Please understand that I’m not criticizing her in her criticism of the hospital. I think I’d be grumpy, too, if you told me something was wrong with my heart. And way back when, you wouldn’t want to have seen me in labor and delivery.
It was a labor to deliver me.
They monitored her blood pressure three times a day, but Francesca, Frank, Laura, and I monitored her grouchiness. We hoped her blood pressure went down, and her grouchiness went up. The unhappier she got, the happier we got. Mother Mary is at her healthiest when she’s giving everybody else high blood pressure.
We knew she had turned a corner toward the end of the week, which was a big day. Her treatment was ending at the main hospital, but the question was whether she would be admitted to another hospital for cardiac rehab. One of the saints, also known as nurses, took us aside and said she had to play better with others if she was going to graduate. So on the appointed day, we all sat her down in the principal’s office.
Guess who was the principal.
“Ma,” I said. “Today, there’s going to be two doctors who are going to interview you. You have to be nice.”
“Because if they think you’re an uncooperative patient, they won’t let you into cardiac rehab.”
“What do I care? I want to go home.”
So you see what a bad principal I am.
And unfortunately, Mother Mary has aged out of detention.
Fast forward to Dr. Number One, a handsome, black-haired 30-year-old in a white lab coat, which I know Mother Mary secretly covets.
All the doctors have their names embroidered on their lab coats, and her lab coat doesn’t say anything except Dollar Store.
We all hold our breath as the young doctor sits down in front of Mother Mary to ask her a few questions. He begins, “First question. Where are you?”
Mother Mary snorts. “Where do you think I am?”
Watching, I say nothing. None of us is allowed to say anything. Nor are we allowed to coach her or smack her into submission, so we sit mute and still.
Dr. Number One tries again. “Second question. Who is the president of the United States?”
“What’s the difference?”
I try not to watch. My mother is flunking cooperativeness, but the handsome doctor is smiling.
“Third question. Do you understand why you — ”
“Wait.” Mother Mary interrupts, holding up a gnarled finger. “I like you. You’re cute. Did you meet my granddaughter?”
So you see where this is going. Mother Mary actually passes the first evaluation, though Francesca is not engaged to the young doctor. In fact, we all thought he was gay and tried to hook him up with Brother Frank, but we struck out with equality.
Later that day, Dr. Number Two enters the room to administer Mother Mary’s final test. Unlike the Dr. Number One, he doesn’t have the warmest bedside manner. On the contrary, he strides into the office, steely haired and wire-rimmed. He sits down in front of Mother Mary, introduces himself, and is about to ask his first question when a neatly dressed woman appears in the doorway from a room down the hall.
“Doctor,” she says in an imperious way, “my husband has a question for you.”
Dr. Number Two lifts an eyebrow. “I’ll be back when I’m finished with this patient.”
The woman vanishes with an unhappy frown, and Dr. Number Two returns his attention to Mother Mary. He’s about to ask his first question, but she stops him.
“Where the hell does that broad get off?”
Doctor Number Two smiles.
And Mother Mary is in.
Look for Lisa Scottoline’s new novel, “Come Home,” and Lisa and Francesca Serritella’s book, “Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter.” Visit Lisa at scottoline.com.