Illness tests a family's strength...
Special to The Jewish News
Illustration by Donna Campbell
, light 405 will be departing
shortly to Detroit. Please
be sure that your seat belts
are fastened securely. En-.
joy your flight."
Holiday break. One of those
marvelous times in a student's life; a
lull in the storm between classes and
This year, however, was different.
He had moved to an out-of-state
school. Hundreds of miles seemed like
a never-ending gulf between him and
As the plane left the earth into its
long, homeward-bound flight, his
grandmother's illness became
foremost in his mind.
"The cancer is widespread," his
mother said to him on the phone.
"The doctors decided to try
chemotherapy, but it doesn't look
good. Six months, maybe a year?'
His mind was filled with ques-
tions and fears of his grandmother's
illness. How would she be when he got
home? How bad was she?
And a selfish thought: how would
he get along without her?
He and his grandmother had a
Dr. Stephen Goldman is a physician
living in Farmington Hills.
special relationship, a special friend-
ship that existed only between grand-
parents and grandchildren. They fre-
quently kept in touch with each other,
even after he went away to school.
Somehow, they could discuss any
topic, any time, without the stigma of
parental judgement overlying each
conversation. She provided a unique
window to his past, a mirror to his
present, and a doorway to his future.
After the plane touched down, he
met his parents at the arrival gate.
Funny, he thought, how much older
his mother appeared that day. In her
early fifties, she prided herself on her
appearance and always looked
younger than her age.
The usual warm greetings
awaited him. They gathered his lug-
gage and walked to the car.
"Grandma's not doing too well,"
his mother stated as they pulled out
of the parking lot. Suddenly, the air
seemed more chilled than usual for a
"She's very weak. The
chemotherapy took a lot out of her.
She just doesn't look good." A difficult
silence descended over the car.
`Can we go to the hospital now?"
"I think it would be a good idea."
I think it would be a good idea —
a simple, yet complex statement. stood out against this near-winter
What else was there that he should background, a concrete monolith that
know? It was as if the protective rug appeared out of place in the surroun-
of childhood was being pulled out ding neighborhood.
Cars pulled up at the entrance,
from underneath him.
depositing visitors and patients.
"What did her doctor say?"
"The chemotherapy is working. In Nurses and a few doctors were leav-
fact, it's incredible. But she looks so ing through the front door. Must be
weak. Just don't look shocked when shift change, he thought to himself.
Entering the hospital, they ob-
you go into her room. She's lost a lot
tained their visitor passes from the
The rug was suddenly pulled out front desk. The brightly lit lobby was
extremely busy with families enter-
The rest of the ride to the hospital ing and leaving, patients leaving for
was quiet . . . too quiet. They talked home and delivery trucks depositing
flowers and other gifts for patients.
With a perfunctory nod from the
It was as if the
guard who inspected their passes,
protective rug of
they entered an elevator for the ride
childhood was being
pulled from beneath him.
His grandmother's floor was a
stark contrast to the lobby. Dimly lit,
of his exams, his brother's life at it expanded in numerous directions,
school and other items of family each wing long, dark and quiet. The
business. Work was going well for his universal antiseptic smell of hospitals
parents. Being teachers, though, they permeated the air. A barrage of
appreciated school vacations as much messages descended from the celing,
as their students. Sometimes even each summoning an unknown doctor
to an unknown task.
Like all hospitals, this one seem-
As they approached the hospital,
the grey sky threatened. A few trees ed friendly, yet barren. Nursing sta-
stubbornly held onto their leaves in tions were placed as oases among
front of the hospital, as if in defiance deserts of illness. The one on his
of the changing seasons. The hospital grandmother's wing was quiet when
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS