Visiting Hours by Jim O'Donovan
Jim O'Donovan spent 50 years in the Law. Now retired, he hopes to spend the next 50 learning how to write good prose.
In 1957 my mother was diagnosed as having TB. She spent the next year or so in hospital.
When I came home from university for the summer vacation I got a job on the night shift at the local canning factory; twelve hours a day, seven days a week. So I was unable to see Mum during hospital visiting hours, which were strictly enforced. To get in I had to break the rules. I would enter the hospital by a back door, go up a stairway marked "Staff Only," and then furtively sneak into the ward where Mum had a room that she shared with two others.
I had been warned to watch out for a certain staff nurse, known to the patients as ‘The Kommandant,’ who, I was told, saw it as her life's work to apprehend and expel out of hours visitors. On some occasions when I was in my mother's room I would receive a warning that ‘The Kommandant’ was coming, whereupon I would conceal myself in an adjoining bathroom until the coast was clear. Eventually the vacation ended and I returned to my studies and I forgot about "The Kommandant". That is until a year or so later when one day I was in the Law Library and the door opened to reveal "The Kommandant". For one moment the crazy thought crossed my mind that she had tracked me down and was about to confront me with my crime.
I saw her from time to time about the Law School but our paths did not cross. Then one Sunday morning I saw her at our local church. After Mass she introduced herself, telling me that she was studying Law, having previously qualified as a nurse. That was about fifty years ago. We have been together ever since.
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