IMAGE CREDIT: LESLIE SIGAL JAVOREK
Have you ever had a day where your body should have given out but it didn’t? A day when you were amazed that you could stand up, much less walk a mile or more, but you did it? A day when your tasks ahead weighed more than the world yet you couldn’t quit? A day when by night fall you finally looked at your phone contacts, your friends or maybe family, but you realized that you had to go at it alone?
I couldn’t remember what time I had gotten up that morning. But then I wasn’t sure if I had gone to bed the night before. I had slept, but when and where I wondered. On my sofa? In my guest room? It didn’t matter. I had a million things on my mind at once.
Finding a parking space at the hospital right away was a good thing, even though it irritated me that I had to endure the enthusiastic folks we share our hospital parking lot with for certain events. I wasn’t in any mood for celebrating. Plus, anything had potential in irritating me. I was keeping up with any good things and not having to walk half a mile to the elevator was one good thing.
I had stopped at the ATM on my way but was too tired to get out of my car. Somehow walking from the parking deck to the hospital seemed easier than taking the time to get some cash to pay for Valet parking. I was not thinking clearly.
I forgot the number of my parking space but it was too late to turn back. I knew what level of the deck I was on. That was good enough. On to the other million-minus-one thoughts taking over my mind.
“I love the way you walk,” someone I once knew used to say to me. “You walk strong and tall with confidence.”
Oddly, I remembered this as I was passing people while crossing the walking bridge. I slowed down and took shorter steps.
I began thinking about how severely fatigued I was. It was more than fatigue. I kept spacing out. Earlier that day when I was feeding the dogs I had already measured their food and put it in their bowls, yet I stood there, staring off into space with their full bowls on the counter. Both dogs stood by me waiting and watching, obviously wondering what was up with their human. Finally, our older dog, who has a deep bark and only speaks one time when he has something to say gave one strong, “Rrruuuff!”
The sound brought me back to the moment. I put their bowls on the floor. I thanked my dog. He had done his job. The perfect therapy dog and he hasn’t even been trained.
Walking slowly across the bridge, the past 48 hours of stress rolled around in my mind. I was hungry and tired, but I was still going. I had a bag of clothes for my son on one shoulder and a leather purse on the other. They felt like they weighed a ton, but they didn’t.
I told myself I didn’t need to walk strong and tall. I didn’t need to be confident. I decided to walk the way I felt.
There was a peaceful feeling in accepting the physical weakness. I felt confidence in not hiding.
The cafe was at the entrance I chose, but time wasn’t on my side. I continued on. The hospital’s walkway to the elevator seemed more daunting than ever before.
Acutely aware of pain and fatigue, I started to walk how I felt. Another person I know used to say, “You gotta walk through it man. Whatever it is, you gotta walk through it.”
A hospital is a fine place to collapse I thought. I might walk through it, but I wasn’t sure that I would make it to my destination.
Reaching the elevator I noticed some wonderful photographs on the wall. I was captured for a moment and then I saw the coffee shop sign. Slowly I moved on, carrying my bags and my body. The pastries caught my eye.
“Can I help with you anything Mam?”
I heard something in her voice. Was she responding to what I was feeling I wondered or was it the striking red streaks in my eyes? I wasn’t indulging in my feelings or I would have fallen down in a puddle of tears. I desperately wanted a friend. If ever I needed a shoulder to lean on, this was one of those times.
“I’m going to look at your pastries,” I said to the woman in the coffee shop, but she looked concerned, which she was.
She walked around to my side of the counter bringing me a glass of water. My eyes were so tired I couldn’t read the labels on the drinks. I chose a plastic juice for my son and a bottled soda for myself. I looked at the pastries, but I didn’t want anything.
“Do you want some real food or a snack?” the woman asked me. “We have these egg and sausage croissants and…” I forgot what else she offered. Nothing sounded good. I was trying to keep myself composed. “What about peanut butter and jelly?” she continued.
“These are the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’ve ever had,” she said. “They have peanut butter on both sides and jelly in the middle. I’m serious. They’re the best.”
“Yes. I like peanut butter. I’ll take one of those,” I said. My words were barely audible. My voice shook. My hands shook. I slowly put my bags on the floor and paid the bill. I was able to smile.
I began to feel a little better. This stranger’s genuine concern warmed my spirit, lifting some the weight of the world I feel on my soul.
I remembered the last time my son was in the hospital. I had a shoulder to lean on that time. He had driven to the hospital as soon as he could when I told him what was happening. He waited with me in the emergency room lobby for several hours. He bought me snacks. He held my hand. I felt strong having someone there for me, while I was there for my son. Times like this was why I believed the man who came for me truly loved me. I was wrong.
As I crossed a walking bridge on my way to the elevator, I saw my shadow. Strangely, it gave me strength. I remembered a part of who I am. I remembered that I am strong. I felt stronger alone with my shadow, than I had with a person who was only pretending to be my friend.
I decided to refuse to be defeated by the day and instead, embrace the desperate way I felt inside.
My visit with my son was not so great. He didn’t feel like talking. There were several people around. Two women were sitting close by us. One talked too much. I wanted to talk to my son but he didn’t feel like it. The other woman stared at me the entire time. I felt like she was looking into my soul. She told me her name. I said hi and we shook hands. She kept on staring at me.
“Is he your husband?” she finally asked me.
“No. He’s my son,” I told her.
I used to feel complimented when people said I looked like my son’s sister, but now, I really only want to look like his mother.
“You look sad,” the young woman added.
“Yes,” I responded. “I’m sad.”
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