to find Patti Singleton these days.

Memoir; Packing and Unpacking for Life in the Fast Lane


Many of my F/F may remember this post from that year in and out of hospitals. I caught it while working on the memoir and thought it was a good one to show what our lives were like.  I cleaned it up a bit and will find a spot for it in The Patient Patient Advocate.

Posted on Care Pages Dec 10, 2008 about our Thanksgiving scare.

Three hospitals, three temporary apartments, and numerous quick trips home in 5 months…

First, you pack to go to your “real” home to spend a cozy, quiet Thanksgiving. Finally allowed a few days away from the big city. Our own bed, woods, peace and quiet. You unpack and settle in. You delve into the secret gift room to see what goodies you can find among the gifts chosen over the year. The pool table becomes the gift table. So glad you bought for people when you saw good deals, or just the right thing for someone. Have to make this quick; don’t know how long you will have at home, or if you will get back before Christmas.

Fever takes hold.

You quickly re-pack to rush to the hospital; holiday traffic, 90 miles away. You forget all the things that you were going to bring back to the temporary home. You abandon the holiday meal, the fridge full of food.

First, you think, maybe a few days at the hospital. When you find out different, you make a run to the temporary apartment to do laundry, get some clothes, clean out the fridge there, and pack for an extended stay at the hospital. Bills to pay, notes and Christmas cards, appointments to cancel, appointments to make. Who can you call to clean out the fridge at home and take all the food?

At the same time, every minute, you worry about sepsis, this infection of unknown origin. He goes through 3 different antibiotics before they can get it under control. Make more notes in the medical journal.

You read, you knit, unravel mistakes, knit and repeat. It would be nice to unravel this cancer, to unravel a lifetime of regrets and mistakes. To knit over and around the anger, fear and deep sadness.

You have lugged enough stuff from the apartment, to the 7th floor, to try and make his stay here as good and comfortable as possible. Never enough.

Then, you re-pack; his body has performed more miracles, gave the doctors the numbers they needed in order to release him back to the temporary home. You lug it all back down to the hospital garage, load it up—barely room for him.

You stop at the store to pick over the shelves, the deli, to find tantalizing bits of food to entice him to eat. There are the 20 pounds he left behind, after 11 days at the hospital–about as much he has lost in the last 5 months! Time to pack on the pounds; fatten him up for transplant in 29 days. Stay away from people, cringe at the  stray cough or sneeze from workers and other shoppers. You want a force field so you don’t carry these germs back to him.

You shove the grocery bags in between the hospital luggage. Have to get  him “home” and tucked in as soon as possible. Haul groceries and hospital luggage  up the long sagging set of stairs, through the gate, then 5 sturdy steps to the porch, which damn key is it and  back to the temporary home! Safe, at last.

He feels guilty and says he thinks he can make another trip to the truck. You tell him to sit. You can do it. He sits. In his mind, you are sitting; he is hauling up the groceries and luggage, then parking the truck on the street and walking up the alley to the sagging stairs and the last five to the porch.

Unpacking is on a sporadic, as needed basis, for maybe a day or two. Where are those slippers? those pills? the phone number for the social worker? the addresses for the thank-you notes? the paper with our clinic appointment on it?—you know it’s in here somewhere??? He has his heated blanket, his favorite pillows, his snacks, thermometer, his water and his TV remote—ahhhh, he’s settled for the evening.

As you put it all away, you are reminded of your first pregnancy…always ready to go to the hospital at a moment’s notice. You don’t want to think about another emergency trip to the hospital, but, just in case, you start packing again…

Thank you for stopping by–I’m heading for the beach,


Author: Patti Singleton

Pursuits of happiness include gardening, walking the desert, reading, writing, photography, traveling and genealogy.

7 thoughts on “Memoir; Packing and Unpacking for Life in the Fast Lane

  1. This will work well for the book. I like the way you got into his head about helping to carry things in…Hope you had a nice walk:)

  2. This is amazing, Patti. You captured so well the urgency of getting him to the hospital, the sense of a hundred things needing to be done at once, the desire to keep him safe, the juggling of multiple homes. Of course, your knitting metaphor really resonated with me. Not only the idea of wanting to unravel his cancer, but the constant knitting and unraveling of your life as you tried to cope and take control.

    • Ah, that’s right, you are a knitting queen. It was another great support effort in hospital. They gave us cute bags and we got to pick needles and yarn. Now I have a basket of yarns and have not gone any further with it. When I’m really old (hahaha) I hope to take it up again. Hugs.
      Thanks for visiting again,

  3. It’s interesting how the second person point of view makes the reader take a 2nd glance at what’s going on. What made you decide to use it?

    • Great question and I have no idea what was on my mind at the time. I do like to play around with writing rules though. Do you think it would be an easier read in 1st person? When I think about it, I think I FELT very second person…it was a very surreal time…kept thinking I would wake up and life would be normal again.
      Love to hear your thoughts and thank you for finding time to stop by.

      • Second person gives it a surreal feeling. It’s also a feeling as if the narrator has distanced herself from herself because of emotional reasons. I think it can be really effective and is here. It’s too hard for me to read a whole book in 2nd person, though. I like it in shorter pieces.

      • To be honest (what a strange saying), I’m still thinking about doing the memoir in vignettes, in chronological order. Your comments make me lean more that way, because it gives a better feeling for where our emotions were running on any given day.
        Thanks for your input again :<)

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