I’m standing in line, double-masked and glasses fogged, clutching my walking stick as I maneuver to hand sanitize. The man behind me creeps closer, closer than the recommended six feet. Seems he’s in such a hurry, he’s unable to see that things take longer for me. Maybe he had a family crisis, missed the bus and is late for his appointment, you never know, my mother used to say, spread a little kindness.
My heart speeds up, wondering what condition she’ll be in today, surely they’d have called if she passed during the night. I swallow that ball of fear.
The screener asks me where I’m going then tells me my name is not on the list. Oh, I say in my nice voice, I should be on the list, I’ve been coming for days. She looks at me skeptically from behind the plastic. “I don’t see you in the computer.”
“She’s a category 4,” I blurt.
Another screener recognizes me and she waves me through the gate.
Walking stiffly down the hall, hoping my medication doesn’t wear off; I don’t want to fall. That is why she is here, because she had a fall, a catastrophic fall,
She will not make it the staff informed me on the phone, but being the contrary person she is she did make it, only to wake up and not be happy with her circumstances. “Don’t let me get like that,” she told me. But I was in the very process of slowly becoming “like that” myself.
“I’ll do my best,” I said.
She nodded her understanding, her beautiful white hair that everyone commented on softly falling around her face.
The hall continues, shops lining each side, like an airport lounge, with the only seats in wheelchairs.
How she loved to go home to England every year to visit her extensive family. And each year it got harder. Landing in Heathrow, she’d have a mile walk to catch her flight to Manchester. Worried about missing her connection she’d order a wheelchair, reassured by staff that she wasn’t being a bother.
And I recall the time we travelled together, crammed on the subway in London. Looking up at me beneath her stylish beret, her saying, “Well this is an experience,” as young men jokingly told her that at her stop they would lift her out over their heads if necessary and she sparkled as she flirted,
She liked to flirt.
I’m at the elevator and gingerly touch the up button, surely one of the dirtiest things in the hospital, shrinking to the back corner as people get on, only four allowed. The doors open, I hand sanitize at the desk, and the keeper of the gate asks me to state my business. He tells me I am not on the list. I smile politely giving him the name of the manager who told me I could visit. He scrutinizes me, tells me to sign in, then I head down the hall.
From the door I hear her voice. She’s chatting with the nurse. I walk in, kiss her smooth papery cheek, wondering what she feels through my masks. She still smells faintly of lavender.
She is excited to tell me that the nurse washed her hair. I look at him, marvelling that he has realized how important this is, and mentally plan to write him a thank you note.
And I sit at the side of the bed and take up my position.
Bev Chambers is a writer of creative nonfiction stories and poetry. Her work has been published in a variety of media including the Kingston Whig Standard, Canadian Stories, The RNAO Journal, the Canadian Nurse, and the National Capital Writing Contest Anthologies in 2020 and 2017. Her children’s book Racoon in the Green Bin and other Animal Limericks is available here. https://www.amazon.ca/Raccoon-Green-Bin-Animal-Limericks/dp/1777552605. Bev lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and his radio collection.