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Patient Needs
by Martin Lindauer

I plunked a stack of magazines on the table next to mom’s bed in the recuperation wing of Mt. Sinai hospital. AARP. Senior Living. Arthritis Today. Active Aging. That should be enough, I reasoned, for a week’s reading during her convalescence.  

Under heavily lidded and darkly circled eyes, mom gave me a disappointed look before she weakly pushed the pile of magazines off to the side, using her right hand, the one without the cast. She stared unseeingly at the ceiling, her eyes slipping past loops of tubes running into her nose and draped across her chest.

Leaning closer I whispered, “Is there some other kind of reading you’d like me to get you?” To get her attention I lightly touched two fingers that peeked out from under her bandaged arm. “I can bring them to you tomorrow.” I waited for her to say something.

She met my question with rolling eyes and silence.

I sighed, tried to remember the titles of magazines I’d passed while shopping at Wahlgreen’s or walking by the racks of monthlies at Safeway’s, and asked myself, what might interest a woman of 82 in poor physical condition and with a housewifely range of interests? Certainly not Vogue, Cosmopolitan, or Glamour Magazine, I answered with a silent laugh. Better choices came quickly to mind. Good Housekeeping. Ladies Home Journal. For some obscure reason Runner’s World came to mind, immediately replaced by ShopSmartCreative Knitting was another possibility-- when the cast comes off.  

Stumped for more ideas, I asked mom, “How about magazines on cooking or home decoration?”

She slowly turned her head towards me and smiled weakly. Aha. A hit, I thought happily. No need to continue to mentally survey reading material she might find interesting. To reassure her I said, “You don’t have to read everything from cover to cover, mom, if you don’t feel like it. Just look at the pictures.” I lifted my eyebrows to encourage her to take up my offer or give me some hint of other kinds of magazines that might appeal to her. I bent my head closer to her mouth to better hear the choices she might make. “What would you like, mom?” I asked softly.

“I appreciate what you brought me,” she murmured haltingly through cracked lips. “But you know what I’d really like, sweetheart?”

“What, mom?”  I said eagerly. “What?” 

“A nice cup of chicken soup would be wonderful.”