the almost-in-laws are visiting this week, tackling long-moldering tasks like painting our living room and recycling Dave’s overgrown beer bottle collection and helping build a playhouse for Oscar in the backyard.

bless them…they are very welcome guests. no, i’m not sharing them. renting…? maybe.

yesterday’s tasks involved a long list of doctor’s visits. in the morning, Oscar and his grandmother and i trekked to the ear clinic for a three-minute viewing of O’s inner ears that culminated in the decision to get tubes put in. in the afternoon, he and i both had separate visits at the hospital – his at the pediatric clinic for a follow-up on the immunity deficiencies he’d been tested for six weeks ago, mine at Labour & Delivery so my doc here could actually use the existing u/s machine to check my cervix along with ye olde manual grope. the u/s was unofficial, of course…because our province won’t pay for an OB from here to take a four-week leave to train in Halifax under the perinatology experts, and though the perinatology team from there are willing to come here for short sessions to train our folks, neither province can agree on who will pay their flights. the joys.

anyhoo, the hospital is a sizable edifice, sprawling and vaguely Memories of Star Trek in its design. since i am generally restricted from walking further than thirty feet or so, and since i’d already trod triple that just getting in and out of the ear clinic in the morning, i asked Oscar’s grandmother to drop him and i off at the front door, where we’d appropriate one of the wheelchairs that are so thoughtfully made available. she’d park, and then the three of us would wheel down to the bowels of the building where the pediatric lair clinic lurks, then waaay back up to the opposite corner where L&D is located.

the hospital, it so happens, is under a major MRSA crackdown these days. neon-green bottles of anti-bacterial handwash everywhere, and only one visitor per patient, nobody under twelve. i’d already made arrangements for O and his Grandmaman to drop me at L&D after his appointment and then beetle on home without me, because the birth unit is currently closed to children already born.

so when Oscar and i strolled in the big front doors and up to the main desk to wash our paws, i wasn’t shocked when the candy-striper in charge of the Very Important Bottles of Handwash glanced in alarm at the two-year-old and inquired, with officious panic, where we planned on going. she didn’t seem quite as relieved as i would’ve expected when my answer of “pediatric clinic” thus saved her launching into her spiel about The Rules and No Small Visitors, but we went about our germ-killing business without further conversation. until i asked her about wipes for the wheelchair.

she looked at me. she had very large, watery blue eyes, ringed in a silvery liner. they reminded me of fish.

wheelchair?

i explained that O and i were just about to grab a wheelchair. it happens that my mother works at the hospital, and had assured me that they keep industrial-strength wipes there behind the desk, so that the chairs can be wiped down between uses. having just seen a poor sickly soul deposited at the door in one, and having noted that neither candy striper nor commissionnaire had leapt up to clean the departed conveyance upon that person’s exit, i figured it was on me to wipe down my intended chariot myself. and were there any wipes, please?

is it for you? her eyes goggled at me, wetly.

the wipe?  no i came in clean, thank you very much, retorted the little voice in my head, but i told it to shut up. “the chair? yes it is, i’m on maternity bedrest, not supposed to walk…and i just want to wipe down the chair as the little guy’s likely to touch every inch of it and with the MRSA alert…” i trailed off. insert sweet motherly smile. show teeth.

Miss Fish Gaze suddenly morphed from Keeper of the Handwash to Guardian of the Entire Domain. she looked over the row of ten empty wheelchairs spaced out across from her, then back at me. but you walked in, she said, half-accusingly, half-stunned

my mother likes to lament that she tried to raise me with manners. i don’t think she has any idea to what level she succeeded, or how much i resent her for it sometimes. because i did not reach across the desk and beat that poor teenaged girl’s head into her little green bottles of anti-bacterial handwash until her fishy-eyes splattered all over the desk, no i did not. pity. nor did i grab my child, fling us both into the wheelchair and proceed to do loud papa wheelies all over the lobby of the hospital, which was clearly what Miss Fish’s tone insinuated that someone as hale and mobile as myself must have in mind. yeh, those maternity bedrest patients, you know what they’re like. yet i refrained. instead i cocked my head and looked her straight in the eye and said, “wipes?”

the surly teenage girl high on the power of her candy stripes caved. she handed them over, with the same misplaced self-righteousness that she’ll display forty years from now when she’s a bossy, squat matron shooing kids away from the plates of squares at some local church supper. i wiped down the wheelchair, settled myself and Oscar, and waited for Grandmaman to materialize. when we whisked past Miss Fish’s desk on our way to the elevator, i was tempted to reach out and steal a bottle of handwash from under her nose, just because.
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the appointments turned out well. my cervix has its eyes on the prize once again, and my doctor is making noises now about not even taking the stitch out until 38 weeks. since i’ve never carried past 36 and am terrified about going into labour with the damn thing still in, i kind of hope we can come to some further accommodation on that matter. but the fact that she’s even talking about 38 weeks is pretty amazing. and Oscar’s chickenpox vax apparently didn’t take, but otherwise he shows no signs of an immuno-suppressed system and is as healthy as an asthmatic two-year-old with chronically infected ears can be. all dandy. praise be.

now i’m just going to stay peacefully in my house watching Dave and his parents spruce the place up and fantasizing about ways to inappropriately and flagrantly misuse hospital wheelchairs on my next visit.