We worked together, moving Beth from side to side. She was approaching 85 and having had several major abdominal surgeries to remove multiple cancerous tumors her body was slowly shutting down. Severe edema made both of her legs swell to twice their size and was slowly losing her strength to stand and move.
The work was taxing in every way and as we finished unfolding clean sheets and positioning her just so Beth gave a tremendous sigh.
“What’s that for?” I asked with a grin, “you been working hard or something?”
Beth gave my arm a playful slap and between breath’s said, “you’re too funny for your own good kid.”
I laughed and gave her arm a squeeze, “well we couldn’t have done that without you Beth. You’re one in a million.”
“No,” she said grabbing hold of my hand and squeezing it tight, “you really are, I couldn’t get through this without you.”
I watched tears form in her eyes as she tried to convey her sincerity. It was touching and awkward at the same time because she was such an independent soul. I could tell it from the look in her eyes how uncomfortable she was laying in that hospital bed.
“Hey, I’ve got a funny story for you,” I said hoping this would distract her.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she answered in a gruff voice, but I saw her body slightly relax.
“The other night I had headed off to work and my son, Ira, was talking with my wife. They were clearing off dinner and in the middle of it Ira stops and says, ‘Mom, Daddy sleeps till four in the afternoon, right?’
“Without thinking my wife said, ‘Yes, Daddy has to because he works all through the night at the hospital.’ Ira stood there for a long moment thinking about this fact. Finally, he said, ‘So he sleeps during the day and works all night.’
“‘Yup, he does,’ she said with infinite patience. There was another moment of silence and then Ira’s eyes went all wide and he suddenly screamed, ‘Mom! Dad’s Batman!'”
Beth’s body rocked as she laughed at the story. I couldn’t contain myself and laughed as well. For a single moment, we weren’t in a large hospital room with whirring IV machinery and bubbling lines. The smell of sterilized surfaces and carefully filtered air disappeared and what mattered in that moment was Beth’s laughter.
A genuine look of mirth and energy filled her face as she smiled brilliantly to the room at large. It was a moment we both needed, and when it ended I helped Beth sit up higher in her bed. She grabbed my arm and with a voice full of gratitude said, “I’m so glad I have you here to help, Batman.”
“Anytime,” I said, giving her hand a squeeze, “anytime.”