by Chelo Grubb
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of walking through the sliding doors of Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Phoenix, feeling a whoosh as the hot outside air mixed with the icy air conditioning, ushering me inside a grown-up, important place. I loved the gift shop at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, particularly the flower arrangements you could order that looked like a clown or a shaggy white dog. I didn't know how they did that, but I knew that if I was ever in the hospital (I never was, not till I had babies), that's what I wanted. Years later, as an adult, I was poking around that same gift shop and noticed something in the back of the refrigerator case. A clown flower arrangement! It didn't look as good as I remembered, just a carnation in a cheap vase, decorated with googly eyes and pipe cleaners. But that wave of nostalgia was a huge rush.Read more from the book and an interview with the author here.
Here in the hospital, at the bedside of an elderly grandparent or great aunt, I'd see cousins, aunts, and uncles I hadn't seen in months (or longer), tape my homemade card on the wall, and head down with other visiting family members for what I considered to be an exotic meal in the cafeteria. Even my father, not the most sentimental of souls, often showed up for visiting hours, which tended to involve minor injuries and illnesses. Nothing too serious (I was not brought along on those visits, anyway), and as far as I know, no one in our family ever had a baby with any kind of significant health issue.
On the day of the heart surgery, I found myself in a large, dimly lit room filled with tables and chairs, several of which were occupied by members of my extended family. My grandfather, the patriarch of the Scottsdale, Arizona Silvermans, was there. Even Great Aunt Charlotte, his sister, showed up, and the two of them hadn't spoken in years. This was a big deal; no one dared sneak out to grab frozen yogurt downstairs, and small talk was at a minimum.