La La How The Life Goes On

White Collar Crimes

Posted on: January 19, 2011

Well, we’re nearing the end of the cardiac surgery tunnel.   Baby Sister’s surgery went beautifully; almost better than expected.  Her recovery has been much the same, thank God.  She’s now in a regular non-ICU room where, of course, she is now throwing PVCs like crazy.  (PVCs are premature ventricular contractions).  They are not entirely unexpected, especially with Baby Sister’s diagnosis, but they still need to be checked out to ensure there is nothing dangerous going on long-term.  So—smooth sailing until we were one day from the exit.  J  Classic par for the course for my family, so I’m not in panic mode yet.

Truth be told, if you were to ask me what I dread most about serious medical procedures I would not say, “mortality” or “pain” or even “naked ass hanging out of a jonny.”  No, I would have to say that my worst fear is The Hospital Chaplaincy.  I know. I’m as asshole for dreading People of the Cloth, but hear me out.  I understand they have difficult jobs, and I do understand that they are here to offer solace and comfort to those individuals and families who require them.  But, lord help me, I really just don’t.  While Baby Sister was in surgery, one of the chaplains stopped by our seating area.  She was a very nice lady; reminded me of that handsome woman of a certain age in every church and temple. Maybe married, maybe single, maybe gay, maybe straight, but definitely Eleanor Roosevelt-y.  I saw her coming and immediately felt my adrenaline surge, like, oh dear god! No! No! No!  I then spent the next 10-15 minutes making small talk about my child and family with a total stranger who may or may not want to pray with me.  Please tell me again how this is helping?

I absolutely understand the chaplains’ purpose; I just don’t want them to execute their purpose on me.  Perhaps if I were a single mother, alone, scared, in a new city I would thank the lord for sending me this angel of mercy to minister to my needs. As it is, I just keep wishing there were a nice way to say, “You are such a good and kind person! Please go away, never to return.”  Perhaps my antipathy toward those who practice the ministering arts has to do with what I consider to be their terrible timing.  As my father lay dying, his heart rate dropping slowly and inexorably toward zero, the arrival of the hospital chaplain felt like a giant violation of our privacy, of our last seconds with our father.  I was like, “who the fuck are you and why are you here?”  Not out loud, of course.  But I just felt like she had trespassed on private, intimate, sacred ground as we stood around my father, our words hopefully carrying him onto his next stop in the universe.  It is an honor (even if not a pleasure) to have one’s voice be the last that your loved one will hear on this earth, and I was beyond irritated that I took precious seconds to say, “No thanks” and show her the door.  Same here today. The same chaplain showed up at our room to check on us.  This is a nice thing to do.  EXCEPT:  Baby Sister was clearly NOT having her best moment.  Totally in pain, totally unhappy, totally just lying on the Baby Daddy’s chest and looking forlorn.  Bambina was also unhappy because she was bored and all the toys were for Baby Sister and I haven’t played in the snow yet today and there’s nothing to do here except look at each other.  So—not usually the time when you’d be thinking, “Gee, I hope someone stops by right now!”  And there she was.

When I was in the hospital at NIH for my first treatments, this insane rabbi would stop by every week to check on me, and I would just dread every minute.  He was a cross between a not-funny Jerry Stiller and Jerry Lewis, and he’d bring the same orange handout every week in which a random Prayer for Healing was printed, and damn if he didn’t encourage me to pray it every time.  I was like, “yeah, I’ll get right on that and report back next week.”  And then here at Dana Farber there was a social worker (because I’d smartened up and proactively banned clergy from randomly busting in on me) who would come and do her version of The Caring Profession.  Excruciating and weird from the word go.  Although slightly less excruciating than the “folk band” that made the rounds of GW Hospital “bringing cheer” to patients.  First of all, I’m immune suppressed, so get out.  Second of all, I don’t do Peter Paul and Mary cover bands, so get out.  Third of all, just get out.

I recognize that much of my issue here lies at the feet of my recessive non-Jewishness; my discomfort with treading on people’s private moments.  For example, I would never (and I did not know anyone who would ever) call someone up on the day their father died and say, “I heard about your father.  What can I do? How can I help?”  I mean, the notion of actually calling the home of a bereaved person was anathema.  We’d send flowers, we’d go to the wake, we’d bring food/send food, whatever.  But to call them up and have them speak to you?  Simply not done.  Jews on the other hand, clear the line for people to call.  In fact, you’re a jerk if you don’t call. “Who wouldn’t call a grieving person?!”  Non-Jews is who. Oh, and me.  And I’m kind of comfortable with that. I was very comforted by all of the good wishes after my Dad died, but did I want to chat with anyone about it?  Most certainly not. And the notion of sitting shiva just sends shivers of horror up my spine. Like, someone I love is going to die and I’m going to have to have you in my house talking to me and eating kugel?  Oh God, please just take me too if that’s my only option for grieving!

So you can see my dilemma here.  Grateful for support, don’t want to be obligated to take it.  Grateful for good wishes, don’t want to have to reveal my darkest fears and fondest hopes to a stranger to get them.  Maybe someday I’ll find a middle ground, a happy medium that allows chaplains to do their work on me.  But I doubt it, because they misread me every time. You see, that “fuck off” look in my eyes does not indicate a struggling human soul yearning for human connection and comfort in my hour of need, masked by an off-putting demeanor, and is therefore beckoning you to break through my exterior.  Nope. It really does just mean fuck off.  And, to be polite, Have a Blessed Day!

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