Friday, August 20, 2010

A Sad Space

Isn't it amazing what can make you sad? A few weeks ago I wrote about shirts bringing tears to my eyes. This past week it was a parking garage. Not just "a" garage, but "the" garage where I parked every day when Ralph was at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. My gastroenterologist moved his office to the cancer center a few years ago, and I was there for my annual checkup and to get the expected news that yes, this is my colonscopy year, but, yuck, let's not focus on that.

As soon as I start up the ramp into that dim, gloomy place, I am overcome with dread. I must have spent hours in there, driving around looking for parking spots, then trying to maneuver into them without scraping the paint off the car in the next space. I know that I spent almost $2000 on parking that year because I added up the receipts after Ralph died.

I lost my car there twice, the last time just two days before Ralph died. The nice man from parking services who drove me around trying to find it, said politely, "Think someone maybe repossessed your car?" Oh, gosh, I thought, I wasn't a debtor, just a woman who was about to lose the person she loved most. We finally found the car and I headed out for an appointment with our attorney and promptly got lost on the way.

Loss of one kind or another permeated that year. I lost my mother--she made it past her hundredth birthday and died a couple of months later. I lost my wallet several times, I lost a file folder from my office, I lost my keys. Most of those items I found after panicky searches but all of those memories seem connected to the garage.

I parked there during Hurricane Rita, the non-event that sent thousands of people fleeing from the city and getting stuck on highways with no air conditioning,
no gas, high tempers. I spent the weekend at the hospital and kept an eye on the garage from Ralph's window. Fortunately, the storm made a turn and Houston escaped its wrath.

I often left the hospital at night, trudging through the dark garage. Someone asked me if I was afraid and I replied that fear had never crossed my mind. I was too focused on Ralph's illness to worry about running into a mugger or some other unsavory character. Besides, I think people who park at cancer hospitals have other things on their minds than accosting someone in the parking garage.

There is another garage that links to M.D. Anderson. It's Garage 4, which is newer, airier, and has larger parking spaces and a sky bridge that connects to the hospital. You may wonder why I choose to park in Garage 2 instead since I hate it so much and see it as a symbol of Ralph's last year. I think I'm compelled to face the demons of Garage 2, to try to exorcise the ghosts that haunt me there, and maybe this doesn't make sense but I guess I also park there to prove to myself I can.


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Thelma, I’m on She Writes. I am not a widow but have lost some family members in the last two years, and my husband and I both had illnesses requiring trips to the hospital. I know all those feelings about going to the hospital frequently for one reason or another. I think anyone who has lost family members recently will understand your blog. It’s good to reach out.
--Loretta Matson

Adela said... [Reply to comment]

Losing your car, which is always exactly where you put it, is so symbolic of losing a husband who is dependably there right when you need him.
A parking garage can seem like an inescapable labyrinth, as is the medical jargon, treatment and downward spiral of your husbands physical health.

Beautifully written Thelma.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks to both of you for visiting and commenting. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

Kathy said... [Reply to comment]

Wow. The feelings of your loss come through so strong. It's great that you are able to feel and express the feelings. This human life is full of difficult painful times but some of us seem to get more than others. I hope that reaching out through this blog and knowing that others can feel your sadness is helpful to you.

Vanessa said... [Reply to comment]

There have been a couple of occasions since my husband's death when I've had to visit "our" hospital for one reason or another, and I hate it. He was never there for more than a week at a time, but he was in and out over the last several years of his life, and was taken to their emergency room on the day he died. The only thing that makes it even a little bit okay is that it's also the same hospital where our daughter was born, so I try to remind myself of that.

P.S. Your paragraph on loss made me think of Elizabeth Bishop's poem One Art - one of my favorites.

Hira Animfefte (Xera Anymphefte) said... [Reply to comment]

I've been seeing a therapist--the same one, both before and after my Nelson's unexpected death. I go out of my way not to park in the part of the parking lot that I used to always park in--the larger part of the parking lot, mind you. Instead I hunt for spaces in the smaller area near the building. Cause I never parked there when he was alive. No flashbacks. Whenever I park in the other area, I get flashbacks...I don't like them...

Thelma Z said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks all of you for your comments. I feel I have to park there. I'm drawn to that garage, somehow. Loss is tough, isn't it? Thelma (Google is not letting me access my account...grr!)


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