Month: October 2020
The appointment with Dr. M. was over in record time, and I texted my husband, “On my way!” as I headed downstairs. Getting out was easier than in, what with the hand sanitizer, temperature check and exhaustive list of questions just inside the narrow entrance. The university hospital was a ninety-minute drive, but we didn’t mind. The leaves were turning, and Iowa City has Indian food and a world-class bookstore.
I walked across the courtyard to the parking ramp, peering down the rows of cars. No blue Subaru. My left foot hasn’t worked right since a fracture five years ago, and that was as far as I could go. I texted again. “I’m ready! Where are you?” Nothing.
What had started as a brisk, sunny day was turning chilly and blustery. Normally, I would have walked back inside to wait in a chair by the window. But the chairs were gone, and the young woman at the door was adamant. “Do you have an appointment?” “Well sure,” I said, “but it’s over and my ride’s not here.” Those were not the magic words. I stood there, confused and shivering in my thin cardigan. I’d had two negative Covid tests in …
I’ve been waiting years, so long I don’t even know when it all started.
I mean I know when I started wearing glasses. I was in first grade, and my teacher took my parents aside. “I think your daughter has a learning disability.” She probably used different words, this was 1968 after all. My parents weren’t convinced and sought out another explanation as to why I was having difficulty in school. Ultimately, they took me to an ophthalmologist who gave them an answer. Within a few months of wearing my new pink princess glasses, I was moved up a grade.
After his wife died, he changed his mind. “No ventilator,” he told me, shaking his head. “No ventilator.”
And so, I thought, now we wait. He had been prepared to wait for his wife to get better when it was she in the hospital alone. No visitors were allowed, so he talked to her by phone for hours each day, even when neither of them would speak, even when she couldn’t speak; he would listen to her breathing, willing it to ease, to settle into the pattern he knew so well from years by her side.
I was one of two managers covering the hospital one quiet Sunday morning when my pager beeped.
“Cafeteria,” said the voice that answered my call.
“Hi, this is the nursing manager.”
“A child’s alone down here.”
In the cafeteria I approached the bevy of workers huddled by the phone.
“The little girl’s over there,” one of them said, pointing.
A small child was sitting quietly at a table. She had a round face and light brown hair pulled back with a pink barrette, soft curls falling below her ears. There were no toys or food in front of her.
סַבְלָנוּת. The first Hebrew word I learned when I spent the 1972-1973 academic year in Jerusalem was “savlanoot”—patience. I added the word to my Hebrew lexicon, but I never incorporated it into my daily life. I am not a patient person; whether standing in line at the grocery store or checking my mailbox for the results of my mammogram, waiting causes me angst and anger. When I want something, I want it now.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, waiting has become an integral part of my life. I must patiently await the November 3 election, hoping that my candidate wins and that a kinder, gentler nation emerges. I must patiently await tomorrow, hoping that it will bring me something to do that today has not provided. I must patiently await phone calls: ones telling me that my children have jobs and that their lives have somewhat returned to normalcy. I must become a player in the waiting game, even though every part of me shouts “No!”
As I head into my seventh month of quarantine, I have learned that how I handle waiting better helps me deal with the waiting itself. By walking for an hour every morning, …