So there I am, sitting outside the front entrance to a large medical building. I’m sitting on a metal bench waiting for my 88-year-old father-in-law, who is inside for a doctor’s appointment.
This bench is adjacent to a circular driveway where patients can be dropped off. COVID-19 has prevented the valet from parking your vehicle, and I observe that cars and pickup trucks will park momentarily in front of the entrance while letting off, or picking up, the person who has an appointment.
Over and over again, I notice scenes such as these:
- A 75-year-old man with wild wisps of hair escaping from beneath his cap parks in front of the entrance. He exits his red pickup and unfolds a wheelchair he retrieved from the bed. The driver wheels the chair to the passenger side, opens the door and muscles his wife into the chair before wheeling her into the building. He returns moments later, out of breath and red-faced, to move his truck into the nearby parking lot. His truck appears to be a meticulously clean, reliable, older model with a little rust. This description applies to both truck and driver.
- A woman driving a newer Chevy with a Kiwanis sticker on the rear bumper parks where the red truck had been. Her passenger must be late for her appointment, because as soon as the car is parked, the older driver hurries out of her seat, opens the hatch on her hatchback, grasps the walker from inside and pushes it to where her female passenger is waiting. The driver helps the passenger with the walker and they both shuffle through the front door of the medical building. Seeing them side by side, I imagine they are sisters because they resemble each other in looks and clothing.
- While the sisters are going inside, another couple exits. The husband holds his wife’s arm close to his own body, a combination of affection and concern that she might fall. They head toward a Jeep Cherokee parked near the Kiwanis car. This couple moves at a glacier-like pace until they reach the Jeep, and, to my surprise, the husband opens the driver’s door and lifts his wife gently inside. The driver adjusts herself behind the steering wheel until she is satisfied with her position. Her spouse closes the door, walks around the Jeep and gets in the passenger seat. I see that the passenger has thick eyeglasses that are almost opaque. The partnership between husband and wife works well. With the husband not being able to see well enough to drive and the wife not being strong enough to get into the Jeep by herself, they depend upon each other to make life work.
Throughout my time waiting outside the medical building, I observed dozens of stories like those described above.
People came into the facility while sitting in wheelchairs, holding on to walkers, grasping canes or manipulating crutches.
They come in every shape and color and manner of dress. Pressed khaki-colored slacks and starched white shirt, wrinkled plaid shorts, jeans, baseball caps, strapless blouses, sandals, work boots, gym shoes.
Some clothing displays an allegiance to the Cardinals, the Cubs, the St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Bears or the Bradley Braves.
Almost every patient had a loved one to accompany them. I imagine these scenarios I witnessed occur at this facility every single day. I am awed by the gentleness that loved ones show each other as they help their escort into or out of a vehicle and into or out of the medical building.
Offering an arm to hold, patting each other’s hands, whispering to each other with their heads held close, a look of concern on their face.
In today’s world, I turn on the TV and see a lot of anger. People are angry about the pandemic, about racism, about unemployment and the upcoming presidential election.
It comforts me to know that, for the most part, people still really do love each other and treat each other kindly.