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More Than Just Waiting

I give my college roommate a hug, tell her I love her, and then watch as she walks, leaning on a cane and limping, beside a nurse.  When they’re out of sight, I rush from the surgery waiting room to the nearest elevator, down to the hospital cafeteria. 

            It’s 6:00 a.m. and I’d awakened at 3:45 at Roomie’s home where I’d spent the night.  Since she couldn’t eat or drink anything before hip replacement surgery, I didn’t have the heart to drink coffee at her house.  She likes morning coffee more than I do.

            As I swallow the first sip of hot breakfast blend, I smell bacon.  It’s a large cafeteria in a large hospital in a large city and there were many breakfast choices.  A hot bar offers bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits, white gravy, and hashbrowns. There are bars for pastries, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and bagels.

            The only other diners, all wearing blue scrubs, stand at the griddle station. I get in line behind them. 

            “Hello. What can I get for you, sweetie? How about an omelet or egg sandwich?” Although I normally don’t like strangers’ affectionate terms thrown my way, I appreciate this young woman’s greeting – she practically sings.  Her eyes, over a bright red mask, sparkle.

            She puts the ham, spinach, and mushrooms for my omelet on the griddle.  She serves egg and bacon sandwiches to two people in front of me. She breaks and whips three eggs and pours them on the griddle and nods to the man who stands behind me.  

            “How’ya doing, Ted? What do you want in today’s omelet?”  Ted, who wears a security uniform, orders.

            “That’s just like yesterday’s,” she says as she folds my omelet into a perfectly tight rectangle. Looking my way, she asks, “You got family here, sweetie?”

            I say that my college roommate is getting a new hip.  “Oh, and you get to be here with her. I pray she does well.”  This young woman serves more than egg sandwiches and omelets.

            In the surgery waiting room, I spot one chair beside a small table in a corner and make my nest for the next few hours. 

            A family sits nearby, within hearing distance.  Two daughters assure their mother that their dad will be just fine.  A man sitting across from them, tells about his older brother, who is at that moment having heart surgery, falling out of a tree.  Another brother doesn’t agree that he wasn’t hurt and talks about an arm cast.  I eavesdrop on a lively family conversation.  Two brothers tell stories about everything from the worst meal their momma ever put on the table to the night they drank too much whiskey.

            During the drive from my roommate’s home to the hospital that morning, she’d asked, “What do you plan to do while you wait?”             

“Probably read and maybe do a little writing,” I’d said. I write the first draft of this column, but I never open the book.  Oftentimes, real life is better than any book.


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