Room 118: Twenty Five Years Later

The ringtone on my phone is going off. It is 11:30 a.m. The phone calling me has my paternal grandmother’s number. It is rare I receive a phone call from my grandmother and my mind immediately arrives at the realization my father had a physician appointment and was due to be home by that time. I had plans to call him when I was certain he was home from his appointment but the call came early.

My grandmother’s call was to inform me my father had been hospitalized. The day had previously been hectic as my family and in-laws planned for a vacation trip beginning at 4:00 p.m. In spite of this, I was first to arrive at the hospital to see my dad. He was sitting on the side of the bed speaking with a nurse when I came in. I glanced at the number on the wall in front of the room. The surprise had not sunk in yet. I was worried about my dad. I knew he sounded sick when speaking with him the night before and a hospital trip was bad news. My mind ran away with the idea of the widowhood effect—that of when an elderly spouse dies within a year of their spouse. My mom died eleven months ago.

Dad told me he was being admitted for observation as the physician could not understand why his kidney infection was not going away. After a couple of hours, he was taken to CT scan. My mind again ran away with me. Why would the doctor order a ct scan if he did not have a blockage? Was it cancer? That was when it hit me.

I have a way with numbers and places following me around. I have previously written about the green house across the street from where I live, being where we lived when I underwent chemotherapy. I sat in the chair near dad’s bed trying to speak with his 90 year old neighbor who had hearing issues. I have a very soft voice even when raising it. The combination made communication fruitless. Without speaking to someone circumstances were becoming clear in my mind.

I had not been in this hospital since my mom was transferred to a larger hospital the day she died. I had not been in room 118 in many years. One week after my father’s hospital stay, I marked a quarter of a century as a cancer survivor. My parents had been told of my cancer in room 118 of this same hospital in 1986. In 1986 the room was decorated for children but furnishings were all that were different. I questioned if the phone there was the same one in which my best friend called to tell me a teacher told her class I had cancer before my parents told me.

Soon dad arrived back from CT scan. I had to pick up my children from school so I was unable to hear the results until later that night. Soft tissue was found on his bladder. The word tissue to me sparks cancer fears. A physician appointment was scheduled in town and another with a specialist in Jonesboro.

This short story has a happy ending and it taught me a lesson. One person’s life and experiences do not mean another’s will be the same. After the specialist visit, my dad was told he did not have bladder cancer. Room 118 is now only somewhat haunting to me. It contains memories of my feeling lost and confused. There is a memory of someone bringing balloons from my teachers at school and other typical memories of a childhood stay in the hospital. Another memory is of being told I had cancer. Now an additional memory is of my dad, simply trying to recover from a kidney infection.

Bad memories cannot go away but good memories can build on top of them. This statement is true-even in the same hospital room.

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