“We have to get back to the garden” was my mother’s mantra yesterday. “We have to get back to the garden, then I can have a cigarette, and then you can get your work done.” (I’m here in Oregon with a laptop and a report to write.)
Forest Grove, Oregon (that last syllable is “gun” not “gone”). “The garden” is the nice little fenced-in outside area at the Tuality Forest Grove Geriatric-Psychiatric unit, where my mom had her last hospital stay. The hospital-based psychiatric units in this area (one assumes they are similar nationwide) are akin to prison: no shoe-strings, no bathrobe ties, no food brought in from the outside. No smoking. No access to fresh air.
The geri-psych unit at Tuality is kinder, gentler. You get to keep your shoe-strings and your bra. There is a pile of donated jammies, so if you arrived sans your own, someone else’s clean, gently worn flannels await you. Best of all is the aforementioned garden: a place to breathe fresh air, sit in the sun, have a smoke.
For about the last week I’ve known my mom was headed to the psychiatric unit, and I’ve been petrified that there would be no bed available. No bed available means spending 48-plus hours in a hospital emergency department with my manic mom, waiting for a bed to open up somewhere, anywhere — not just in the Portland area but in the whole dang state (Oregon is bigger than you think—9th largest in area in the US).
So imagine my joy when:
(1) The emergency department physician at Tuality Forest Grove told me he thought my mom needed to be admitted. In the past, even that part has been a struggle. Either the physician wants to ignore the obvious (knowing how rare the psych beds are?) or my mom has refused treatment—then ended up in court in handcuffs with a judge ordering hospitalization. This time–easy peasy. (Though exuberant me raised both arms in the air as though the Dodgers had just won the World’s Series.)
(2) We learned that there was space in the geri-psych unit at Tuality. Oh, rainbows of hallelujahs! Oh, broken health care system that silly-puttied together a space for my mom! In a matter of hours (not days! not days!) we were ushered into the geri-psych unit, happy to help the charge nurse complete the reams of forms needed to admit a patient (Oh Oregon trees! Save yourselves! Resist so they make the whole system electronic!).
In her mania, my mother is recounting all her regrets; her lost loves, how the condom broke, how she lost (or someone stole) the gold watch her father gave her for her eighth-grade graduation when she was in the hospital the first time (Bellevue, 1951). I am front and center in the blast zone of repressed memories.
Back to the garden, indeed: