by DOROTHY COUP
A booking clerk from the hospital rang to say there had been a cancellation and was I able to
take the appointment for surgery next week?
“Oh, good,” I told her. “That’s not the usual response,” the woman replied.”Most people seem
to get a bit anxious.”
I was pleased not to have to wait for this operation, which I wanted to have before, rather
than after, visiting family overseas. Who wants to be on holiday knowing that hospital awaits you when you return home?
So with five days to go before surgery I began tidying the house. Cupboards, drawers, wardrobes, china cabinets, bookshelves, DVD collection, necklaces, earrings, gloves, handkerchiefs, outside sheds, inside freezers, rubbish bins. Anything that stood still
got wiped, washed, dusted or polished.
My cleaning list included not only all the floors and windows, but the walls and ceilings for spiders’ webs, the soap display in the bathroom and the cutlery drawers for the accumulated whatever that gathers in corners.
When I called a friend and mentioned my extensive cleaning, tidying, dusting and rearranging
ornaments regime, I told her: “I even polished the silver.”
“Why? Do you think you are going to die or something?”
“I don’t think so, but what if someone has to look after me when I come home?”
Anxious? No, just overreacting.
Two years ago I was in hospital for more than a week with an infected thumb. This is just
an overnight stay.
I went unprepared for the thumb. I had arrived at the hospital clinic expecting maybe a local
anaesthetic followed by a cup of tea. Nine days later and then six weeks of self-injecting antibiotics was something of a surprise.
Is it better, I wonder, to have no warning about going to hospital?
When you have a baby, you have months to prepare. All can be ready, including the clean cutlery, even if the hospital date is not quite certain.
But when you call the ambulance in the middle of the night, as I have done, you really don’t
care about crumbs in the cutlery; you are more concerned with your chest pains.
I read that the actress Lucille Ball put on all her makeup before going to hospital after a heart attack. My daughter didn’t think I would have been quite so silly while waiting for the ambulance, but she did arrive at the emergency department with a couple of necklaces.
“I knew you didn’t have time to pack and you would need some jewellery,” she said.
But why, this time, all the scurrying about with cleaners, mops and dusters? I am not really
worried about the surgery or that someone might find the pantry isn’t pristine and the spare room not spotless.
Is it that, after years of journalism, I respond well to deadlines?
I could tidy the bookcase or the china cabinet any day. I could clear out the paint cans in the shed in a couple of hours of free time.
There is nothing stopping me on a wet Sunday afternoon from sorting my jewelry. But there is no need to rush to do any of it, so often I don’t.
But give me a date, a deadline of some sort, and the completion of routine work and those extra odd jobs, and crumbs, suddenly becomes my new challenge.
It’s a good thing I don’t know when the Second Coming is due or, worse still, if I worried about The Rapture.
I don’t suppose I need be concerned about the house if it’s End of the World, even though I once had a poster — “Jesus is Coming. Look Busy.” But what if I vanished at The Rapture? I wouldn’t like other people left behind to come to my house and comment: “Why was she taken? Have you seen the state of her kitchen?”

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