I have been home for two months after the breakup. My parents, sister and I have taken a vacation to the Outer Banks, and we have not killed each other. This is a good sign, I think, for the next few months. I am considering a move back to Chicago, though I am not entirely happy with the idea. Maybe Boston.
I want to go out for Indian food, so my mom and I set a date. Friday, July 30, 1999, we will go to Neelam, an exceptional Indian restaurant in a nearby town. But when the afternoon comes, my mom protests. “I don’t feel well, honey,” she says. “Maybe we can go next week.” I behave badly. I sulk. It is unbecoming.
My mom goes to bed and skips dinner. She seems to have the stomach flu. She groans periodically, and we wait for the moment when she will rush to the toilet to throw up. I stay away from her room, unwilling to expose myself to stomach flu, which I have not had since sixth grade. At one point, I feel bad about my avoidance and glance toward the bedroom. “Are you okay?” I ask. “No,” she says. “I either have the stomach flu or appendicitis.” She laughs. I laugh. I go to my room and turn on the computer.
Late that night, my dad takes my mom to the emergency room. Friday night is the worst time to get sick. Hospitals are usually shorthanded on weekends. My mom is shunted aside as several “more urgent” cases are admitted. Finally, they do a CAT scan. Everything looks okay, they inform my parents. My dad drives my mom home, and they go to sleep.
The next morning, she feels better, shuffles out to the kitchen and eats a light breakfast. We are relieved. But she starts to feel worse as morning turns to afternoon. Back to the hospital, and once again a long wait. My dad is angry, anxious, and my mom is feeling worse. They do another CAT scan. Something might be amiss, nothing big, they assure us. They admit my mother and schedule an operation.
When they open her up, her appendix has burst. Toxic fluid everywhere. They vacuum her out, put her on antibiotics, and transport her to a small room at the end of a long hall, where my sister and I see her for the first time since she left the house. She is smiling. She looks tired. She is my mom. And she is, despite all assurances to the contrary, not better.
There is not enough time to explain. In short: infection, another operation, and infection, and resistance to multiple antibiotics, a fever that goes up and up and up and then vancomycin, the last resort. It works and we heave a sigh of relief and she comes home.