By Kim Anderson
As the elevator doors opened, we barely noticed the huge letters that read CANCER SERVICES. A long day had already followed a long sleepless night. My mind was busy with the necessities of the moment, of making sure my five-year-old son was keeping up with us, that he didn’t have his hands in anything that he wasn’t supposed to, and that he wasn’t looking too frightened. I watched my husband’s face and attempted to comprehend each grimace. I tried to read the nurse’s expressions as if she had all the answers yet been sworn to secrecy.
The mind is a cool grey squishy beast, isn’t it? It can be in so many places at one time while the body does its best just to act normal. My mind found its presence at the house where it worked to find all the items I would need to pack quickly. It made lists of who would need to be called, what schedules would need to be rearranged, if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean or dirty, and whether anyone let the dog out. It was already recalling home and yesterday. It traced back the last few months of the symptoms we may have missed… and weren’t we just having fun in Vegas last week? As my mind spinned and jumped, my body just walked behind the nurse like a horse with blinders on. It just tried to keep up without looking into the other rooms with the other grimacing patients. Their stories were not ours. Somehow, we were different.
The doors opened to our room and my mind began to settle a little. It witnessed familiar surroundings: a bed, a side table, a sink. Then, as always, my eyes continued through the room to the window in search of light. There wasn’t much out there. You could see the top of an adjacent building and a brick wall beyond that. At least I saw trees in the distance but you really had to stretch your neck to see them. I called my son over to look, trying to keep him out of the bed where my husband needed to rest. The nurses came in pairs now: taking vitals, changing pillows, asking questions, giving information, and smiling that comforting smile.
Over the stretch of the next couple of days, we allowed a few people into the room. Their discomfort pulled them to the window too.
“Well, do you at least have good view?”
“No, not really.”
Air out. Silence in. The waiting without answers.
The nurses didn’t give the tone of the room or air nearly as much weight. They bounced in and out with much more life. Finally, the doctors, with over-the-moon enthusiasm, announced that results of the tests were back. It was treatable. For now, the infection would be a harder battle.
Oh! Wait. What?
One aid came in and asked if we would like a room with a better view.
Well, yes! Of course, who wouldn’t?
I answered for both of us as the new room was promised a bed for me. I had spent the last four nights sleeping on a window seat and he spent most of his time sleeping anyway. Within five minutes, we moved to the new room, the one with a better view.
We walked down the hall just ten steps and took a right. The door opened to a room twice the size of our last and, boy, what a view! The windows stretched on for at least twenty feet and you could see for miles. It was a stunning view of treetops, church steeples, and cloudy skies. We settled in quickly, then we sat gazing out across it all in silence. Well, I did. He was once again asleep.
Weeks went on up there in that room and I marveled every evening at the sunset, the geese flying by, and the quiet beauty. At night, we had our own star show. The view got better with the changing of the leaves. I hung every card across the bottom panes of the glass. Sometimes I used the windows to watch the busyness too. If you didn’t look out far enough, then you realized that the same window also overlooked the parking lot and all its constant chaos.
Months have passed since then, and I am grateful we had a chance to kiss that view goodbye. We came back to our own big windows that look over the trampoline, swing set, scattered toys and into the neighbor’s kitchen window. It has been raining for an eternity. Everything is wet, soaked, and weighted, but…if you look a little harder, in the distance, just above the horizon, you will see the clouds are starting to break, the sun with its radiant beams parting them. Those clouds do indeed have silver linings and a much better view is imminent. The bell is about to ring.
Kim Anderson is the Operations Manager for the Department of Pathology. She lives in Maumelle with her husband, a daughter, a son, and two dogs. She enjoys baseball and boating.