Wednesday, March 22, 2023

More Inspiring Than Page 53!

 Many waiting rooms at the Huntsman are intriguing because of the numerous bookcases that section seats off from one another. You might think you’re alone, when actually someone is only a couple of feet away, waiting through the wall of books.

I love sitting by the bookshelves because it’s like Forrest Gump’s chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

So, my last time at the cancer center, I’d gone alone. A couple of workers studied me sadly, thinking I didn’t have anyone. But they had no idea; I’d asked to come by myself. Sometimes when you’re fighting a battle or going through something devastatingly hard, it’s nice to be alone…without embarrassment, so you can have time to process emotions by yourself. Stand strong if you want to; cry in the bathroom if necessary.

I sat, far away from anyone else, perusing a naughty romance sure to take me far away from the cancer center, the aftermath of horrific surgeries, and conversations of death. Sometimes I even pretend I’m not going to a cancer center. I’m simply visiting a massive 7-story (pun intended) library where I can read for days. 

That’s when I heard what sounded like a teenage girl and an old man on the other side of the bookshelf. They had no idea I could hear them—or that I even perched on the other side of the books like a disabled book-hoodlum, reading a very naughty romance about lace knickers and rippling biceps.

“But tell me about you,” the man said. 

I sighed. Because of all the empty seats, I couldn’t believe they’d sat by me.

“Grandpa, you can hardly breathe. I want to hear about you and cancer.”

“That’s temporal. I want to know about your school. Life.” He chuckled and then coughed—large, scratchy coughs. “And the boys you like.”

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. I honestly tried to keep reading my book, but then at some point I couldn’t help hanging onto their conversation because the grandfather sounded so ill, yet he wouldn’t talk about his diagnosis or his lot in life. He gushed about any little thing his granddaughter said. And whenever she asked about him, he refused to complain. 

“So many people my age, they just talk about this ailment and that. I’ve heard about more hemorrhoids over coffee than…. Anyway, they forget to keep living. I’m done complaining. That’s between me and God.”

“Grandpa, I love you so much. Thank you for—Grandpa! You don’t look so good.” 

“I’m…fine,” he huffed. “Just…”

I stood up, and both of them appeared shocked to see me, peeking from behind the shelves. “Didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” I waved, probably looking like a lunatic. “Hang on!”

I found a receptionist and asked if a nurse could come out. “He can hardly breathe!” Within moments a nurse took some vitals and turned even paler than me. “He needs to go to the ER. Right now.”

She grabbed what she could and told the young teenager to follow along. “Is he gonna be okay?” the girl asked. “I had no idea he was…I mean. He seemed fine…”

“Just follow me. We’re gonna take good care of him.” And they rushed down the hall.

I sat there for a small eternity, lost in my thoughts. I still had a couple of hours before my next appointment, but I didn’t want to move. For some reason the whole situation felt so heavy. Why in the world had they sat right next to me when so many empty seats rested literally everywhere? And that man’s altruistic love for his had stunned me.

The nurse came back after a while and squeezed my hand. “Thank you for telling us about him.” She appeared devasted and flustered. “They were supposed to be in a totally different area!”

“That poor man. He seems like one of the good ones.”

She nodded, but looked away so thoughtfully. I wondered what had happened to him or how long he had left to live. I wanted to do something, be helpful to him or his granddaughter, but I know all of that’s against HIPPA. So, I did the only thing I could. “You must have a hard job,” I said, turning to the nurse.

“Some days, like today, it really is. It’s hard not bringing the cancer center home with me.”

I handed her the romance. “I think you should bring this with you instead. Page 53 is where the good stuff starts.” And for some reason, she broke out laughing, wiped the tears from her eyes, and went back through the clinic’s doors.

I keep thinking about the elderly man and his granddaughter. Somehow, no matter the outcome, I know he’ll be just fine. Like he said earlier, “That’s between him and God.” And if she’s anything like her grandfather, she’ll be all right too. It’s just hard witnessing some of this stuff firsthand. The cancer center is not for the faint of heart. If I do take anything home from there, I want to bring that old man’s resolve to always focus on others instead of myself. THAT was even more inspiring than page 53!

No comments:

Post a Comment