The soft repetitions of aseptic care-giving were not the only sounds Wil remembered from visiting her mother whenever Cynthia was admitted. During daytime hours; these halls also echoed with a strange, dull drum that penetrated through doors, walls, and room furnishings.
They had not been attendants to this odd percussion performance for a few months, since Wil’s parents had decided to have an in-home aide perform the physiotherapy. Only now, walking behind their cheerful escort, did Wil realize how accustomed she was to the sound by its absence.
It was therefore a very silent approach they made to their mother’s door, next to a beige-sage plaque with her room number etched in Arabic numerals and Braille dots. Wil shifted coats and backpack to her right arm and she ran her left fingertips over both versions of Room 241.
Nurse Perpetually Happy knocked gently at the door, then opened after Rob gruffed, “Come in.”
The door swung into a hanging curtain, made of pale green and tan squares, that shifted into the room from the movement. The metal rings holding it to the ceiling rail clinked gently, then more audibly together as the nurse pushed the curtain to the side.
Jakob entered just behind her, with Wil anxiously at his heels.
Rob sat in a plastic and metal guest chair. He held Cynthia’s right hand, nearest to his position. He read his children’s faces -especially Wil’s- to prevent any sudden outbursts that might alarm Cynthia.
Wil’s eyes sought her mother first, and she was relieved to see her mother sitting in the propped-up hospital bed. Cynthia smiled at her children from under the oxygen tube in her nose. Her blanket was a blue-green color, and the print of a painting above the bed depicted neutral tans waving among sea swirls.
Wil returned the smile, and carefully followed her step-brother around the bed to sit on the green guest couch.
Wil’s father cleared his throat. “Mom was just asking where you were when the nurse here said there’d been a misunderstanding.”
The nurse laughed, and corrected, “I right startled you, I think! Popping my head in here and saying I was sorry and I’d get your kids pronto!” She had spoken through smiles, but still seemed to grin more broadly at the memory.
“I’ll just leave y’all to it now. Holler for Nurse Bea (that’s me!) from the call button if you need anything!” She tucked Cynthia’s blankets around her, straightened a few table items, then gave them a cheery wave as she pulled the curtain back across and exited. They all heard the door click closed.
The Winters family, left alone, looked around at one another. They didn’t know what to say first, or who should say it.