well.
“And you snap out of it. Or are snapped out of it. Never again will you lay a hand against yourself, not as long as there are plums to eat and somebody--anybody--who gives enough of a damn to haul them to you. So long as you bear the least nibblet of love for any other creature in this dark world, though in love portions are never stingy. There are no smidgens or pinches, only rolling abundance. That's how you acquire the resolution for survival that the upcoming years are about to demand. You don't give it. You earn it.”
She saw her moment and seized it. When else would She have one hour and six minutes to hotbox This Girl on the bus to the City? When else, pray tell, would she be able to share with This Girl—in her inimitable logorrheic way—EXACTLY what she thought of This Girl's mother? (She'd been waiting four years to unload her tome-of-a-take on the topic). The mother whom, She explained, She had "for sure" pegged as a trainwreck, but whose "better qualities" had eventually come to the fore, semi-redeeming the mother, but only in limited settings. This Girl's mother, whom—again, She couldn't help but overshare—She'd seen on numerous occasions looking "starry-eyed" at the now-partner (decidedly not This Girl's then father) even though he wasn't, ahem, "that well-dressed." (She was, in fact, less generous.) These were, after all, salacious tidbits too precious to keep to Her-adult-self. For She had decided (without reading up, apparently) that This Girl wanted/needed/had(!) to be reminded of the biggest loss and trauma of her life four years later by this self-anointed, filterless Adult Amok acquaintance (same zip code, but does that confer the Undo-Healing License?) on the bus en route to This Girl's first-ever-dream-of-a-lifetime internship.
Thankfully, This Girl is strong enough to know that She of the Bus, like Most of the Rest, knew very little of her family's love and loss. Of the galactic grief and consequent Sisyphean healing. And certainly She of the Bus knew not the glimmers of the future foretold, which were happening each day in small ways, wresting intact into a relative term meaning, to This Girl and her mother, "to hold together." Through all of it, even the shitshows on the bus.
In case She of the Bus missed this instructive TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_rethinking_infidelity_a_talk_for_anyone_who_has_ever_loved?language=en
Here, I am a writer and change agent. Opinions: not vetted. Stories: my own.