The Waiting Room
We wait……We wait for almost everything. I am sure the list changes for everyone, but we wait. We wait to read……We wait for children, Ok, children wait for their parents too. We wait for the time to go to bed, for our favorite TV show, for dinner, breakfast and snacks in between. We even wait to wake up from a great sleep… how wrong is that. We wait at stop lights, in front of schools, in a grocery store line. We wait for the most important days and moments of our lives; a first step, the first word, the first love, first kiss, graduation getting married, for some getting divorced. We wait to go on vacation and then we wait until it is time to come home. We wait to go to school and then when we get there we can’t wait until school is over. The same goes with work and with church but let’s keep that one silent and please don’t wait to go to either. We now need to wait 4 more years for the next Winter Olympics. Yea…How old will you be then? You have to wait.
We wait at Hospitals. They actually have rooms. Waiting Rooms. What are you waiting for right now?
Every Waiting Room probably has or maybe just needs a Helen. Have you ever just hung out in a waiting room without waiting for news about a member of your family or a dear friend? Have you ever just done it for fun, or for the experience of it? You should. I have. The people you meet…. But that was a while ago. Maybe I will tell that story someday, but you will have to wait.
Helen should just hang out and tell her story For all that would listen, my sense is that it would make everyone’s visit to the hospital go so much faster and hopefully give others the feeling that MY LIFE IS GREAT EVEN THOUGH I WAIT.
I did as I was told by Shar’s nurse, and checked in with the lady at the desk in the WAITING ROOM! She was a small and very slender oriental woman. I could hardly understand a word she said. She asked what the patients name was three times. Read My Lips - S.H.A.R.O.N. N.E.L.S.O.N. She was a volunteer who had a phone and computer, but it was obvious she did not know how to use either. The other people in the room seemed to hold their breath each time the phone would ring or someone new would walk in and give her a patient’s name. I thought a hospital concierge would be much nicer. It would be nice to be led to all the fun spots of the hospital and know there was a spa waiting for those in waiting. Wouldn’t that be great? Everyone should be able to get a massage or sit in a hot tub or go sweat on an elliptical or treadmill or pump some iron. After a nice shower, someone would deliver the meal of your choice and we would sit in chairs that reclined with warm blankets with a nurse or trained foot tech who would pull up over our feet a pair of those warm green with white striped hospital socks, and don’t forget the deserts from Kneaders. Most people in the hospital can’t do these things…at least while they are cooped up…but for those who wait…why not.
Helen was waiting for her mother. I sat down in a double blue seater close to her with one chair separating the two of us. I had walked the halls nervously and made a few business calls that couldn’t wait until the next day. I was worrying about Shar and pictured her waiting to drift into sleep. I also took time to stuff my pockets with shortbread cookies from the treat basket next to the water cooler. They are the best treat ever, in a waiting room. After the last phone call I decided to settle in for the long haul. The chair was not the most comfortable but after I tested it out for a minute or two, it felt OK. I glanced over towards the lady with the white but graying hair and our eyes caught each others so without any thought of what was to come, I said “Hello”. Helen was 57 years old. She looked like she was 75, so when she told me her age, I hope the look on my face was not sending the same message that was being registered in my brain. I wanted to run to the nearest bathroom to take a good look in the mirror to make sure I didn’t look that old. Her mother was having some surgery due to her 3rd stroke in the past year. The surgery was to open up some blood vessels in a certain part of her brain that was “bloodless”…her word, not mine.
She was her mothers care giver and has been living in Utah for the past year or so... She had moved to Utah from Wyoming and doesn’t see a way back home until her Mother passes.
Talking to Helen was easy…she would have shared anything, in her slow, Wyoming drawl, that would increase or decrease in its decibel range depending on if someone was talking with the concierge (oriental lady). As we talked, she talking and taking up 95 percent of the conversation, her phone rang. The sound was the same ring tone as mine…I reached for my phone that was hiding now in the right pocket of my black vest, but it was her phone that needed to be answered. That was probably a sign from heaven that maybe I should change my ring tone, but I will wait to do that. The call was from a friend, Bernice or Bernie as she called her. “OH NO… Damm It” ….. “What am I going to do? … Is he going to be all right? The conversation lasted a few minutes…I wish I could have reached over and put her phone on speaker so I could hear the other side of the conversation. Helen became anxious, and from what I could gather from her words, was that somebody else she knew was on their way to a hospital, and that it couldn’t wait.
She hung up…her head fell to her hands for a minute or so…and our conversation…it slowly started up again, but it took a few minutes, for now I was somewhat speechless, not knowing what to say…and she visibly was a little emotional and in shock. She held her phone like she needed to call someone…but no… She started to shake a little…This was not expected from this rough, on the exterior, women from Wyoming who wore Wrangler Jeans, a yellow plaid long sleeve shirt with a brown vest. The material looked like oxford and there was a tear in the material just above her waist close to the bottom button. She did wear Nikes on her feet which I thought was cool.
Her son had just had A STOKE – Coincidence – You have to be kidding (I thought) and they were rushing him to a hospital in Sheraton. “What should I do”, she asked.
I went through what I thought was an appropriate response asking if she had any other relatives or friends that could come and take care of her mother… how long her mother would be in the hospital. Nothing I said seemed to click. She had no one. I asked about other children….Wow…wrong question?
One of her sons is down at the point of the mountain (Utah State Penitentiary). She sees him once a week. She loves him and his name is Michael. “He did some bad things, but he is turning his life around” - How much longer I asked “I think about 3 more years”.
Her son that had just had a stroke, Brent or Bryan, well it started with a B. Too much information in a short amount of time. Sometimes it takes me a year or more to get to know people’s names. You know, waiting to eventually get it right.
At my age, I am now waiting to forget the names of people I know. That has happened to you. Right?
I felt so sorry for Helen, but the story…it just kept going….one thing after another... Her 3rd son, whom she has not seen in over 5 years, and at the age of 27, was just indicted on 11 federal counts of forgery, money laundering and drug possession and dealing. “I have had it with him. He got started on that Meth and it ruined his life…He started ruining mine so I can’t deal with him right now”. I wondered if she was waiting for him to turn himself around-It obviously was going to take along, long time. A long, long wait. As we continued to talk, she kept saying that she needed Bernie to call her back, she was waiting for that call when the Doctor who had performed her mothers surgery, dressed in green hospital scrubs with a white and light blue hair cap, came in to give the news. He was young…I thought 25 – but he had to be much older…Helen needed some of what he had. “The surgery went fine. We were able to do everything we wanted…………………………..” She stood and walked over to the wall of windows, away from most the people gathered in the Waiting Room, with the surgeon.
“So she is going to LIVE” She seemed to shout this for everyone to hear. She sounded surprised and disappointed as the words slipped out. I wondered at that moment if her mothers dieing was her way to get back home to B___ in Sheraton, but now that short lived plan was up in smoke. What was she going to do? How long would she have to wait? She sat back down and started to gather her things. She had 3 bags. I am not sure what was in them except in one she had a diet Pepsi and in one she had her phone. I thought that one of the bags probably had her mother’s things in it…but, I will never know. It didn’t matter. She was a little pail from the news of the day…or maybe it was the news of her life, and from what I was witnessing and feeling, I thought she needed to be admitted to the hospital for a month or more…Just to get a break…But who would visit…I would have visited...But, maybe not…Life moves on.
“Is there anything I can do for you….”NO, but thank you” was her response…My body jumped a little as her phone rang again. I was hoping it was Bernie.
The person on the other end of the line was Donald or Donny, who was calling Mom about B__, but the conversation turned to his diabetes which was flaring up and he was unable to go to work for the last few weeks. As I was listening to every word – I got this great feeling of compassion for this woman whom I had just met. A mother, with 4 sons…one on his way to the hospital…one on his way to prison…one in prison…and another in his own prison.. At 400 plus pounds, all his mother could utter was “Please take care of yourself….You need to take care of yourself or You Will Die!”
The conversation soon ended…she packed up her things…I wanted to give her a big hug, but all I could do was wish her the best and she was gone.
I got up and changed scenery for a minute….Out in the hall across from the Waiting Room bathroom, I planted myself on a soft green chair…Just for a minute… for there was a person inside that bathroom that had to have had beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past week for the sounds that were coming through the door could be heard from 100 feet down the hall. I couldn’t stay seated. I was worried the smell would soon follow and I was laughing so hard, along with everyone else who was close by. It was like we were a bunch of 10 year olds…I couldn’t just sit there and wait to see who this poor, feeling lousy, person was…I was hoping it was a guy because the sounds were not lady like...Nobody could take that embarrassment when they had to walk out that door, so I had to remove myself and go wait somewhere else. I moved toward the bank of elevators and rode down a floor. I went to the cafeteria and had some beans for lunch…just kidding…a half a sandwich…Turkey and Swiss on Wheat…with a coke. My stomach was feeling the pain and I didn’t have to wait too long.
As I returned to the waiting room, I realized that over 4 hours had passed since I kissed Shar just before they took her away. Wow…Within about 20 minutes of really waiting by myself, Dr Caine showed up in his hospital green scrubs, without the hat. “I am sorry you have had to WAIT…..Everything went well……her lungs don’t look great…BOOP…It is going to be a few days before we have any further results…We talked for a few minutes. He laughed when I told him a little about Helen and the person in the bathroom. A Thoracic Surgeon…He was a very good friend with Shar’s brother Steve whom I had known when he was in high school. He was still the fun, smart and practical jokester except now it was appropriate to call him Doctor, even though he insisted on Bill.
I took two books and my knitting but I didn’t get to any of it in the Waiting room, well if two and a half pages of The Greatest Generation, counts, I did read something. For the most part, of my visit to the hospital, my mind was diverted away from Shar and what she was going through. Maybe it is the diversions that get us through. Otherwise we would all just wait until….What are our diversions on the route to the inevitable?
We have had to talk about it lately…for it is staring us in the face as it has before…even though this time it is much tougher for me, for we are talking about Shar this time, my wife, my sweetheart, my best friend. She knows me like a good book and has found forgiveness for me for the bad. The news has come almost as fast as the news I received from Helen. One thing on top of another, until I can hardly breathe.
We wait to die…we deny it…but we wait…we try to keep our lives busy with diversions so we really don’t think about it that often…we don’t like to talk about it…and it is much to early to think about it for my bride for eternity. But we wait still…wait for more tests…wait for results from Stanford and from the Mayo Clinic…we hope still and pray still. We look forward to today and tomorrow, but don’t venture too much beyond that except for our wait for the next Doctors visit or Curtis next Basketball game. She is a trooper of all troopers. She is waiting so courageously and valiantly as her life is becoming a whisper of days past. She is in bed a lot and does not move from our home, hardly at all. We wait for spring and warmer days. She waits…and we wait…not for the inevitable but for another minute, hour, day, month, year and who knows with other diversions that will be sure to come, we hope a lot longer. We wait for a visit or a phone call from family or a dear friend. We wait for more hope. We wait for increased faith. We wait for continuing miracles.
So knowing we all wait, I guess the question is how we do it? I guess the answer is different for us all… for life is a lot like a few hours with Helen; A bunch of diversions that for moments occupy our every living cell, and then are gone, only with memories, good and bad, hard and sad. I will always remember that day with JOY!
I just got a call from a friend…he asked me how Shar was and I started to answer…when…he put me on hold…so…I am waiting…