The Virtual World


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Yesterday was a beautiful day up on the sixth floor of UCLA’s Santa Monica Oncology Center as we brought my mom up into a sun-filled room with dozens of reclining leather chairs and she was connected by vein into chemo.

The wall of glass windows looked west to the shimmering ocean as the 80-degree sun blew hot and the palms swayed in the wind.

Instead of needles, blood, screams and suffering, there were copies of Martha Stewart Living, November 2010: beautiful show dogs photographed in sepia, apple pies set on wood tables, silver and purple leaves pressed onto canvas for a do-it-yourself art project. I saw Calvados and potatoes au gratin, buttery grilled beans on 18th Century Limoges china, tulip bulbs laid into the soil on a Connecticut farm.

In my hands were two bags from FLOR, full of colored carpet samples I had gathered for a client, purple and brown, green and yellow squares, laid out on the wall ledge so my mom could tell me which ones she liked.

My brother was listening to a podcast, partly; answering emails, talking to his wife, and texting his business partner as the medical anti-cancer fluid dripped and dripped, into my mother’s bloodstream, and he talked of idiot entertainment execs and the virtues of a new calendar app.

The nurse, an Asian-Californian woman, in a tan Levi’s corduroy jacket over dark brown scrubs, came to change the tube; her long, straight black hair shining in the bright sunlight, her smile warm and genuine, caring, here in the chemo spa; where all voices were subdued, all expressions were smiles, and all expectations were high.

To combat nausea, the doctor prescribed the Martian sounding Onandestron.

After the tube came out, my mother said, “That’s it?”

And the caregiver, the nurse, and the two sons wheeled her out of the sun, and into the dark elevator, down to the red Ford Focus waiting in the garage.

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