Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

My dad has spent his life working in the theatre.

He’s acted, directed and stage managed; written plays, sketches and pantomimes; taught students, professionals and celebrities, and even met my mother onstage (she was his leading lady, once upon a time).

A fortnight ago, my dad rode to hospital in an ambulance. His fibrosis lungs are ragged and his heart keeps missing beats. He’s been in the coronary care ward ever since; two weeks of lying still in orange and green hospital pyjamas, with wires and tubes measuring oxygen, blood pressure, and pulse rate.

The hospital lifestyle is a new scene for him. The last time he visited a hospital was aged ten, when he and his brother were playing in the park near their house in Tooting. There was a mound of builder’s rubble, grown over faintly with grass, and my dad decided they should throw themselves down it, the way all little boys want to do. It wasn’t very high, but when my dad made the jump he skidded, careering headfirst down the mound and trying desperately to slow himself down by putting all his weight on his forearms and managing to rip out a chunk of skin on the base of his left elbow as a result.

Apparently it hurt like hell.

Dad and his brother ran off to the hospital, Dad clutching his arm and trying to press the skin back into place. A couple of weeks later, his mum took him to the hospital for another appointment. Back then they didn’t have dissolving stitches; these were made from catgut, tough enough to hold the flesh together, and had to be slowly pulled out with tweezers. My dad took the first couple of tugs bravely enough, but then he looked down and fainted on the spot. Not from the pain – he couldn’t remember it hurting, exactly – but more from the idea of what was happening to him: the concept of someone pulling at a thread from the inside to the out.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

It’s March, and London is aching for spring time.

The days are getting longer, and as I walk through my local park on the way to the train station I spot tiny bursts of flower petals shooting up amongst clumps of grass. Yet I’m still in my big coat with the fur lining and cosy hood; still ready for the sudden rain showers which cause visiting tourists to shriek indignantly. The weather is toying with my city. Are we in the clear yet? Do we still prepare for storm clouds?

Strangely, I’ve begun to understand that an open-ended hospital stay is both dramatic and monotonous. During my last two weeks of daily train rides across the city, overlooking London rooftops and narrow brick streets before plunging into the labyrinthine depths of a hospital complex, I’ve had ample time to analyse my emotions.

Each day the anticipation is different. Perhaps a doctor will tell me the situation is now critical. Perhaps my father will no longer be able to breathe without assistance. Perhaps in two days, or two weeks, or longer, he’ll be as right as rain.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

My life has become theatrical again. 

As a child, I always wanted to be an actress – something my professionally theatrical parents found intensely worrying. Thankfully that dream disappeared somewhere down the line, but my desire for drama and intensity in life remained for the longest time, all throughout my travels for the last decade, until I eventually reached burn-out.

Since last summer, I’ve been living rather quietly. Seeing a therapist, not travelling much, writing a lot for myself yet also backing away somewhat from my online presence; all indications that I simply had to slow down.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

So when Dad first called me to say he was in hospital, my worst fears were all immediately realised. Anyone who’s ever lost anyone knows how suddenly vulnerable your world becomes: every situation has deadly connotations, and every phone call is an emergency. It can be overwhelming, and I honestly didn’t feel ready to cope.

Yet when that emergency actually happens, something calm and knowledgeable overtakes from deep inside.

My first reaction was to tell my closest friends, feeling intrinsically that sharing the problem allowed them to hold some of my burden. And after the initial shock had subsided, I shrugged it off like a costume and slipped into something more comfortable: a firm resolve to not panic until it was actually necessary.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

Since then, I’ve been learning what being ‘present’ means. Taking each day as it comes, and expecting nothing more or less than what is right in front of me.

I’ve found that surrounding myself with brightness helps, so I’m wearing more colourful clothes to break away from the East London monochrome uniform. There are daffodils spread over three tables in my flat, after I discovered hospitals don’t allow their patients to keep bunches of flowers.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

And amidst all this tumult, I turned another year older.

Hospital visits have coincided with Birthday Bloody Mary’s in a sunlit kitchen with a huge clumsy dog sleeping under the table; my flatmate making me a surprise peanut butter cheesecake; walks along the marshland beside quietly bobbing canal boats.

I’m becoming even more of an official adult – yet I’m also realising, as I walk past doctors and worried-looking patients, that nobody quite knows how that’s done.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

Now I’m twenty nine, and with it I feel an increasing sense of resolution. I might still be living somewhat slowly and quietly, but I’m also re-strengthening myself again. I’ve solidified my circle of close friends and loved ones, and feel bolstered by their presence around me. I’m not the twenty year old who lost her mother out of the blue anymore.

Today I felt fed by the sun.

After two weeks of waiting, I walked towards the hospital with the knowledge that my dad has been fitted with a pacemaker and that he’s doing ok. I silently exulted in the sensation that my body was wrapped in warmth; recharged and rebooted like the flowers underfoot.

London is aching for spring time. It’s not quite here yet, but it will be soon enough.

Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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24 Responses to Springtime Theatrics in Hospital

  1. JL Pastor March 9, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Gracias por escribir de nuevo Flora, tus textos nos alegran el día. Un beso grande para ti y tu pa de todos nosotros por acá.

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

      Gracias mi amigo 🙂 Besitos para ti y tu familia linda tambien!!

  2. Taylor stice March 9, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    Love love love

  3. aterosin March 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    You’ve got this.

  4. Kaitlyn March 9, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

    • Flora March 14, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Kaitlyn 🙂

  5. Savio Wong March 9, 2017 at 10:50 pm #

    Hi Flora,

    This is a very lovely and thoughtful post. It really gets me thinking.

    Taking care of a member of the family is what we do. Nothing like illness and mortality that reminds us what the really important things are in life. Reading your post reminds me of my own long stay — five weeks — in a hospital more than six years ago. The language we used among the patients were: did you sleep okay last night? how long have you been here? when are you getting out? We were living ‘inside’ and couldn’t wait to get ‘outside’. The day I found out I could go home was one of my happiness memories there. I am glad to hear your father has been fitted with a pacemaker and would be able to go home. Hospital, no matter how hard they try, is really not a pleasant place to be.

    I think 29 is an important number even though age is really a state of mind. However, being in the 20s mean you are still close to your carefree and innocent stage of your life. Be proud of what you have accomplished and look forward to what lies ahead of you. It is no easy task to find the balance of living a life with meaning and happiness. In my younger days, the state of the world and the need for me to do something often got me down. In the words of Chris Hedges: to live only for meaning — indifferent to all happiness — make us fanatic, self-righteous, and cold. It leaves us cut off from our own humanity and the humanity of others. We must hope for grace for our lives to be sustained by moments of meaning and happiness, both equal worthy of human communion.
    [from Hedges’ book “War is a Force that Gives us Meaning”.

    Spring is just around the corner and get out and enjoy that sunshine.

    • Flora March 14, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Savio 🙂 Having watched the various bedside neighbours in my dad’s ward for the last few weeks I completely agree that it quickly becomes about the inside versus outside world. They’ve all bonded in a way that wouldn’t happen as easily in ‘real life’ which is also interesting!

  6. kashacapetown March 10, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    I’m so sorry to hear of your Dad’s stay in hospital, and to hear that you’ve been struggling. Dealing with an illness in the family is one of the most difficult things that anyone has to go through, but it’s true that something calm and – the only way I’ve been able to describe it – bigger than yourself takes over in the worst moments. If you ever need to talk (although it sounds like you have an amazing support group already), please just let me know.

    Sending lots of love to you,

    • Flora March 14, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

      Thanks so much lovely – I really appreciate it! Hope you’re enjoying settling back into London life <3

  7. Jen @ TRAVELBLLGR March 10, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    Beautifully written Flora, all the best to you and your dad xx

    • Flora March 14, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

      Thank you Jen 🙂

  8. Beatrice Chartrand March 14, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    I’m happy to read you again. Poetic, beautiful and honest words. <3

    • Flora March 14, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

      How lovely to hear, Beatrice! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  9. LC March 16, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    Lovely piece of writing, Flora. Wishing your Dad a speedy recovery. Nowhere else in the world does springtime like London. I do hope it hits soon.

    • Flora March 19, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

      Thanks for the well wishes, LC 🙂 Hopefully London’s springtime is almost here to stay!

  10. Private Punting Tours March 23, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    Sorry to hear your Father is in hospital – wishing him a speedy recovery too! Beautiful piece of writing, sound like you’ve got this whole adult thing nailed.

    • Flora April 2, 2017 at 11:00 am #

      Aww, thanks for thinking I sound like an adult!

  11. Kim March 26, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    What a gorgeous, meditative piece of writing, Flora. I am sending good vibes to you and your father (and hoping that spring has sprung a little faster there than it has here across the pond in New England). I never quite connected travel with a preference for drama, but you’re right, that is one reason why we seek out those intense experiences (or why I have!). Like you, I’ve been in a quiet, reclusive state since returning from a couple of years living abroad, not writing much, not sharing on social media, and I feel like it has given me a much needed opportunity to exhale, integrate, consider. I hope your time going within has been as equally restorative. <3

    • Flora April 3, 2017 at 9:02 am #

      I’ve been trying my best to appreciate the restorative nature of this period of stillness, Kim! I think it’s taken me a long while to actually absorb its benefits instead of feeling guilty that I’m no longer moving around so much, though. My mindfulness is certainly improving, so I guess that’s a step in the right direction 🙂

  12. Rachel July 21, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    I hope your Dad is doing well and you are looking after yourself too. I am new to your blog and am enjoying reading about your adventures. Thanks for sharing.

    • Flora August 11, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Rachel! I hope you stick around for more of my writings 🙂

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