As many of my readers know, my mom has been in the hospital and at one point it didn’t look like she was going to make it. While she’s on the up now, she’s got a long road ahead – even now. If that wasn’t stressful enough, I’ve found myself putting a lot more stock in an everyday question. Every time I’ve gone to visit her, I’ve asked myself “what do I wear?” Let me step back….I have a lot of t-shirts, and unless I’m working – I tend to default to said t-shirts. I love my polos I wear to work, but they all seem so plain when I could wear a band t shirt or maybe something a little geeky. I think it goes back to my childhood – I went to a private grade school which didn’t allow for much. Boys were allowed to wear plain t-shirts, but shirts with any kind of printing were prohibited. An extreme example….I had this green and white shirt with an “Ocean Pacific” logo on the back. I decided to wear it that day and cover it up with a jacket. I started to get hot at recess, but the playground attendant wouldn’t let me take my jacket off because it was against the dress code. Never mind, the dress code was to prevent distraction during lessons and this was recess. Rules were rules, even if you’re drenching in sweat! Sidenote, the girls had it worse as dress code was pretty much a literal phrase….they had to wear dresses (or skirts). But getting back to my love for t-shirts, let’s just say when I switched schools in eighth grade, I wore printed t-shirts almost everyday. Just because I could.
So…back to the hospital. The question that arose about what to wear vs what t-shirt I could or could not wear was the very real fact that my t-shirt could be the last thing my mom saw if she did pass away. Of course, it wasn’t just her – ICU in general is usually full of people who are on the brink of this life and the next. Of course it wasn’t just that – it was also the way I looked to family. My grandma hadn’t seen me with my beard until the day my mom was rushed to the hospital. I was wearing a dark green polo, and the combination really didn’t jive with her. She said I looked kind of scary! A few days later, she warmed up to the beard and told me it was the shirt. While this may or may not have been her overreaction – I still have not worn that green shirt since that day. And of course, that shirt is on the “do not wear to the hospital” list.
But again, that’s a polo. What about the t-shirts? Of course, there’s some very obvious shirts one should never wear to a hospital (or, maybe anywhere, but oh well). A classic example is a Def Leppard “Hysteria” T shirt. Anyone that would wear this design to an ICU, ER (or even anywhere small children frequent) needs to get professional help; they’re obviously a full blown psychopath – no further testing needed! I can picture someone as they’re breathing their last… and seeing the two demonic faces in obvious eternal torment, and thinking – Oh crap, I’m entering hell, aren’t I? Another example: my “Spinal tap, None more black,” shirt. Probably less sinister than the Hysteria shirt, but still…a spinal tap t-shirt in a hospital? Yeah….probably not a good idea.
Of course most of my t shirts were probably fine, but I decided if it was at all questionable, I probably shouldn’t wear it. I didn’t wear my Flogging Molly shirt because there was a skeleton on it – let’s not remind the sick what’s inside of them. I didn’t wear my Dead Kennedy’s t-shirt due to the fact that the word “dead” was in it. I didn’t wear my other Def Leppard shirt, the “Pyromania” shirt, because, well, I actually don’t remember. I guess I just felt it was a little too graphic. An explosion as seen through the scope of a rifle…..again….better be safe then sorry. I didn’t wear my Princess Bride shirt because it says “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, PREPARE TO DIE!” And I didn’t wear my Electric Mayhem shirt for the same reason I didn’t wear my Hysteria t-shirt – one look at Animal in chains, and they might have thought…I’m in hell and the demons are muppets!!! I didn’t even wear my deadpool shirts because….DEADpool. If the shirt had any macabre implications, real or imagined, said shirt was on the do not wear list.
Going past the comfort of anyone in ICU, I had a selfish reason for not wearing certain shirts – I didn’t want the last thoughts of my mom to be – what a dork. I’m currently wearing a shirt that says “There are four lights!” with four dots over the text. If you’re clueless, it’s a Star Trek: TNG reference to when that Cardasians held Picard prisoner – snort. While it certainly isn’t my geekiest shirt ever, it does require a bit of geekiness to get the reference.
And while another person might not have thought anything of it, my mind said “don’t wear this shirt! Your mom will think you’re a dork!” There’s a myriad of more obvious pop culture reference shirts. There were transformers t-shirts, several Star trek and Star wars shirts. There was Firefly in a bottle, and of course, there’s the Hodor quote shirt. It says “Hodor” – Hodor. Granted, my mom wouldn’t even get the reference…..but I was still worried. Almost all my geek shirts had to be put on the “do not wear” list.
Finally, there was one more category I had to consider. If I wore a shirt that I really love, and my mom died while I was wearing that shirt, would I be able to wear that shirt ever again? Honestly, most of the shirts I love were already covered in the do not wear category – but I have a couple that had to be included on the do not wear list for this reason. I’ve got a “Pink Floyd – wish you were here” shirt that I love dearly. I’ve got a Cure shirt my girlfriend got me. I’ve got a couple U2 shirts. I felt shirts in this category had to be put on the DNW list as they’re really not shirts I want attached to tragedy.
After all this I felt like I had one choice when visiting my mom (especially in the ICU). I wore plain, every workday polos. They’re comfortable, they’re ok looking, they’re non-offensive, and they’re forgettable. The biggest effect they might have on anyone around (aside from allegedly making me look scary with my beard) is that a lot of them have pretty, soothing colors. Purples, royal blues, lavender, and the like. I do admit…I avoided wearing any of my black polos – but that might be my own superstition. Then again….maybe all of this is superstition. They had us wear gowns when visiting her in the ICU, just as a precaution against microbes. So….seeing what we were wearing wasn’t all that possible. Maybe I just needed to control this….this one little thing in a time where so much was out of control.
I did, the other day, break down and wear a t-shirt when I saw her. It was a “star wars coffee” parody of Starbucks. I kind of regretted it, not because the design. Not because I thought it might be scary or demonic or insensitive. I didn’t even care that it was a little dorky – I did, however, care that it was a little short. This is why I always get a tall size in shirts if I have the choice!