Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Hospital Bed

I had a dream last night about the hospital bed that my dad was in when he died.  Actually maybe it wasn't that bed; maybe it was just a generic hospital bed.  Oddly, nothing was going on in the dream; it was more like a still photograph than it was like a movie - there were no characters and there was no plot or script.

But that started me thinking about hospital beds and the one that ended up being the last bed my dad ever slept in before he went on ahead.  I think that most people, including me prior to the end of my dad's illness, consider a hospital bed to be a white flag of sorts, a surrender of lots of things, the most obvious of which is one's independence.  The day that the hospital bed was delivered and set up in my parents' house, though, in preparation for my dad's being able to come home from the hospital so that he could spend his last days in a more familiar, more comfortable setting, that bed represented so many other things for my family; it was obviously a consolation of sorts, but one that brought with it the power to give Dad what he so desperately wanted and to release him from the jaws of the downward spiral of pain and anxiety that just kept getting worse in the awful environment of the hospital.  

The bed itself seemed alarmingly flimsy, I thought, insubstantial but sadly adequate to hold my dad's then-frail body.  The frame seemed almost like it was made of wire that was wound together, fabricated without regard to aesthetics, as far as possible from a piece of furniture that would otherwise have been allowed in my parents' house and just sturdy enough to get the job done.  Its defining feature was a rickey little hand crank at the foot of the bed that could be used to adjust the head of the bed up or down.  It was a shitty little crank, really, and thinking back to the cheapness of it makes me both sad and mad - sad for our situation and for the way we had to handle every damn detail in the whole chaotic situation ourselves except for a little help from the hospice company at the very end, and mad for the shittiness of the crank itself: for god's sake, couldn't the insurance company drum up a few bucks more to send us a bed with an electric crank?  Wasn't the situation itself torturous enough without one of us having to use such a rudimentary apparatus, like it was the 1950's or something?  

But we were grateful for the bed with the old-timey crank; we were grateful that hospice had arranged to have it delivered, and we were as grateful as we could be that we were able to arrange for Dad to come home as he had been urgently requesting, actually begging, from his higher-tech bed in the hospital.  

I only vaguely remember the scene of when the guy from the medical supply company came to pick up the bed when Dad was done with it; in fact, I don't even remember if there was only one guy that came or if there were two.  I remember thinking, once they had taken it away, that my parents' bedroom suddenly seemed heartbreakingly empty, even though the hospital bed had only been in there for less than a week and even though my husband and my brother-in-law had moved my parents' king-sized bed back over to the center of that part of the room as it had been before we'd had the hospital bed set up beside it; things we set up like they had been before, but nothing was as it had been.  I remember standing in the space where the hospital bed had just been just minutes before, with tears running down my face, looking down and noticing that there weren't any indentions from the wheels of the bed left in the carpet and wondering how in the world a visible mark hadn't been left where something so big had happened.

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