Strike The Set

My wife and our newborn son have been home and resting comfortably for about a week now. In contrast to our experience with Frankie, this one has been incredible and everyone is enjoying being together.

A couple of days ago, I went back to the hospital to fill a prescription for Aline, who is still under doctor’s orders not to drive. Upon leaving the pharmacy, I stopped in the tiny vending machine area, popped a dollar into the coffee machine and, without thinking, pressed 1-B-7, the little code for a large cup of black Brazilian Roast. As I was reaching for the cup once it had been filled, I froze for a minute and the oddest sensation swept over me.

There exists a phenomenon in theater that I have felt many times, but have never been able to explain. I am certain that almost everyone has experienced it in one shape or form at some point in their lives. This phenomenon, this haunting and eerily wondrous awareness occurs long after the audience has filed out of the theater, when the curtain has been drawn, the lights doused and the stage emptied. It happens off in the wings as you gaze at the dim outlines of shadowy sets looming silently in the dark. Nothing moves yet everything speaks. It’s a tingle down your spine as, for a few brief moments, the ghosts of past performances and souls previously bared on that stage whisper to you chillingly. Its magic.

That’s what I felt, standing there alone with the coffee machine and I was filled with sadness.

It is a difficult thing to explain, but I realized at that instant I missedthe hospital. The entire week I was there with Aline and the baby I was frantic and worried for everyone’s well-being. If you had asked me at any point during our stay if I would rather be anywhere else it would have taken me less than a second to respond absolutely.

But there with my coffee, almost a week later, I felt differently. I remembered the late nights, curled up on the fold-out “bed” in Aline’s room under a thin blanket, the almost inaudible sound of a television and the nurses’ muffled laughter down the hall creating a soothing soundtrack to the warm and loving conversation Aline and I were having quietly. I remembered us sitting together in silence as the room was bathed in the golden glow of the sunrise, happily gazing at our tiny boy sleeping contentedly in his bassinette. I remembered the bubbling laughter and noisy babbling of family members and friends congregating in the room while slapping me on the back, kissing our son and embracing Aline through tears of joy. I remembered the swelling in my heart and the tear in the corner of my eye as I watched my daughter lean over the rail of Mommy’s bed and place her hand gently on her brother’s forehead for the first time. 

That hospital room had been our sanctuary. It had been our shelter from the realities of life and the real world where the only thoughts that drifted breezily through my mind were those of love and of closeness, of pride and happiness. As strange as it may sound, that hospital room had hosted my family’s own little adventure and, like the ghosts in the empty set, we all left a tiny little piece of our own souls there when we carted the last of Aline’s belongings out of the room towards the car. 

I wondered, as I forced myself to leave the vending area and headed back home, if the man who entered that room behind us with his mop and his bucket of suds, felt some of the same eeriness I often feel in a theater. I wondered if he paused for a moment, both hands still grasping the handle of his mop, and looked around, perhaps feeling some of the warmth and love that had been left behind there.

Later that night I started to explain to my wife what I had felt, apologizing for admitting something as silly as missing being in the hospital and she stopped me halfway through. She looked at me softly and explained that she knew exactly what I meant, and that she felt it too. She missed carrying Dominick inside her. She missed his little kicks and hiccups and she missed every little bit of discomfort or pain she had been experiencing because those things reminded her that she was creating life. I believe that, while she loves being a mother, she misses the emotion and warmth that stems from becoming a mother almost as much. And, like me and my hospital, she knows that she will probably never experience those things again.

I take comfort in the fact that Aline and I have added our own miniscule branch to a tree that will continue to grow long after we are dead. But I also admit that I, the guy who joked with the nurses and with friends about never going through this experience again and made quirky statements like “two kids is two too many,” actually feel some sadness and a tiny little tug of regret in the back of my mind that, while Aline and I can nurture that tree for a while to come, we can no longer contribute to its growth. 

Funny. Who would have guessed?

-Matt

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