Twenty minutes after I leave home, I pull onto the access road to the hospital. Thinking how routine this already feels. Thinking I don’t want this to be a new normal. I navigate without conscious thought, easily finding my way to patient visitor parking. I park and walk toward the building, eager to see you, wondering how your night was. The doors open automatically as I approach, and I enter, turning left toward the stairs that will take me up to your room.
I’ve been up and down these stairs dozens of times in the past two days. Going to the bathroom. Trying to get cell phone reception. Calling people to give updates. Running to the car to grab something. Bringing your cell phone down so that texts will come through. Moving just to move.
At the bottom of the stairs this morning, I stop and look up, feeling my anxiety ratchet up. How will you be? How was your night? Will we get any answers today? Will they be reassuring or not? What happens next?
The steps stretch up before me. I take a deep breath and mount them slowly.
The wall along the stairs is decorated with large paintings, primarily Maine land- and seascapes. I haven’t looked at them closely, but in my many trips up and down, one in particular has drawn my eye again and again. Perhaps it’s because of its location–at the top of the stairs. Or perhaps because of its subject–a single sailboat underway in the midst of a vast expanse of ocean. The waters sometimes appear calm to me, and sometimes seem more turbulent. It must depend on the angle. Always, though, the sailboat looks the same– small and so vulnerable in the midst of so much water. No land in sight.
I climb the stairs slowly, my eyes lingering on that painting. On that small boat. On the blue seas surrounding it. I think of this journey we’re on, and wonder where we’re going. What will our destination be?
Finally, I reach the landing.
It feels selfish and cowardly, but I stand still for just a moment. Just one. I want to exist in this brief space of not knowing anything more. Just for a minute. One, long minute when nothing changes. Even though this minute is fraught, it could be easier than the next one. Or the next one could be easier, I remind myself. Though that’s just not the way I think. I’m so scared.
I take the moment. Stretch it out for a bit longer. Then I step forward, turn the corner, and walk down the hallway to your room.