I heard her voice before I saw her.
While I was checking in with the receptionist, I heard her explaining to her husband about his procedure. She lovingly, kindly, patiently explained the test they would perform on his arteries.
With my clipboard in hand, I sat near the husband on a couch in the waiting room. I realized a woman in a wheelchair was near him, but didn’t pay much attention. As I answered the questions about my medical history and symptoms with almost all no’s, I realized how fortunate I am to have these interruptions to my schedule – these bothersome tests that are recommended when one reaches a certain age – be nothing more than that. I became conscious of the frail woman sitting near me. She couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds. But her leg braces and shoes looked much heavier. She sat erect in that chair, though, alert and composed.
After her husband was called for his procedure, she sat quietly waiting. When I heard a mechanical sound, I realized she had tapped her watch and it was audibilizing the time for her. I paused to think of the challenges she has every day and now her husband is in for some tests. My interruption to my day for this pesky test was seeming less troublesome by the moment.
Before I could complete my pages of family medical history and engage her in conversation, her partner returned. He said, “ I can go now. Should we call transport?” “Yes, push me over and we’ll ask them to call.” She tapped her watch again and it gave the time as “8:05.” Then again, and it spoke “8:06.” But it was 11:06 a.m. Oh, my.
The pair approached the desk where, in a confident voice, she asked, “Could you call our transport for us, please? The number is ….”. She recited the ten digits confidently. And, then, “Thank you,” in as strong a voice as any southern lady possesses. That voice alerted me that this woman did not want my sympathy. She has my respect.
I’ve thought of this couple many times in the days since that encounter. I wonder about his test results. I wonder who cooks for them. I wonder if they get out a lot and interact with other people. But I do not wonder if she is handling everything like a steel magnolia. I know she is.
Art quilt notes: The finished size is 13” x 17”. The line drawing is free-motion machine stitched on a remnant of an old linen pillowcase. The remainder of the work is hand stitching – layers of vintage lace, buttons, and an old quilt fragment complete the assembly. The lace tablecloth remnant and linen coaster used as a label were dyed in my indigo vat.