My Mom has a bell that sits on a table in her family room. Last month my daughter was playing with it and my husband started saying “bring me my chair!” My daughter, of course, looked at him like he was crazy and went about her business. After he said this three times, she finally asked what he was talking about. I shared the fifteen year old joke with her.
The year before my husband and I were married my dad was in a pretty bad motorcycle accident. He was halfway across the state on his way to Sturgis on the weekend of my parents’ thirty fourth wedding anniversary when it happened. A teenage girl made a left turn in front of him and hit him head on. He went over the hood of her car after his handlebars broke his pelvis in four places. He was taken to a hospital 150 miles from home. He called me to come pick him up. He said he was fine but his bike was damaged and told me to bring “the big ride”, which was his car, so he could lay down in the backseat on the way home. I would like to say that he was delirious from the pain meds, but he refused to take them, so the idea that he was leaving the hospital that day in his own car was purely his own stubbornness. I realized when we got there why he had called me to come with my mom and why he wanted his car – my poor mom almost fainted when she saw him. The doctor pulled up the x-rays on the screen and they literally had to bring in a gurney for her to lie down. My mom does not do well with trauma or blood. I vividly recall her hitting the floor when I had blood drawn at the age of seven. She was not going to do well taking care of my dad’s wounds as he healed. Which brings us to the bell…
My dad got out of the hospital as quickly as he could after his accident. He spent a week in a room with an elderly man that continually rang the nurse demanding “where’s my pain pill?!” My dad dislikes nothing more than whining, so his patience was tested the entire time he was in that hospital bed. I think ditching his roommate was his biggest motivation for being discharged next to being able to eat ice cream directly out of the carton at midnight. He was brought home in an ambulance and took up residency in a hospital bed in my parents’ family room for the next several months. He was home, but immobile with pins and a halo around the front of his body. My mom gave him the little gold bell to ring when he needed anything.
The little golden bell has been a staple in my parents’ house for as long as I can remember. When I was sick as a child, my mom would get me all tucked in on the couch and put the bell on the table next to me. I was plagued by stomach issues as a child so I am guessing the bell was just as useful for my mom to be able to get ahead of a mess. Unfortunately, I normally rang the bell after I barfed all over the floor. Luckily my dad used the bell more timely than I did as a child.
My dad was a really easy patient. He rarely asked for anything while he was recuperating. Mostly what he asked for was for people to stop asking him what he needed. The one thing he did need from us was to bring him his “chair” which was really a commode. When you are laid up in a hospital bed for weeks there is not a lot to do other than eat, read and watch television. Fortunately for my dad, my mom provides comfort on plates and she cooks when she is stressed. Because of this, my dad probably ate more in those few months than he did in the year prior. Unfortunately for me, the more you eat, the more you poop. I spent my afternoons bringing my dad’s chair over to his bed and leaving the room multiple times. After awhile my mom and I started a little battle with each other. She fed him chili the night before I came to sit with him and I brought him tacos for lunch. My poor dad’s digestive system was a pawn in our poop war. He even joined the battle one night when he finally succumbed to taking a pain pill but mistakenly took a stool softener. We all lost that battle – repeatedly.
I don’t know where the bell originated from, but it has always been a part of being sick or injured. Much like a warm blanket and soft pillow, the bell is a source of comfort. It sits on the table unnoticed until the patient’s fever hits 101 and then it is delivered on a little tray with a glass of orange juice. It’s a wonder the bell at my parents’ house still rings after my daughter got her hands on it. She could take some lessons in good patient etiquette from her grandfather.
As most traditions do, this one spread – to my house. The Easter Bunny brought me my own bell in my basket this year. It was quickly claimed by my daughter who has been using it to request breakfast on the couch most mornings. She is not really a traditionalist and has decided that if the bell is good enough for sick days, it is good enough for ALL days. She rings that little sucker when she wants her tray of food brought to her and again when she wants the tray cleared away or when she wants a fruit refill. The kid has a pretty charmed life. I’m the bumblehead who keeps coming back every time the bell rings. I’m like Pavlov’s dog without the drool. When she can tell I am getting a little irritated by her demands she waits until I am halfway out the door and yells “BRING ME MY CHAIR!!” It gets a laugh out of me every time.
In honor of Ian MacKaye’s birthday today, I wrote this piece while listening to Minor Threat