gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

some images stay with you.

as the years passed, sleeping in my parents' apartment on my visits became a tremendous challenge. my mom slept in the large master bedroom on one side while my dad was delegated to the den on the other. it wasn't because he snored. it was because she snored. i never heard anything quite like it before or since. i had to sleep on the sofa in the living room, between the two rooms. you might say i was stuck between a rock and a hard place. suffice it to say, the general atmosphere was oppressive.

i vividly recall one winter visit specifically, for two reasons. firstly, i had pulled a chest muscle trying to do too many push-ups earlier in the day on their cold balcony. so i was even more uncomfortable than usual that night. secondly, while i tried to get some sleep, my mom woke up and wandered out into the living room looking for her cigarettes, buck naked. i also remember that occassion because of what happened later.

i tried to sleep, but eventually i just sat up and began to meditate. my head was throbbing and my chest hurt. i kept envisioning my old mom naked. i kept thinking of home. nevertheless, a great meditator observes whatever's happening without trying to cling onto the pleasant or get away from the unpleasant. a great meditator practices equanimity, being the watcher, the uninvolved observer. after a few minutes of that, however, i basically said "xxxx this bs", got dressed and went for a walk.

i walked for quite a while along icy sidewalks until i found myself in front of the 'north toronto general hospital'. seeing the lights and activity, and thinking it might be nice to sit down somewhere warm for a few minutes, i decided to go in. i was immediately escorted to a counter where a tired-looking woman asked me a few questions. when i produced my quebec health card she frowned. however, when she asked me what the problem was, for lack of anything else to report i said i was having chest pains and that changed everything. i had no idea what effect that would have on her. within moments, while a large room full of patients patiently waited, i was whisked through to an inner area, slapped onto a gurney, electrodes attached to my chest, a needle stuck in my arm and i was wheeled into a curtained-off cubicle. i had just wanted to sit down.

a nurse came in and told me that i would need to stay there for at least a couple of hours. i totally wasn't expecting that scenario, but i could hardly explain how i was simply out walking the streets because i couldn't get the image of my naked mother out of my head. so i settled back and decided to make the best of it. soon, i drifted off into what would become a wonderful sleep/meditation. a nurse would come once in a while and we would smile at each other. i heard somebody crying nearby at one point and i felt tremendous empathy, but it wasn't a terrible feeling. in fact, i felt at home and spectacularly comfortable.

as the morning approached, a doctor came in, announced that i was fine and that i could go. i was almost sorry to leave. however, walking into daylight, i appreciated the feeling of the cold air on my face, glad to have good health. and when i arrived in front of my parents' apartment door, i took a deep breath, prayed that there would be enough oxygen to go around, and then i entered. just a little later on, sitting around the breakfast table, mom asked how my night had been and i told her it had been really very nice. that seemed to make her happy.

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