Friday, November 6, 2009

Glimpse Into a Marriage

This past week I took care of a woman in her nineties. She did fine during surgery and slept peacefully in the recovery room after I dropped her off.

At the end of the day I was tired.  It had been a long day.  I had one more patient to drop off in the recovery room, and when I arrived there with him, this other elderly woman was still there from earlier in the afternoon, the only other patient.  She had an oxygen mask on her face and was still resting with her eyes closed.

On the small rectangular table at the foot of her bed was a vase containing pink roses and gladioli.  Beside her in a wheelchair sat her husband of over 65 years, holding her hand and gazing at her while she slept.

"He wheeled himself in here with that bouquet of flowers for her on his lap," one of the recovery room nurses told me.  

I reported on my last patient's condition to the nurses who were receiving him, then lingered in the recovery room for about fifteen minutes making sure my i's were dotted and t's crossed on the requisite paperwork. I couldn't help glancing from time to time at the elderly man nearby who had lived almost a century and whose humble, quiet way of expressing his love hinted at a lifetime of untold stories, of sorrows endured and joys shared, and a closeness deeper than any of us could imagine.

When I walked out at the end of the day to go home, the man in the wheelchair was still holding his wife's hand, watching over her while she slept.  I'll always remember the steadfastness of his gaze, and the soft, pink hue of his hopeful gift of flowers in that place where hope and blossoms could be so hard to find.


Michael Leddy said...

I'm going to read this post to a class on Monday. We recently read Raymond Carver's "Beginners," the story that Gordon Lish turned into "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," and this scene is like a real-life version of the Gateses in the story (an old couple whose story is almost entirely removed from the Lish version). Thank you, T.!

T. said...

Michael, I'm honored, but now I feel like tweaking the writing so it's more polished! Feel free to make professorial edits as you read. :)

A thousand thanks for thinking of sharing this moment with others. There wasn't a dry eye in that recovery room.

Lydia said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Dr. Bill Irwin said...

Wow. Here's another example of chaos theory in actions (how everything affects everything). That man's simple, heroic acts, relayed by you, have renewed my faith and hope in many things. Thanks for sharing the story with us.

LawProf said...

Thank you for this post.
Much love to you!