by Liz Flaherty
My God, I love to write. I love to feel what writing makes me feel. I am so blessed that I get to have
On opposite ends of the state, two people I love are in hospitals right now. For privacy's sake, I'm not going into any kind of detail, but being in those hospitals, looking around the way writers do, gave me a through-the-window look at things I don't know how to describe.
In a room is a patient who is very old. She is so fragile it seems as if you can count her bones through her skin. I think her earthly days are probably winding down. But her hair is swept into a silvery knot that draws into relief the structure of her cheekbones. Her daughter has put lipstick on her. When she opens her eyes, they are still bright, still smile when they see the children she's loved all their lives. She's still ornery when she talks to her husband or a grandchild cracks a bawdy joke. "She's still there," whispers a family member with tears in her voice. "How can she leave us when she's still there?"
In a room is a nurse who has had a complaint issued against her and her department. I don't know what happened. It is hard sometimes when you see personnel clustered around a computer screen laughing and talking and drinking soda but you can't seem to get a little cup of vanilla pudding that the patient you're there with might take a spoonful of. But I worked with the public; I know how hard it is from the other side, too, when you're the one visible to the public eye but you really can't dispense the vanilla pudding they need. It makes me sad because the nurse is tired and she's done her best all damn day and this is what she gets. The family in question is probably tired, too. And frightened.
In a room a family gathers to wait while one of their number is in surgery. They may not be a close family, this may be the only time they gather in either the near past or the foreseeable future, but for now they are a unit. Laughing quietly. Saying, Do you remember when we...? and How long has it been? and We need to get together more often for reasons other than this. Life is too short.
In a room, someone hears bad news and even though it's a private space, the sound of grief echoes within all who hear it.
People-watching is the greatest research tool of all in writing. I never realized until this morning that even when your writing voice is silenced by the happenings of real life, you're still watching and absorbing what you see. And I feel so guilty because how can I even think about writing when there is so much else going on? When people I love are suffering? This is not about me, yet the writing voice still clamors. I still watch the people and write their stories in my head. I still hear the sound of grief and try to think of ways to articulate that sound.
So, today, regardless of how blessed I am to be a writer, I don't like that part of myself.
Have a great week.