I was in a pre-surgical prep room. It was a beige-walled cell with motel room art and an institutional TV perched high in a corner. It was cold. The nurse told me to change into the greengray gown draped over the bed. I was to take all jewelry off and put it into the small plastic bag marked Biohazard. I wondered if spleens were riding around in little cherry wood boxes with spinning ballerinas.
She left. I slipped off my shoes and noticed the third toe on my right foot. The red polish was chipped. I had intended to fix it at home with an emergency brush swipe meant to fool anyone at a distance. Up close, my toenail would look like a 3-D relief map of two plateaus, one higher and slightly darker than the other. But it didn’t matter anymore. It was too late to fix this small flaw. With relief I remembered they’d have me put on those disposible slippers with the super no-slip rubber grip safety strips on the soles. Curse those things! They make it impossible to zing down tiled corridors, ending with a side-slide past the nurse’s breakroom where the door is always open and its table is eternally covered in store-bought cupcakes for Sue/Jan/Kip’s birthday. Haven’t-eaten-since-midnight-per-the-receptionist stomachs are spared that special torture.
The socks were good. The gown was tolerable. When the nurse poked the back of my hand, chosen especially for its perky aquamarine veins, a few drops of blood landed on the fabric. She apologized, and I don’t know why. Anything backless and as snap-happy as a hospital gown deserves to be thoroughly doused in things considered Bio and Hazard.
My IV was placed. Blankets, fresh from the warming closet, were tucked around me. I had to pull my arm out to sign consent forms. Yes, you can do this, that, and the other. Yes, I understand the risks. Yes, tell my insurance company all about it! Yes, put me to sleep. That would be merciful.
And then there is the form where they ask you to check the box and initial next to one of three options:
-Remains to be sent to a mortuary of my chosing
-Release the remains to me
Well, then. My final act as your mother. I really wish I was checking the box denoting my preference for morning or afternoon kindergarten. I wish I was giving you permission to go to the museum on the school bus, and yes (check!) I would like to volunteer to chaperone. I’d love to go along on something like that, to watch your face and shoo you and your friends away from the drinking fountain because there is still so much to see.
It’s just not here.