I was sitting in a waiting room in a hospital again. The parent this time; not a child. Again the waiting room was empty. Again a television was talking to itself in a corner, like a mad vicar preaching to an empty church. Again there was a sign that read Do not touch television controls. Again I switched it off.
It was eight o'clock at night. My mother had the last appointment of the day. I had driven her to Grattan Street and we walked through the maze that is the new RMH, now grafted to the RWH, and we were confused because you don't know which hospital you are in any more.
We had walked along half a kilometre of corridors and through sets of those flapping doors you only find in hospitals and restaurants, and then we had found the right place and we had gone in and sat down and a smiling Indian male nurse had come out and given my mother a two-page form on a clipboard that asks you to confirm you don't have any conditions and you are not micro-chipped and you don't have a gun in your pocket and you won't sue anybody for anything because they are not responsible, and he had asked her to read it and sign it. Fine. She read it and signed it.
Then the smiling Indian nurse had whisked her away through a door to a room where a giant CT scanning machine the size of a spaceship lay waiting to emit strange discordant whirrs and beeps and high-pitched screams and base drones, with my mother inside it, while it flew her to Mars and back.
I sat in the waiting room and read Blake Morrison's And When Did You Last See Your Father? in the kind of silence you get when you are the last appointment of the day in a hospital clinic, and the only other person there is the cleaner who wanders through quietly, empties the waste paper basket quietly and closes the door quietly. And When Did You Last See Your Father? is a chronicle of child’s farewell to his dying father and is probably not the best thing to read when you are in a hospital waiting room with your octogenarian mother; but neither were the trashy magazines with lurid out-of-focus cover pictures of half-dressed B-grade celebrities on the table.
In a little while my mother came out and we walked back through the maze, anti-clockwise this time, and I drove her home and turned the car radio to Radio National. She listens to Radio National all the time. She loves it.