Memory and Hospitals
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Every time I drive on 12th Avenue past the Vancouver General Hospital I notice that their smokestack has been demolished. What is left of it is wrapped in what looks like surgically clean plastic.
I remember another time when for an article on VGH cuts for the Georgia Straight I must have convinced some nurse to pose for me and represent the despair of the effects of financial cuts to our hospital system.
For me hospitals began as a mysterious wonder. In our home in Buenos Aires in the early 50 on Melián Street empty but beautiful funeral carriages (with beveled windows) would trot (the horses had black plumes on their head) in the direction of the Pirovano Hospital on Monroe and Melián about five blocks away. They would return and I would be able to see the coffin inside.
The hospital to me was painted a menacingly dark green and I never did enter it.
My perception of that hospital changed when in 1966 at my desk as a conscript of the the Argentine Navy who translated documents for a US Naval Advisor I received a phone call from my almost-uncle Leo Mahdjubian. In his British English (even though an Armenian he had worn a kilt in the Black Watch in WWI) said, “Your father kicked the bucket yesterday in front of the Pirovano. A police sergeant took him in but he was pronounced dead. Because of the intervention of the policeman you must report to the police station to sign some documents.
At the police station the policeman at the desk told me that I could not possibly be the dead man’s son as the son had been there a few hours before to sign. That is how I soon got to meet my half brother.
The Sergeant who took my father to the Pirovano called me to tell me he had taken the liberty of emptying my father’s pockets as they would have disappeared in the hospital. He told me that there was a large sum of money in his pocket that my father was saving to bribe a General and get me out of my conscription.
At my age of 78 I wonder if my last days will be spent in a hospital or if I will directly go where even kings go alone.