As I stood in the heat outside the mall I got thinking about the time I had my tonsils out. I was 9 so it was a really long time ago and I was realizing at that moment that I still recalled all of it with marked clarity. Even the day the doctor told my mother that they had to come out. As she made arrangements with the secretary I ran out of the office and descended the long, dark stairwell, crying harder with each step I took. I continued to sob as I sat on the bottom step, waiting for my mother.

I remember going into the hospital at 3:00 the day before the surgery, because that’s how they did it back then. The nurse put me up on the bed, closed the curtain and tried to take my clothes off. I said “No! I want my mom to do it!” I didn’t even really want that either but what were my choices? I realize now that I could have done it myself – well, all but tying the gown in the back but its water over the dam now. 

Then I told the nurse I needed to go to the bathroom and she brought me a bed pan! Why couldn’t I use the toilet? Were they afraid I’d fall and hit my head? She tried putting me on the bed pan but I refused. Even my mother couldn’t get me to use it and so they just walked away from the problem. Mom went home to make dinner for her other children who weren’t being a royal pain in her backside at the moment, and I held out until about 7:30. 

A new shift of nurses had come on so I started banging the bedrails and one of them answered my SOS. I told this new nurse that I needed to go to the bathroom. She offered to bring me a bed pan and I said “No! I want to use the toilet!” I guess she saw the fire in my eyes and walked me to the bathroom, holding my hand right up until I closed the stall door in her face. Yeah, I think they were afraid I’d fall.  Or maybe escape, because that was a possibility. 

I know that mom came back early the next morning and held my hand all the way into the OR right up until I fell asleep. I had been told to count back from 100 and she said I didn’t even get to 97.

Even in this heat I could remember the black and white checkered floor, some of which can still be found in the oldest part of the hospital. I was in a ward and I remember the girl in the bed next to me whose name was Joyce. She was blonde, a year younger than me, and not from around here. We promised to write to each other but our parents never swapped information. I also recall that she threw up because she took the bribe of “all the ice cream you can eat” a little too seriously.  I was used to eating next to nothing because I was sick all the time and so I would have rather starved than risk throwing up in front of everyone.

I especially recall that I was being discharged at 11:00 the next morning and that my mother was nowhere in sight. Since they needed to put me some place, they sat me at a kids table to color. Mostly I just clutched my doll and stared at the doorway, willing my mother to show up and rescue me.  It has just now occurred to me that wouldn’t I have been more apt to fall and hit my head after surgery rather than before? Yet no one was holding my hand then.

Anyway, my oldest sister, who married and moved away, had come home to visit that day and my mother had “lost track of time.”  I mean, come on!

Of course they say you recall the traumatic moments of your life far better than the everyday ones and maybe that’s why my tonsillectomy is still so clear in my head.  

If only I’d had a traumatic moment when I was parking my car in this mall parking lot, because then I might be better able to remember where the heck I left it.

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