Once I bought the dog, there was no turning back. Even a get-well beanie-baby from the hospital gift shop becomes an imperative for me: he must now be delivered to the woman who shared Mom’s hospital room, even though Mom’s already home and I’m just here to get test results. The beanie dog knows the way. I follow him to the sixth floor and turn right off the elevator. Outside the door, I see her husband in a chair, collapsed, head in hands, and my little dog feels like flowers to the funeral.

Her name was Gloria, I think, the oldest of seven siblings, who never had children of her own because, she told my Mom, she felt she had raised her brothers and sisters. I stood there with them both one dreary afternoon when Mom was recuperating in Bed Number One, and Gloria lay trembling in Bed Number Two, looking at brain surgery. Her husband sat waiting in the hall then, too, so I could have the chair I never used, and while Mom talked to everyone who called about the flowers she’d received, I talked to Gloria about her “kids,” who were too busy or too far to be with her that day, and about her job as a waitress and the girls at work who wished her well and had sent the card she showed me with the little dog and the punny greeting: Heal!

Her husband looks up now and tells me: Go on in, she’s awake. She’s not, but she’s alive(!), and when she sees me I know who she’s been waiting for, and I wish I could be all six of them bursting in with bouquets, but my little dog will have to do, and she hugs me like a mother in love.

Copyright © February 25, 2007 David Hodges

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