The last time I can remember packing them was early one Thursday morning last spring, before anyone in the house was up. My insulin pump had kinked up and failed to give me any insulin during the night and a night without insulin makes for one hell of a morning. My blood sugars had steadily crept up during the night, I was flying high around 500 when I struggled to pull myself from bed. It was still dark when I made my way to the bathroom, thinking I might soon need it to empty my stomach, one of the side effects of going without insulin for a night. After accomplishing what I had set out to do in there, I made the decision to head to the Emergency Room. Fortunately, on this trip I had a few moments to pack before driving myself for a brief stay in Club Med. I grabbed my laptop, a movie or two, my cell phone to give updates to Tony on my condition so he wouldn’t worry too much. And I grabbed my REI’s.
You see, my REI’s had become legendary in my house, so much so that they developed their own moniker. You know that pair of socks, the ones you got last year for Christmas from some relative, the
ones that can change a miserable winter day into a sweet, comfortable winter evening with a cup of tea and a good story to lose yourself in. The ones that keep your feet dry and toasty when you lock your keys in the car on the rainiest day of the year two miles from any place that is still open that late. Those same sock are the ones you simply must bring to the hospital.
Mom always said to make sure you are wearing clean underwear in case you get hit by a car and end up in the hospital. I say, if there’s any chance that that seemingly normal doctor’s appointment might turn into a weekend stay, get the socks. When your morning’s plans change from ‘get the kids up and get ready for work‘, to ‘pack your ditch bag‘, grab them. When you are fading in and out because your doctor starts talking treatment options and survival rates, get the socks. The socks will save you.
That pair of socks is the one thing that will make your stay in the hospital bearable. When you’ve begun to feel like just another patient in your hospital issue uniform, when you start to resent the constant stream of nurses coming and going who only care about what’s written about you on some chart hanging on the wall, when you become just another diagnosis and another experiment for the doctors to perform in order to perfect their art of practicing medicine (odd that in a life and death situation they are just practicing, when do they actually do it for real?), it is then, and only then that the socks will begin to show their power. And it not just about being incredibly comfortable in a chilly room. Or having some traction under your feet so that as you drag your IV cart behind you on the way to the bathroom and get tangled up in the multitude of tubes running up and down your body, you have enough grip to keep your footing and avoid another slip that just might add a few more days to your stay in Club Med. Its more than that. It really gets to the heart of who you are. Even though you are going to be laying on a table, giving up all control by letting complete strangers slice you from ear to ear, cutting out whatever they deem necessary when they get there, and even though they have stripped you of every piece of your own clothing, every piece of jewelry, even down to your wedding band, and taken even your skivvies, they haven’t been able to steal your entire identity. That little streak of rebellion that caused you to mouth off to your fourth grade teacher, to go to a University when the only socially acceptable place to go in your circle of friends was Bible College, and to pick up a sport that at the time meant you had to join the boys team amid all the sneering, that streak that was drawn at your birth is still there, and you have proof. You have defied your doctors, and, yes, in but a small non-consequential way, you have stood up in a place that so easily strips you of every thing that is truly you, and shouted, ‘You wont take me alive’ (oh wait, bad thing to shout in a hospital), and shouted ‘You can’t take all of me. No matter what you cut, or poke, or threaten to do, you won’t cut out that part of my body that makes me uniquely me. You’ll never find it.”
When you finally do make it home, you’ve taken a few days on the couch not lifting a finger, and decide to finally get up and do something, you’ll start to unpack that bag. You’ll look down at that pair of socks that are in such need of a good wash, and you’ll laugh. You’ll laugh that haughty laugh of a person who’s beaten the odds and fought your way out. You’ll fold them so gingerly, still warm form the dryer, and tuck them in the back of your sock drawer to await your next stay in Club Med and the next time you will count on them to pull you through. You might even say a quiet thanks.