Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Hospital

   It begins with a train wreck at the turn of the century. A physician and surgeon for the Yazoo and Mississippi River Valley Railroad, Dr. T.P. Singletary, treats a couple of men injured in the wreck and has the idea of opening a hospital. In 1908, what will become the Baton Rouge General Hospital begins as a clinic and sanitarium on Government Street. Fifty-five years later, Mama Cothern, my grandmother, succombs in one of the rooms, the explosive stroke in her head too much to overcome. Sixty-two years later, after smoking a Kent cigarette to calm his nerves and ease the pain in his chest, my father walks into the emergency room and dies there an hour or so later. Eighty-five years after Dr. Singletary opens his clinic, her memory faulty with anxious affect, restlessly pacing, with repetitive thoughts loose and disorganized, just one of 45,000 patients that check into the emergency room in 1993, Jennifer Cothern, like her great grandmother and grandfather, is admitted to the Baton Rouge General Hospital and becomes linked to her relatives and to those men injured in the train wreck by one commonality: a painfilled dance of woe. Mama Cothern's death-rattle when breathing, an accordion chorus of my father saying, You're a good Doc, you're a good Doc, while the arteries around his heart are squeezing the life out of him, and while on the Behavioral Unit, suffering from an organic disease for a week without a diagnosis, Jennifer lamenting to release the children.

1 comment:

  1. Fine, really fine entry in this story of the Cotherns, time line and family line working beautifully in so short a space. Well done.