Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The other day one of our neighbors was carted off by the paramedics. He was on a gurney, an oxygen mask affixed to his face, an IV bag dangling over his arm, and his chest bare, probably ready for the paddles if necessary. All the neighbors were standing on their porches gawking, or if they were too far away to gawk they were running towards the scene to get in on the action.

This is my worst nightmare…. having to be carted off somewhere with all the neighbors watching.

Some years ago my sister called me to share some most embarrassing news. Seems she had suffered some strange chest pain and when it didn’t go away she became alarmed. But she, like me, didn’t ever want to “make a scene.” Our mother had thoroughly inculcated in us the desire to avoid making a scene at all costs! So when my sister called 911, she told them that if they would promise not to send help with sirens screaming, then she would like them to come check her out. However, if they would not promise that, then she wasn’t going to tell them where she lived. The 911 dispatcher of course had her address right up on the screen but in order to calm my sister she assured her that there would be no sirens.

My sister said she heard the sirens from a long way off, but was hopeful that they weren’t for her. But of course they were. Two big fire rigs turned the corner and stopped right in front of her house. All the neighbors came running. My sister lay down on the floor, pulled the afghan off the couch and covered up her head. The whole time the paramedics were there, she tried to keep the afghan on her head so they couldn’t see her. They humored her to the extent that they kept the neighbors out of the house, but they did talk her into removing the afghan so they could check her color. Within 10 minutes they told her she was not having a heart attack but they needed to get her to the hospital where her doctor could run some tests to find out what was going on.

She agreed, but demanded the afghan again. She was rolled out of her house on the gurney, with that blanket covering her face. She told me it was a granny-square afghan and she could see all the nosy neighbors gawking at her. But at least she felt comforted that they couldn’t see much!

I know exactly how she felt. That is exactly what I would do under the same circumstances. She and I laughed afterwards about how pleased our mother would have been that she “didn’t make a scene.” I’m sure my mother’s obsession with this little phrase was because growing up my sister was a terrible tantrum thrower, and it didn’t matter when or where the feeling came upon her, if she felt like having a tantrum, she let loose with one. I’m sure my mother said over and over, “Don’t make a scene” – and that phrase stayed lodged in our psyches long after the tantrums had abated. The Dobbins girls simply didn’t make scenes, not then and not now.

I felt so sorry for my neighbor for all the gawking that he had to put up with. Actually, I think he was beyond the point of caring who looked at what. Luckily he survived and later came home with several new grafted arteries and a bit more time.

My sister did not make a scene when she died some years later. She woke up one night not feeling too well, sat on the side of the bed to figure out what to do, and she then fell off the bed onto the floor, dead. It was an awful shock, seeing as how she was younger than I was, but I had to be grateful that she got a final wish – not to make a scene. I hope I am so lucky.

But I have my afghan on the couch close at hand, just in case.

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