“Mommy, where are you going?”
I can see by the momentary flash in her eye that her first thought is to answer with a lie. Then the steely reserve I know so well ices over a portion of that protective instinct, and in a voice as clear as frost she answers me.
“Your Uncle Geo is in the hospital.”
At six years of age, I’ve already had my share of experiences with hospitals. Nervous parents, noisy waiting rooms, doctors asking too many questions. How did you really get hurt?
Sometimes silence is the only answer.
I shake off the recent memory of my broken arm and blink up at my mother.
“Can I go too?”
This is a hard question to ask. I distrust doctors. I dislike medication. Already I despise hospitals, with their antiseptic smells and their cold white sterility, the dispositions of their staff members even colder still. I hate hospitals. But I love my Uncle Geo, and I hate the thought of him being in a hospital even more.
So I ask to go with my mom. I want to see him. He loves me, after all. He would be happy to see me. He knows I understand about hospitals. And he doesn’t treat me like a little kid. He’s a teenager and he’s awesome. (My mom always rolls her eyes when she says this, but I can tell she thinks he’s awesome for real.) I can wait with him and play with him and that will make him feel better. He always smiles and laughs when we play together. Especially when we play football. Except we can’t play football in the waiting room… Maybe he would like to snuggle my Shamoo whale stuffy? Or I could read Green Eggs And Ham to him while he’s in the waiting room.
He’s not in a waiting room.
He is in lockdown.
My mother’s answer to my question is “NO.”
And she’s smart enough to know exactly how smart I am.
So she explains.
And the words “Psych Ward” and “schizophrenia” will ever after be a permanent part of my vocabulary.