It was eleven in the morning before anyone came into Dorothy’s room to check on her. Her doctor, she couldn’t remember his name for the life of her, smiled and said she was making a full recovery, but he didn’t seem too concerned with her memories – or lack thereof. She had tried, in vain, to recall anything from before. Before what, she couldn’t say, but before she was in this hospital with these people she didn’t know.
“Today is an exciting day, Dorothy,” the doctor said, looking too happy. Dorothy decided doctors should never look that happy on the job. “Today, you’re going to meet with a physical therapist to work on your movements.”
“You’ve been in a coma the last ten days, so your muscles need some practice moving again. You’re going to meet with someone who knows a lot about that and can help you.”
She still wasn’t used to hearing about when she was in a coma. Furthermore, she wasn’t used to being called by that name. She wasn’t sure what her name was, but Dorothy never seemed quite right when she thought about it. She figured she just wasn’t used to it, and things would get clearer as time went on. She didn’t know how she felt about the physical therapist, but it was something other than sitting in the hospital bed all day, so she was up for the experience.
“Will it hurt?”
“No, no. It may feel uncomfortable at first because you’re not used to walking, but once you get the hang of it it’ll be impossible for us to keep you in bed.”
He winked at her. She hated when older men did that. Wasn’t it unprofessional too?
“What time is this therapist coming?”
He checked his watch. “Well, she should be here around one or so, but just hang out for a bit. She will be in shortly.”
Dorothy rested her head back on the pillow and sighed. She wondered if that woman who called herself her mother would come back today. She really worried Dorothy, and Dorothy couldn’t peg why that was. Not long after lunch, a young woman walked in her room, and Dorothy briefly wondered if it was her sister, if she even had a sister.
“I’m Anna Love, your therapist,” she said, and Dorothy sighed. “Oh, it’s not that bad, I promise you.” She smiled.
“Okay, what are we doing today?” Dorothy asked while repositioning herself to sit up. Her muscles did feel all out of whack and stretched out in all the wrong places.
“Today we’re just going to try standing. If you can do that well, we’ll try baby steps.”
“And if I do that well?”
Dorothy couldn’t conceal her look of shock, and Anna reassured her that it was just a joke.
“Okay,” Anna said. “I want you to swing your legs over to the edge of the bed. I have a walker here for you to use to stand up.”
Dorothy tried moving her legs and was surprised when they wouldn’t listen to her. She stared at them intently and focused all her mental energy on them, and, finally, they budged.
“Great job,” Anna gushed, and Dorothy beamed.
It took several minutes before Dorothy was able to maneuver herself so that her feet were dangling over the edge of the bed.
“Wonderful. Now, scoot your bottom so that you can reach the floor to stand up. You won’t fall. I’ll catch you, or you can grab hold of the walker right here.”
Dorothy looked at the walker then at Anna. She trusted the walker more; it looked sturdier. She pushed with all the fiber of her being, and she slid off the edge of the bed, and her arms flailed until they finally found their target. Standing was awkward at first. Her knees buckled beneath her, and her feet pointed inward.
“It feels weird,” Dorothy said, gripping the bars of the walker. “Can I sit on it?”
“It’ll feel weird for awhile. Are you too tired to stand? Only sit if you really need to take a break.”
Dorothy considered it for a moment and decided to keep standing. The sooner she learned how to walk, the sooner she could get back to her normal life, whatever that was. “I’m okay. Let’s keep going.”
“Great! I’m glad to hear that. Are you left or right-handed?”
Dorothy looked at both of her hands and studied them. “I’m not sure.”
“Well, we’ll find out soon enough. I want you to take the first step. Normally, I would ask you to take a step with the foot that corresponds with your dominant hand, but do whatever feels natural.”
Honestly, nothing felt natural to Dorothy anymore. She didn’t know which hand she wrote with, much less if she could even write anymore. She didn’t know her name or what year it was. She was a mess, and she knew it. Still, she found the power within her to focus on the tiled square in front of her that she needed to stand on. Inhaling deeply, she moved her left foot. It was a shuffle more than a step, but she moved it.
“That’s fantastic! So, more than likely, you are left-handed.”
Dorothy didn’t know how to respond. Should she thank her?
“Now, let’s try this a few more times then we’ll see how you’re feeling.”
The therapy session lasted another thirty minutes, and by the end Dorothy was able to walk around her hospital room with ease and grace, with the walker still. After the session, Anna bid her farewell with the promise that she will come again the next day, and once again, Dorothy was left alone in the large room. She wanted to share her experience with someone, but didn’t know anybody except the doctors. And that lady who had visited her. She impulsively pressed the red nurse button on the side of her bed, and a small-framed nurse came.
“How can I help you?” she asked, her voice huskier than Dorothy would have expected.
“I want to call…my mom,” she said. “Can you call that lady who was here yesterday?”
The nurse smiled. “Sure.”
The nurse left and Dorothy felt oddly at peace. She wasn’t sure if that woman was really her mom, but she knew the woman cared about her and that’s all that mattered right now anyway. She nestled under her blankets and thought of the session she had that day. Pretty soon, she would be running, hopefully out of the hospital.
The light from the sunset crept in her window, teasing her. She couldn’t help herself, so she practiced her walking. Her movements were more fluid than when she started out, and she slowly made her way to the window just as the last of the pinks and purples faded to dusk. Dorothy smiled and walked back to the bed just as she saw the woman, her mother, open the door and walk toward her.
“I’m so glad you called,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay. Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, anything. What is it?”
“What’s your name again?”
The woman looked defeated. “I’m your mom.”
“Yes, but what’s your name?”
Dorothy paused and looked at her. “Evelyn,” she repeated. “That’s pretty. It sounds elegant, like a royal name or something.”
She didn’t mean to speak that out loud, but she couldn’t help but notice that Evelyn was smiling and had tears in her eyes.
“I didn’t mean to make you cry,” Dorothy said, a weak condolence.
“It’s okay. These are happy tears,” Evelyn laughed.
A few moments passed, and they just stared at each other.
“So, do I call you Evelyn or Mom?” Dorothy finally asked.
“Mom. Call me Mom.”
“Okay, Mom it is then,” Dorothy said, and she launched into her experiences of therapy that day. She felt a warmth inside of her that had been missing the last couple days, and she was happy that she could share these memories with her mother. She didn’t have many memories, so the ones she could actually recall were special. She loved being able to share this with someone, and just as she was finishing the story, her eyes drooped.
“I think I’m getting tired,” she said.
“Do you want me to stay?”
“You can stay if you’d like.”
Evelyn paused, looked like she was about to say something, but stayed silent.
“I’d love it if you’d stay,” Dorothy said. She may not have any memories of her life, but she wasn’t stupid. It was clear her mom wanted to be by her bedside.
Evelyn looked relieved, but didn’t say anything. Evelyn closed her eyes and stroked Dorothy’s hair. Before too long, Dorothy fell into a deep slumber with a small smile on her face.