In the event of finding ones self in a hospital.
Which seems to happen to everyone, class, race, or poverty not withstanding,
And given that you are in the waiting room, and not on the surgery table, the mind wanders. The mind seeks. Sadly sometimes it's questions of who is covering the voices of Disney's latest incarnation of the Lion King - Patrick Dempsey or Rob Lowe? Or perhaps it's a bit more.
As I waited, as my eyes sought calmness, as the hours were extended, the Lion King felt like a drug not a window.
During one break, My sister and I found a real window. And that was a relief.
But in the waiting room with three television sets, one with the Lion King. The second with the Wide World Wrestling Federation, with men and women in tights screaming and parading around. The third screen told us the stage of procedure progress. Either he was in procedure, out of procedure, ready for visitors, in PACU, or please check with Desk, recovering out of PACU.... our attention was held with distraction. The air heavy. Filled with families holding their breath, only to let out a sob when an unidentified code blue broke through the air. The scenario was not for the faint of heart. But like anything, we became accustomed.
We did not see art in the waiting room proper, to off set the screens. Only in the halls, where there was no place to sit. To be fair their was one print over the reception desk, and I can only imagine, it was there to give the waiting an alternative to look at. We, the waiting, were all guilty of sending piercing eyes to the only human who might know more about what was going on then us.
Our dad has had the opportunity to spend a great many hours in hospitals. As an old friend has said, he has a lot of history of surviving. And, of those many hours, days, weeks, the constant tv never brought him meditative healing or peaceful distraction. In the 1970s-1980s those hospital stays brought with them a conclusion- art in hospital rooms could be a care alternative, calming and meditative for the patient. Even using the existing monitors, a picture book of landscapes shown in slide formate, would be more calming then Dallas or Three's Company.
When my father left the hospital, he was a medical success of a new kind, he was the first manwith to have a transplanted hand. His right hand was now his left.
In the eighties, he began a picture book program using his photography combined with his grandmother's historic photography of Henry David Thoreau's Concord to create a video slideshow. According to him the nurses wanted to take over the images and he left it in their hands. Oddly, this practice has progressed, of course we've all seen it, as a screensaver on our personal computers. A similar version, using photoshopped images, is on rotation at my local dentist.
In my own work of creating spaces, and exploring art's role in society, I have revised my artist parent's work. This past year I worked on a proposal to draw with raw lines, unorganized gardens, and forests and wild plants in black and white, on therapy room walls and dosing rooms in a rehabilitation foundation. Maybe more remarkably, the proposal was designed to be a research platform for the foundation's doctors. Could immersive art provide a better experience to their clients? Although the proposal is still waiting for approval, the idea is thus: Using art as a tool to create an environment for a human to heal. To use art as an immersive experience for the client, and the clinician together.
Chanting fans and double teaming wrestlers, and the hours past our original prognosis. And I longed for somewhere that was healing, to me, the waiting family member- or as another friend later told me - as a great representation of the most feared individual at hospitals.... M.A.D. Middle Age Daughter, those terrifying women who come to advocate for their dear parents.
Earlier in the day, I was so heartened, when I arrived for the emergency operation. I flew into San Francisco the night before from winter, leaving my family and a successful art season in the North West. My sister, who had taken two days off from her horse training, left her husband and her baby with our mother, and was driving our father up from her farm in Interlaken. He had spent the week walking to photograph, his art practice is seeing. We three were ready, and basically healthy, except for a misdiagnosed tumor that had been growing for too long. All cancer aside, we felt strong.
I sat in a fully windowed hallway on a bench in the middle of a mural under a poem. Pulling my legs up, and tucking them under me, I sipped my (actually very good) Americano from the in-house coffee shop, I watched my dad and sister arrive. I was participating in what was clearly to become the money shot of the day. Clearly.
Upstairs the art moved back into frames, and they lived in the hall ways. They were destinations as the week wore on, for the patient, and us the dutiful daughters, to see as a reward for getting up and moving. Hobbling at first from exhaustion, we would move through the halls, dad resting on window sills to make phone calls, or to look at the view.
We would discuss the art, or the bygone process of silver prints. We found children's work and favored artists, sharing the halls. We explored to remember we could. When mobility was our friend, we found a patio, next to my father's room. Protected from the windy elements, we sun bathed.
As we sat, the outside reminded us that when this was all through, there was still a world moving and building and growing. We were overdue for a real walk and the practice of seeing.
Long gone are the days to use the hospital as a place to heal and recover. That is best done at home. Staph is not a fun virus to play with, there was enough with the touch of Cancer that held us there.
And yet, healing begins in the quiet moments between beeping monitors and pin pricks.
Between catheters and drug needs. Minds need quieting, love without requests.
Exhausted from helping the healing, and tracking the details. Reactions and expectations, and explaining to each new person the nuances that made up Bill Anderson.
I just wanted a layer of art, to silently sits with us, without all the small talk. I didn’t want the Rob Lowe voice, which was actually Matthew Brodrick's to cross my consciousness. Thirty years later the role of art in hospitals and healing centers still hangs on science’s approval. Certainly, our dad had survived before, and he would again.
If only to get back to what was important, walking and seeing.