The Retired Vet, The Retired Teacher, and Me.
Radiation happens every day. At the same time. For several weeks. Some people are on it for two weeks, some people go for six or seven. Mine is scheduled for three.
There are two other people who have appointments at around the same time. The first day we just smiled at each other and stared at Good Morning America. Now it’s like we’re old friends.
One of the people is an older African American gentlemen who was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. He’s comes with his daughter, or maybe it’s his wife, to tell you the truth I’m not really sure, and that’s not a question one can ask. This morning we were talking and I asked him what he had done for a living. “Retired military,” he said. “What branch?” I asked him. “There’s only one branch,” he replied and started laughing. I laughed along, and for a moment wondered if I was insane.
“I’ve got nothing against the Air Force or the Marines,” he continued, “but I was in the Army for 21 years.” He then went on to tell me about living in Germany and Japan. I asked him if he enjoyed it, and he said, “They were the best years of my life I suppose.”
I really like his daughter. Or wife. Yeah, literally have no clue. She’s the one who started these conversations by commenting on one of the Good Morning America stories. It was about the college scandal and she just blurted out, “That’s not right,” and I knew I loved her instantly. As luck would have it, the next story was about the rise of colon cancer in young people. “That’s what I have,” I said. “You’ve got that?” she replied. “That’s impossible. You’re just a teeny booper.”
She said teeny booper. Hmm. Maybe it is his wife after all.
There’s another woman who comes in five minutes after us. She lives over in Traveler’s Rest so it takes her a minute to get there. Since she drives clear across town, she gives us a daily update on the gas prices in the different parts of the city. The price of gas is an extremely fertile area for small talk. You get to show off your local knowledge while at the same time dipping your toes into the waters of global politics. Gas had recently shot up ten cents a gallon, and that was something on which we all had opinions. The woman from Traveler’s Rest was a middle school teacher, and had retired four years ago. She lives near Furman, and when I told her I was teaching there her face lit up. Ever since she’s been asking me if I know this person or that. We haven’t hit on one yet, but maybe one day we will. I don’t know what type of cancer she has yet.
Those are my mornings now. The retired teacher, the retired Army guy and his wife, yeah, let’s go with wife, and me. It will be that way until April 2. After that, I'll probably never see them again. We’ll leave each other's lives as quickly as we entered them. There won’t be phone numbers exchanged, or Christmas cards sent. If we see each other in another lobby somewhere we’ll say hi and ask how the other is doing, but only for a brief minute before we move on to the next appointment. To the next routine. To that next thing that will make another square on this patch work quilt of people and experiences that we call life. A quilt that is often built before knew it was being made.
It's nothing to be sad about, the fact that we will never see each other again. Because my quilt will be better for them being on it. Hopefully they will say the same for me.
The tech called my name. I stood up and waved to my new found friends, and told them I would see them all tomorrow.
Hopefully we can all say that for each other.