i spent today at the los angeles children's hospital. i have a young friend whose seven year old son is very ill. no one seems to know exactly what is wrong and so they must sit in the hospital being poked and prodded and doped up, in hopes that someone, will come up with some kind of answer, so they can start treating him and make him better.
the hospital is a scary place and so i decided to sit with my friend and her son and try to distract them. children's hospital is unlike any adult hospital i have ever been in. first off, it is cheerful - the walls are brightly painted and all the nurses wear colorful scrubs and the doctors tell the children to call them by their first names. if you have to be in the hospital, christmas time is not such a bad idea. all day long there are concerts and visiting celebrities and santa's helpers stopping by once or twice a day to make sure every child has a toy or two. today, while i was there, there was a twenty piece mariachi band roaming up and down the halls. i must admit that after the first five minutes of the initial surprise, the music began to grate. mariachi bands do not wear well - at least not without a pitcher of margaritas - but still it was the thought that counts. a couple of hours later the singer robin thicke showed up. none of us knew exactly who he was, but he came in the room, signed an autograph, took a picture with my friend's son and gave him two cds. i think he is famous. it was a nice thing he did even if we didn't know him. anything to break the monotony helps.
a hospital reminds me a lot of a las vegas casino. time has no meaning in either place and you never once see daylight or breathe fresh air. i am only hoping for my friend's son's sake and for all the children, that the odds are better in the hospital than in the casino. i remember sitting, for weeks on end, at my own son's hospital bed. there are no atheists in foxholes or by the side of one's sick child. i prayed to god and made promises that i knew i would probably never keep. i ate shitty hospital food and cried my eyes out on a daily basis. i slept on what the hospital laughingly called a cot. at least during the inquisition they were honest enough to call it what it was - a rack, and i played endless games of "war", "go fish" and when the going got really tough, "old maid". when my son was too sick to play, i just sat and watched him sleep. i watched his chest move up and down and breathed every breathe with him.
my son is well now but i will never forget those endless days and nights of worry and fear. when i left my friend and her son tonight they were cuddled up together on the narrow hospital bed. her big, brave, seven year - too old to let his mother bathe him and to old to have to hold her hand when he crossed the street, was snuggled up in the one place he wanted to be - safe in his mother's arms.