For some odd reason one window was left open in my little green Ford Escort, and when I hurried out and got in a fine, large robin lay motionless in the passenger seat, below the closed window.
Not twenty feet away was a robin’s nest. We had seen one sitting there on the eggs. Male, female, I wondered, and what is the difference in robins when it comes to appearance?
“I’m so sorry,” I said; went in the house and got a piece of paper, lifted her out and placed her on the ground.
When I come back, I thought as I cranked the motor, she will have recovered and flown off.
I returned and the bird lay inert; I stared through the foliage at the nest and saw tiny beaks yawning.
“Every twenty to thirty minutes dawn to dusk,” said my husband, when I came back from the neighbor’s house with a clear plastic vial containing a small worm, “and it has to be a varied diet.”
Next thing I knew we were at the Pacemaker Clinic at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, NY, the doctor saying “Tomorrow, Hackensack Hospital.”
“How old are you? A young old? Two choices: a pacemaker closer to the heart, and just leave the leads of the old pacemaker in there – which is the least risky choice. OR take the old leads out and put in new ones with the new pacemaker. Your choice, if you were older it wouldn’t make much difference, would it. But all that metal in your chest, when you’re still active. How old did you say you are?”
That evening I sat on the porch, having buried the robin close by, feeling tormented with guilt at my husband’s news he’d also buried the chicks he found dead. At my feet I saw the plastic vial. I leaned over, picked it up and opened it, and that one worm lifted its head I could swear and cried freedom, saved, liberated as it squirmed off in the dirt.
A feminine voice and hands said everything went well when I woke up in an icy panic. “Give her a bear hug she’s trembling.”
They wrapped me in warmth, even my head, and I sighed with hope.
At the foot of my bed sat a scatter-brained creature with a laptop reading my blood pressure and heart rate on a monitor hidden from my view and squawking at the computer “I don’t know what to do here. This is ridiculous, how does it work? I pressed enter and it lost all the data.”
I thought she must be calibrating my new pacemaker.
I thought of Kafka, Bukowski, Orwell; helpless as a robin beating its brains out against the illusion of empty space.
Hours passed. “They are cleaning your room; I’ll check again to see if your room is ready.” I beg for moisture in my mouth. They are cruel. I am ignored.
One nurse appears in charge of me, and we have a repoire when I ask about her children. She gives me an ice cube to suck on. I listen. “My boys going to medical school next year,” she says.
“Let me guess,” I murmur. “He’s going to become a heart surgeon?”
She bristles. She disappears. When she returns she is armored to a new level. She taps my vital signs into her computer. The computer is the center here of everything – the brain of us all with its secret knowing.
”Be patient,” she taunts, as I ask again for water.
Away she flies and when she returns she comes right up close to me on the side where the new pacemaker wound is ripe and checks the dressing for signs of weeping.
“I’ll tell you his story,” she whispers, “my son was born like this;” she bends her elbow in a weird angle and holds her thumb stiffly cocked. “He had two back surgeries, nothing worked for him. But he’s a very determined boy, going to medical school.” She flashes a look to heaven and jabs that thumb toward the sky. “Thanks to Him!”
Now we are friends. She loves me, I can feel it. She fills a Styrofoam cup with ice – I watch her, then with water and a straw with the ability to bend to my lips. “The only problem,” she says as I drink, “he’s engaged to a Vietnamese girl.
“We’re Catholic and she’s Buddhist.”
“I’m Buddhist too. Me too!” I light up and smile. Then I remember I’d put “none” as my religion in my paperwork. “I’m a yogi,” I had stammered to the intake administrator, “I do yoga – but yoga is not a religion, is it?” So I’d said just put “none.’
She darts off and circles back within minutes.
“Buddhist,” she brings both her hands to her chest, “don’t they believe God’s all in here?”
“That’s it then isn’t it,” I ask, “same in us as out us?”
“Well and that’s the reason,” she makes a fabulous face and remarks, (no doubt) “that all this happened.”