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Where’s Dom?

By Dawn Corrigan

Essay

As I’ve written about here on TNB previously, in August my 89-year-old grandmother fell and broke her hip. She had surgery, during which her hip was pinned, and did a month of physical therapy. At the beginning of October she returned to the assisted living facility where she lives with her husband.

Yesterday she fell and broke her other hip. I’m sitting in the ER waiting room right now while she has surgery on her other leg.

Since the surgery was scheduled for late afternoon, we had the whole day to kill. “C’mon,” she told me earlier in her hospital room. “Let’s get out of here.”

Then: “Put this down,” indicating the bed rail. When I ignored her–my new strategy for anything short of pulling her IV out–she said, “Come on! Put it down and let’s go. Don’t make an ass of yourself!”

Then she offered to carry my laptop if we could leave. Even with severe dementia, her negotiating skills remain formidable.

I don’t really have much else to report, but it seems she’s the only TNB topic I have right now. My last post, over a month ago, was about her, and though I’ve made sustained efforts to write others since, they all came to naught. During our wait in the Emergency Department last night, in an effort to occupy my mind, I wrote down everything she did and said for about 90 minutes. I reproduce part of that transcript here.


CHARACTERS

THE PATIENT:  My 89-year-old grandmother. Dementia and a broken hip.

THE NARRATOR: Me.

DOM:  My 86-year-old grandfather. Does not appear onstage.

DR. A.:  An emergency-room doctor.

DR. B.:  Another ER doc. Associate of The Patient’s GP.


SETTING
Gulf Breeze Hospital. Monday, November 2, 2009. THE PATIENT, however, imagines this to be the main floor of the assisted living facility where she lives with DOM.


SCENE
A curtained room in the Emergency Department. THE PATIENT lies in a hospital bed beneath the Skytron surgical lights, which are off. THE NARRATOR sits beside the bed on a tiny stool.


PATIENT
Where the hell is this?

NARRATOR
The hospital.

PATIENT
Who’s here?

NARRATOR
You are.

PATIENT
I’ve loved you a long time. (Pause) I thought Dom would be here. I’m surprised at him. (Pause) I’ll fix him. I’ll fix him good. (Pause) I’m so lonesome. I can’t go down. They leave me here alone all the time. (Pause) When you go down, tell Dom to come on up.

NARRATOR
Okay.

PATIENT
I hit my knee, bad. (Pause) Where the hell is Dom? (Pause) He’s down there. Dom’s down there. You tell him I said come up. (Pause) I broke my hip.

NARRATOR
That’s right.

PATIENT
You tell him come up here.

(The Patient begins scraping her face with her fingernails. Then she attempts to lift herself out of bed. She grabs the bed rail with both hands, and pulls hard. Then she falls back.)

PATIENT
I shouldn’t be up here. (Licks finger and begins rubbing face again.)

(DR. A. arrives.)

DR. A.
The CT scan confirmed it, the hip is broken.

PATIENT
Am I going to get better?

DR. A.
You bet.

(Dr. A. leaves.)

PATIENT
He said I would be better. (Pause) Oh God, how will it get better?

NARRATOR
You’re going to have surgery.

(The Patient attempts to lift herself out of the bed.)

PATIENT
Here, this here, hurts me. (Touches right hip.) When you go downstairs, will you tell Dom to come on up?

NARRATOR
Mm.

PATIENT
Tell him you did all this for me. Tell him I want to see him. (Attempts to get up.) Oh, I can’t move. You notice Dom is not here. You tell him to come on up. (Rubs face) What did I do with my hip?

NARRATOR
You fell in the bathroom.

(The Patient resumes face rubbing.)

PATIENT
Dom’s down there. You just tell him to come up. And what do I do when I have to pee?

NARRATOR
You have a catheter. You just pee.

PATIENT
There’s nothing here.

NARRATOR
There is–it’s in you.

PATIENT
How did I get here, anyway?

NARRATOR
The ambulance brought you.

PATIENT
Because of my leg?

NARRATOR
Yes.

PATIENT
But you notice you didn’t see Dom here? I want you to tell him, please, to come up. (Attempts to get up.) They all went down. (Rubs face using the hospital blanket. Attempts to get up. Sighs. Fusses with blankets. Attempts to get up.) It really hurts.

NARRATOR
I’m sorry to hear that.

(The Patient attempts to get up.)

PATIENT
It’s so slow up here. I bet you Dom’s down there. Tell him to get up here. (Runs fingernails along the bed railing. Scrapes fingernails on nose.) I shouldn’t be here. How will I go down to eat?

NARRATOR
Are you hungry?

PATIENT
Did I slip on the floor?

NARRATOR
Uh huh.

(The Patient rubs her face, licking her fingers and scraping her fingernails along her mouth and upper lip. She rubs her face with the hospital blanket.)

PATIENT
Where the hell is my husband?

NARRATOR
I don’t know.

PATIENT
(Scratches nose) You tell Dom to come up here. (Scrapes nose some more.) When you go downstairs tell Dom to come up here. (Pause) You’re the best thing that ever happened. (Pause) I hit my leg. (Pause) What happened?

NARRATOR
I don’t know, I wasn’t there. What happened?

PATIENT
(Scratches nose) I banged my knee terrible. (Attempts to get up. This attempt somewhat less strenuous than previous attempts.) When you go down will you tell Dom to come up here? (Brief nose scratching. Attempts to get up, then wraps arms around bed rail in a hug.) I hurt that knee. You will tell Dom to come up? Even my sore … even my sore …

NARRATOR
Hm?

PATIENT
Don’t forget to tell Dom. Dom’s downstairs. (Patient yawns. Scrapes fingernails along bed rail.) Make him very emphatic, to come up. Bring him here. Not bring him–just tell him. Or you can just tell him where he is. He knows where he is. (Scrapes nose.)

(Narrator longs for one of her own Husband’s cigarettes. Narrator yawns. Patient smiles. Runs nails along the bed rail. Compared to the other obsessive behaviors she’s engaging in, this is soothing as a lullaby.)

PATIENT
When my … when my toe … (Points at foot). They get better …

(The Narrator yawns and puts on a sweater.)

PATIENT
You look great. You really do. I wish I could go down with you. When you go down, tell Dom to come up. That you have some things for him. That I banged my … leg.

(Ten minutes’ worth of nose scraping, attempts to get up, finger licking, and rubbing of face with blanket.

PATIENT
Tell Dom to come up right away … with you. (Attempts to get up) I guess we’d better go. (Renewed effort to get up. Nose scratching.) Dom? (Adjusts covers.)

NARRATOR
What are you doing, Nan?

PATIENT
Putting this cover over my knee. (Adjusts blankets. Rubs nose with blankets. Scrapes nose with fingernails.) When you go down there, see if Dom’s there, tell him to come.

(Five more minutes of scraping, adjusting, and attempting to get up.)

PATIENT
I bet Dom’s sitting down there, playing. Nurse! (Nose scraping) Dom’s downstairs. Tell him … tell him to come up. Tell him I have something to tell him … liar that I am. Just because of my leg. How the hell did it happen to my leg. (Attempts to get up.) Will you tell Dom to come up there? Right away. Tell him to come right away.

(Dr. B. arrives.)

DR. B.
Hello, Beautiful!

(Patient smiles. Dr. B. speaks to Patient as though she is five years old. Narrator is annoyed by this, then immediately misses Dr. B. terribly when she’s gone. Notes to self how much faster five minutes with Dr. B. passes than any five minutes during the previous hour spent alone with Patient.)

PATIENT
You’re going to stay with me tonight, aren’t you? My Creep downstairs …

NARRATOR
What’s the matter, Nan?

PATIENT
I want Dom! To get … Dom is downstairs. If you see him downstairs tell him I need him immediately. (Attempts to get up.)

(DR. B. is paged. Narrator longs for Dr. B.)

(Continue for several more hours.)

END.

 

Not The Patient, but a similarly pinned hip.

 

UPDATE, 6:35 PM – The Patient is out of surgery and doing well.

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Dawn Corrigan DAWN CORRIGAN has published poetry and fiction in a number of print and online journals.

2 Responses to “Where’s Dom?”

  1. Sundin Richards says:

    Jeez, Dawn, I’m sorry. I can identify with you, having undergone similar things with Rose. Nan’s still a badass, though.

    • Yeah she is. She’s actually doing a little better now (by which I mean, this week, today, this minute … we have to count time in small increments now). Anyway: thanks.

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