I was never hospitalized that my mother wasn’t there beside me. Even after I became an adult my mother would put her life on hold whenever I was hospitalized. She was always there working to keep my spirit high and my faith strong. She would bring something of beauty from the world outside while sharing her love of God and his beauty from her inside.
She would find a way to make me feel feminine and loved. She would somehow manage to wash my hair for me even though I wasn’t allowed out of bed. She would buy me a light perfume, a tube of beautiful lipstick, a lovely nightgown, a special flower, or a book that she knew I had been longing to read. She would call everyone that she knew and tell them to call everyone that I knew and have my hospital room flooded with get well cards. A disabled daughter could not have had a more wonderful mother.
When I was a young teen the doctors stopped the growth in my left leg. In theory my right leg would continue growing and eventually both legs would be the same length. It had taken years of measuring and figuring to find the exact date and age at which the surgery should be done. It had been a particularly painful operation and I was feeling depressed and isolated.
We were only allowed visitors on Wednesdays and Sundays from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. My mother always arrived precisely at 2:00 p.m. This Wednesday when she came to my bedside she had a beautiful package in her hands. She was bubbly and smiling as she handed me the gift. As I unwrapped the box she told me that my school friends had asked if they could come to visit me the following Sunday. She had a teasing smile on her face as she told me that the boy that I had a crush on was in the group that wanted to visit.
The package she had handed me had a red ’shortie’ lying among the scented tissue paper. (I think shorties are called ’teddies now.) That short nightgown was so beautiful. It was frilly and lightweight and had ruffles around the neckline. She said that she knew I would want to feel pretty when my friends came to visit.
I remember thinking that it was too lovely to be worn in that brown place that smelled like Plaster of Paris and alcohol.
That Sunday, before the visiting hours, I put on the lovely nightgown, covered my legs and the traction with the sheet, and had the nurse raise the head of my bed. The other girls in the ward looked longingly at the splash of red in a world of brown walls, white sheets, and casts.
When my friends walked through the door I felt almost real, almost beautiful, almost feminine. The boy that I had a crush on took the chair closest to my bed. It was an exciting moment for a girl that was restricted, but my friends started gushing with the news from school and the moment passed.
My mother gave my friends about an hour with me and then she walked in to join the group. Every once in awhile she would look my way, make a funny face, and nod her head a bit as if she was trying to say something, but I was enjoying myself too much to try to understand. Eventually she moved to the other side of my bed, over by the window, and her coded gestures stopped.
When it was time for everyone to leave the boy that I had a crush on leaned over, whispered in my ear, and squeezed my hand. The nerves in my leg may have been screaming, but my heart was floating in the clouds.
When my mother came over me to kiss me goodbye she asked what the boy had said. I told her that he had asked if he could come to see me when I got home. “He even asked if I would like to go to the movies with him when the doctor’s let me get up,” I bubbled.
As my mother hugged me she said, “Well, he was a very lucky boy. He had the perfect seat. You’re bed is in front of the window. Every time you moved the sun radiated like sparkles through your nightgown.
The sun had made my nightgown transparent.
She didn’t want to embarrass the boy or me so she had moved to the window side and used her body to block the sun. That was my mother ...
History repeated itself when I was in my early 40’s and was incredibly ill with a bone infection in my foot. My mother floated into my hospital room with a beautiful pink nightgown. It had spaghetti straps, low cut in the bosom, and an empire waistline. It attracted men from every floor of the hospital. The most interesting man was the young man my son’s age. It made me feel a bit like Mrs. Robinson in a hospital bed, but that’s another story.
This story is about my mother and her knack for making me feel beautiful even though I smelled like medicine and had tubes sticking in me. Her nightgowns gave me the chance to feel sexy. As the doctor said when he saw the pink nightgown, “I’ve been worried about you, but I know you are going to get well now. No one would dare stay ill in a nightgown that beautiful.”
And the teenage boy that I had a crush on? We dated for almost a year and never once did either of us mention that he had seen me half-naked in the sunlight!