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Room with a view

The view from our room at Baptist Hospital is unmatched — a drab enclosure of concrete, gravel and some kind of electrical boxes. But after a night on the room’s fold-out couch, a lingering glance at the blank palette can be almost soothing, a respite for whatever ails within the 10×25 sick space.   

That’s because not all sicknesses are the same. Some require shots or rounds of radiation. Some, as in this case, require time-released doses of patience. For the caregiver.

To be clear, I’m just the Saturday night stand-in. The real caregiver has a Sunday sermon to preach and needs some sleep. So I’m beside the hospital bed when they check the patient’s sugar levels and grasp of dates.

“It’s 2013, right?”

Losing track of time is one thing. Thinking you for months haven’t seen your husband, the one who just left at 6 o’clock, is quite another. But there is no debating the facts. She asks again and again where he is, why he is not here. So I try another approach at explaining, but nothing satisfies, and I see afresh what life is like on the home front. How being old and full of years can take its toll.

For her, it’s taken her appetite, too. Only 100 pounds remain of the lady who once cruised the Panama Canal and snowmobiled through Yellowstone. But even though she missed her standing Friday morning appointment with a tress-tamer named Diane, her hair looks good. Always does. The book of Proverbs describes gray as a “crown of glory,” and hers truly is, with thick waves and silver highlights. She’s missing her standard Chico’s ensemble, though. This time of year, it would be a stylish vest with matching jewelry. Instead, she’s in mandatory hospital garb, with snaps and openings that are a challenge to keep properly closed.     

So we settle down and watch a Hallmark Christmas movie. On the screen, a choir director falls for a widower. He just happens to be the adoptive father of the son the choir director gave up 18 years ago. Inside our room, the drama is a little easier to follow. Aides have come to tell the patient to stop fiddling with her IV. They bow out just in time for me to catch the Hallmark couple commit to happily ever after and to letting the son pursue a career in music instead of business, if he so chooses.

Oh, to happy endings.

About that time the patient’s grandson sends a picture from his hunting labors. I show it to her and without benefit of eyeglasses she notes: a. the grandson’s name, b. the size of the buck, and c. that she’d like to give him a pat on the back (the grandson, that is.)

I smile at the exchange and thank God that her memory still holds room for loved ones. Sometimes.    

Then she keeps her medicine down, another small victory. But in the dark, she wakes up even more confused, demanding her suitcase so she can leave. All this sets the bed alarm off a few times, but to their credit, staff members never lose their cool.

Eventually the view outside the window tells me it’s a new day, and it is. Gone are the debates. In their place are thank-yous and a desire to comb her hair. She even eats most of her eggs and takes a few swallows of milk. Around 10 she asks me if I work certain hours.

“No, I’m just here with you. It’s a hospital. I don’t work here.”

While she dozes, I pick up Jerry Bridges’ book, “The Discipline of Grace,” and read another chapter. Somewhere among the paragraphs I think of her caregiver. He told me yesterday that God is giving him patience, and as long as He does, he can handle this.

So he gives his sermon at the Baptist church, and an hour later I get a ringside seat to a sweet reunion. Their delight in one another is obvious. It’s the benefit of deliberate love, the kind that sees hard demands on marriage vows as part of the package rather than an inconvenience or interruption.     

Ah, and I can see it now, too — the real view from this room.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.