Tendrils of Tenderness

It was the kind of day for which one is never ready.  It was the kind of day that takes your breath away.  It was the kind of day that wraps tendrils of tenderness around your heart.

As the noon hour approached, a quick call confirmed that the patient was receiving visitors.  The elderly gentleman has been in hospital for a bit of time already; family members are a bit anxious that perhaps he will not return home.  Yet he answered the call with a voice full of life.

As the elevator descended from the upper levels, hospital staff bustled about their duties.  Their greetings to me were warm and welcoming, inviting actually, as if I belonged in their world and was one of them.  Another visitor joined me in the wait for the lift.  Her comments were kind and gracious.  Her voice reminded me of someone I knew in childhood.  An honest look revealed that indeed we did know each other from before.  She was quite happy that her husband would be discharged in a matter of hours.  To my surprise, her husband was my distant cousin, a cousin I have not seen since childhood.

As the visit with the gentleman grew past an hour’s time, I knew he needed rest, yet he persisted in talking and lengthening the visit.  Ever so gracious, he introduced me to his other visitor.  He listened attentively to our conversation and laughed with us at our banter.  Ever so pleasant, he bantered with each staff member who came in to care for him.  Ever so kind, he shared concerns for his family members.  Even from his bedside, he is doing all that he can to take care of the ones he loves.  Trying to be mindful of his delicate condition, I went in search for the distant cousin who was anticipating discharge.  His wife had already related that our paths had crossed.  He greeted me loudly, “Hey Cousin!”, when I entered the room.  The three of us had a laugh, wondering where all the time had gone since last we had seen each other.

As my time progressed with the hospital visit, doctors and nurses all greeted me warmly, often calling me, “Sweetie”.   Another woman on a different elevator ride down to the gift shop chatted away and shared a laugh.  The flower delivery man on my way back to the patient’s room bantered a bit back and forth and was smiling as I left the elevator.  Acquaintances from school days as our paths crossed shared hugs, compliments and anecdotes about their nearly grown children.

As the growling of my stomach reminded me that lunch had been skipped, I glanced at the time when I returned to my car.  It was now 3 PM, too late for lunch and too early for dinner but time to eat nonetheless.  I found myself driving around in circles, quite mindlessly really, contemplating the events of the day.  Every encounter, every exchange within the hospital spoke of the fragility of life.  Each person seemed to be hungry to be seen and to be heard.  The elderly gentleman is honestly in precarious health yet I sat amazed at his joie de vivre, the exultation of his spirit.  He is fully aware that death is near; he is fully aware that life awaits beyond this present pain.

As tendrils of tenderness threatened to squeeze my heart to bits, I finally parked and walked into a family style restaurant.  Immediately I was recognized.  The hostess reminded me that I had attended her wedding 25 years before when she married into a family who had embraced me as a daughter.  Seeing her again seemed to be the perfect ending to this day of tenderness.

As my hunger had been satisfied and my sensibilities were back in order, it was time to settle the bill and return home.  Two ladies had entered the almost empty restaurant just a few minutes before and absent mindedly I had glanced at them.  The one who appeared to be the younger of the two excused herself to the restroom.  The other lady sat in the booth facing in my direction.  It was then that I truly took note of her.  Her eyes were closed and her brow furrowed.  She rhythmically massaged her temples with her hands, not just her fingers.  It was as if she were trying to wipe from her mind whatever was troubling her.  She was rocking her body back and forth.  As soon as the waiter placed the tray with their orders on the table, and before the plates of food were transferred from the tray to the table, the lady began cramming food into her mouth.  It was as if she had not eaten in a very long time.  It was as if she were desperate.  From the look on the face of the lady who returned from the restroom, I would say that this was not a good day for her either.  No conversation between these two was had as they ate.

As tendrils of tenderness again threatened to squeeze my heart to bits, I continued to watch and became overwhelmed.  How I longed to approach them; they seemed so very delicate if not altogether destroyed.  I stopped the hostess and asked for the bill for these two ladies.  While paying their bill and mine at the register, I tried to continue the conversation with the hostess, catching up on news of her husband and their children.  The tendrils of tenderness squeezing my heart choked to silence any words I tried to utter.  As I made my way to my car, the tears gave way and continued to flow the 18 miles to home.

It was the kind of day for which one is never ready.  It was the kind of day that takes your breath away.  It was the kind of day that wraps tendrils of tenderness around your heart.

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6 thoughts on “Tendrils of Tenderness

  1. I attended events mostly family get to gathers where I haven’t seen people for ten years and it’s like we saw each other the day before catching up on what we’ve done. We are still the same. It’s like friends who don’t see each other often but when they do they are still friends.

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