I am in the emergency room with a family member today. It's warm and the air is a bit foul. People of all varieties pack the waiting area. Some look miserable, others worried, a few bored. The automatic doors whoosh open and closed again and again. A health care worker cups her hands and calls names above the din, there's no microphone. My relative is called. We go through vital signs and more questions in a tiny room. Then we are ushered further to an area with gurneys separated by blue curtains. The nurse settles us in and we wait for the doctor. After more questions, some pokes, prods and measures, another patient arrives on the other side of our curtain. Besides the nurse, there are two voices, an older woman's and a man's cracked with age and frequent, raspy coughs.
I would never disclose someone's private medical conversation, but I'll share with you tender talk that I hope I will speak myself someday, or more dearly, hear from my own husband:
Nurse: Okay folks, let's see what we can do here. You know the drill...
Man: I sure do, honey. I'm your best customer!
Nurse: (laughs) You sure are and we love you.
Man: Watch out, my wife's right here...
Woman: Come on now, stop joking honey. Rest your lungs.
Nurse: Alright, let's start the questions. (After many routine questions and answers, and nearly as many coughs and hard breathing - ) Have you fallen recently?
Man: Yes. In love.
Woman: Oh yeah? With who?
Man: Next week is our 61st anniversary.
Nurse: Wow! That's something to celebrate.
Man: We're going to have burgers from "In and Out". I took her to a burger joint for our first date. She stole my heart over a cheeseburger. She's my queen of hearts.
His voice cracks, but it's not from coughing.