“Who’s that?” I asked.
The year was 1950. I was barely three years old, but I still remember. My memory is a bit fuzzy about exactly where we were. We were probably at the Maryknoll hospital in Monrovia, California. By “we” I mean, my brother and two sisters. My Aunt Nellie was driving, Aunt Emily and my grandma shared the front seat.
The drive from Oxnard to Monrovia seemed to take forever. I had to sit still. That was a real challenge in the best of circumstances. But as a toddler I tended to get carsick a lot. I could not see anything except for the back of the front seat, maybe some clouds if I looked to the side. The winding road didn’t help, but my hands had a simple, practical solution. They didn’t feed me, or give me anything to drink. I tried standing up so I can see out, that did not last long.
Finally we were there. In my little eyes I saw a huge complex of buildings. We walked away to a special building. My grandma and the aunties went inside. The four of us waited outside in the shade. In a short time one of my aunties appeared through a screened window.
“Carlitos, will you lift up Baby Joe?” My brother didn’t say anything. He was about twelve years old at the time. He lifted me up and I stood on his shoulders. I could barely see over the window sill. I pulled myself higher for a better look.
“Hurry up!” My brother urged, his voice was straining. I am sure that my shoes were cutting into his shoulders. My focus adjusted from the mesh of the dusty screen to the bed beyond.
There she was. She was smiling back at me, her smiling and tears colliding. She was propped up by a pillow, in a large room of empty beds. The table next to her had a small oscillating fan that whispered quietly as it blew the air around.
“How are you doing, Jody?” Her voice was comfort. She stretched her arms out toward me.
“O.K.” I answered. My name is Joe, I thought.
My brother lowered me when he could hold me up any longer. I ran off to play and my brother and two sisters looked through the window and took their turns talking.
My grandma and my aunts were inside the room. They were sitting and having conversations but they did keep their distance.
A while later Boy found me and said “Come and say good-bye.” He dragged me back to the building and lifted me up to the window one more time.
“Good-bye Jody.” She said to me. “Take care. You be a good boy now.”
“Good-bye.” I answered to the lady with a warm smile and tears streaming from her eyes.
“Good-bye, Lady in the Bed.”