When I was a kid, I practically lived at the hospital where Dad worked. I knew the halls, the rooms, the nurses, and I loved it. He would often take me back to the kitchen and get “unborn cookies” so we could chomp down on them. Or if it wasn’t a cookie kind of day, he would stop at the deep freeze, pull out the single serving ice cream, open it, pull out a tongue depressor and open the peanut butter and smear it on, stick the tongue depressor in the ice cream and that’s how we’d eat… with this giant popsicle stick. I also took my favorite stuffed animal, Judge, with me to the hospital. I made him a leash and drug him up and down the halls, and whenever I passed one certain room, if Janice was there, I’d stop in and chill with her, either watching TV or listening to music. Whatever.
I met Janice as a kid in this same, small town hospital. I was swinging on one of the doors by the nurses station as I always did and she asked me. “What’s your name?” Well, I wasn’t too shy at this age, so I responded. “Karen.”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she then asked. I mean it made sense.
“Yup. I’ve got two. One plays football in high school and the other is in heaven with Jesus,” and I kept on swinging. Little did I know that was not the last time I’d see her.
She came to the hospital often because she has something called Myasthenia Gravis. I don’t know all the details about it, but I do know it messes with your thyroid and can be pretty deadly if you don’t treat it. My small town hosted a clinic for those with MG every year with top notch neurologists coming in from Dallas. I loved going to pick them up from the airport with Dad and then going to the football games with them later. Janice would help with these clinics, and as I got older, I kinda did too. I was still a kid who’d rather play outside, but these clinics were like vacations for me. New people, tons of fun…. Maybe I’m re-embracing my childhood now.
The reason for this entire post was an email Dad forwarded to me. Janice wrote him a humorous email as she waited for her doctors to call her back. She recalled a time in which she was in the hospital, in her room, and I went up to visit her. I still loved Sesame Street (before I reached the age where I thought it was stupid, and before relearning to love it) and Dad was getting pretty serious (not that that happens often), and I told Janice that we wouldn’t get serious; we were going to watch Sesame Street. She then wrote humorous tidbits about my grandparents while they were in the nursing home. In the earlier days, my grandfather would be trying to sleep and my grandmother would go over and kiss on him. She said something along the lines of “I am not sure who that man is but I’ve been taking care of him a long time.” As time got on, my grandfather died, leaving just my grandmother, who slowly slipped away into a world of dementia. She also changed nursing homes, as did Janice (where she worked, not lived) and the relationship between those two developed. I’m sure Janice could write an entire book about my family.
The purpose of her email was to say that humor plays a large part in coping with illnesses. With my grandparents it was Parkinson’s and dementia. With Janice, it’s MG. I’m sure both Dad and Janice could tell you stories of when humor worked well in the places they worked. Perhaps that’s why Dad and Doc stopped working well together. He’s serious when he needs to be, but laughs often, and Doc is serious most of the time and it’s a lot to make her laugh.
It was a delightful email to read. As I read it, I thought of other stories Janice could tell of me… Like when I was about 7 and asked her why she drank coffee…. Or when I “assisted” Dad in a minor surgery on her arm (my assistance was watching Sesame Street)… or of the many times I’d plop down on her hospital bed as she got treatment for her MG…. or the time I stayed with her to take my SATs…. She’s often told me that she was going to write a book and a whole chapter of it would be silly stories from me as she got to know me and as I grew up. I am so thankful to have this additional “aunt” in my life. She has seen me through all the major events in my life and when we got married, she gave us an entire case of Dublin Dr Pepper! She definitely knows us well, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Our friendship is filled with laughter…. the best kind!