By Moria Attias
I cannot say when this journey began. Perhaps it was when we were in the car, or maybe earlier when the date was set. Perhaps it’s even earlier, when it was scheduled the time before, and the time before that one, and the first time as well. Maybe it’s a two-year-old journey, from the moment my mother started her dialysis treatment. Or is it a ten-year-old journey, beginning with the treatment for breast cancer my mother received, which damaged her kidneys. Perhaps it’s a fifty-year-old journey, back to when my grandfather died from the same illness. If so, I have no idea how far in our family tree it goes or when it stops, since it seems this is my heritage as well, like the artistic hand the three of us share, my grandfather, my mother and myself. No one in our family has it, like no one has our blood type. I prefer to start telling of this journey from the morning of the surgery, a Wednesday morning, the 16th of March 2011.
I was attending interviews all over the north on Monday and Tuesday, and I awaited another one scheduled on Thursday as well. When I woke up that morning I expected a day off, interrupted only for a few hours by the quest of taking my little cousin from kindergarten home, at quarter to four in the afternoon. My sister, stubborn as a rock, did not wake up that morning. She volunteered earlier to join our mother and to be with her during the surgery, which was set for the fourth time already in Zefat’s hospital. The purpose was to take out a tube in my mother’s chest, used in order to replace my mother’s blood with a clean one. She had another one in her arm, serving the same purpose, so she didn’t need this one as well. Since I was already awake by nine, I took my sister’s place and not long after ten, we were all in the car and father drove it up to Zefat.
The way up there was difficult for my father, who only a week earlier had surgery himself to remove a lump of cancer from his leg. I was there with him that day, when he was subdued with morphine. That was also the day my sister told me a kidney was found for mother. The transplant was what we were waiting for these past two years. When my sister told me that, we were walking on the bridge connecting the hospital my father was in to a mall, over the too many roads below. My sister said, “We need to start saving money.”
“They found a kidney for mom.”
“Yes. The surgery will be in Russia. They found her some donor.”
“Who? The macher?”
“Yes.” We were half way over the bridge and I was more worried than happy, perhaps because of the somber tone of my sister. I expressed some concern about the way it will all happen, and how can we trust them to give her a good kidney in Russia, where horror stories come from. My sister said we should not worry about it, yet when I talked to father about this he simply shrugged, saying there is not much to be done but to trust our insurance company.
By the time we got there we were all irritated, after reminiscing about the past attempts of my mother to do this surgery there. Father didn’t want to go all the way into the hospital because of his throbbing leg, so he left us in the entrance and drove away to visit his aunt in the village of Shamai not far from there. While my mother and I were sitting and waiting (we waited for two hours), she expressed her complaints about this place, how neglected it is and swore this is the last time she is coming all the way there for this surgery. If it won’t happen today, she said she will do it elsewhere. I thought the architect did a great job, making the hospital feel like a box of glass to those who were inside of it, a box of glass in the midst of a mountain chain.
Mother and I read a daily newspaper we found there together and talked somewhat about politics. Somehow we got to the subject of her fellow patients in the round, twelve-bed room of the dialysis treatment. She said that the Arab ladies who come there never speak to anyone besides their daughters, and that they are always there with one of their daughters. I asked her if she feels jealous of them, that they always have company during the four-hour treatment, twice and even trice a week sometimes. My mother said that sometimes she does. “Sometimes it’s better when you have someone to talk to, and you don’t need to call the nurse for every move you want to make. You know, since I can’t move my right arm.” I knew.
Finally we were moved to the surgery area, which I claimed should have been more secured and closed to the curious eyes of every guest. It wasn’t so, and I understood any complaint about the state of neglect the hospital was in. It took some time, as expected, until we got in and were separated by the most unstable doctor I have ever seen. He had a limp and seemed to twitch every now and then. I was left alone with the other guests, whom I learned to despise after only five minutes of eavesdropping on their conversation. A skinny, blind, frog-face woman was talking about her plastic surgeries, and how she managed a doctor husband, which I did not mind much until she started telling racist jokes to an elderly couple. When stressed, I tend to develop hate towards uncaring company around me.
When my mother came out only thirty minutes later she said she felt dizzy and can still taste the anesthesia. She said that the nurse was right to call the action of this surgery “pulling out.” It seems the twitching doctor had some difficulty pulling out the tube and he had to pull hard. The image of a grandfather pulling a carrot out of the ground came to my mind. It didn’t take long until we were back in the first room for a short rest. Father was with us shortly afterwards, and before we were back in the car we grabbed a bite to eat at the hospital’s cafeteria.
“Soon you will be able to eat anything you please,” I reminded my mother. The treatment not only meant exchanging her blood twice a week, but included also a diet my mother had a hard time keeping.
“Watermelons and mushrooms.” Some of her favorites.
“Bananas and melons.” She said in response, adding some other favorites she misses. I thought of salt. She was not allowed to eat salty foods, something she missed even more since she doesn’t like sweets at all.
“Soon.” I said.
When we got home and after I made her a small dinner according to the diet’s prescription, I asked her if she is excited about the surgery, about traveling all the way to Russia. Surprisingly, she answered she was not. “I will probably get excited when it will be closer, or when I will actually be there.” She said. “Right now I don’t see a reason to get excited.”
A journey ends, only for another to begin. When does a journey end? Is it when you are back at home after a long day outside in a strange place? Is it when you finally find what you where looking for? Or perhaps it is when you defeat an enemy? All of the enemies? Perhaps it’s when you lay to rest eventually, when you die and the journey of your life ends. Perhaps it never ends, and your genetic package keeps moving on, from generation to generation, from grandfather to grandchildren, forever moving, forever changing, forever in a journey.