Our Neighbor

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

There was an old man in the room next to us. He had to be in his 80s. At least. He kind of reminded me a real-life version of those two grouchy old men who sat in the balcony and heckled everyone on the Muppet Show. If you ever watched the show (i.e., if you’re old enough), you know who I’m talking about.

All the rooms in the intensive care unit at this hospital are doorless, with clear windows between rooms, so it’s pretty easy to see your neighbors. No such thing as privacy in the SICU.

Since our first morning here in Tainan, this old man had been visited by a woman I’m guessing to be his daughter. Twice a day, as the large sliding steel doors open to signal the start of the visiting period, this woman would stomp in with her fashionable high heels and her hair all done up, throw on her robe and mask, and march down the hall and around the corner to the room just past my dad’s.

I never once made eye contact with this woman, but after seeing her twice a day for five days straight, I felt like I knew her somehow. The way she was consistently first to enter the ICU, always with purpose, but never rude or rushed… the way she threw on her robe with a sense of what I can only describe as a combination of urgency and determination… the way she would watch over her (presumed) father, adjusting his pillow and bedding, tending to his needs, with such efficiency, but never once smiling… I dunno, it just struck me. It was like she had a mission to accomplish, and she had this laser-like focus to accomplish it.

Well, this morning, when we got to my dad’s room, I noticed the old man next door had been replaced by a young girl, probably no older than 15.

I wonder what happened to the old man. I wonder if his (presumed) daughter accomplished her mission….

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