Last night, I attended a writing workshop. It was my first time at this particular one, and as I drove up the long driveway to the hostesses home, I fought my childhood shyness pop up in my throat. But, I fought it and threw myself in, completely unaware of the incredible inspiration I was to find once I passed through the front door of the home.
The group is run by Georgia author Rosemary Daniell, and it is called Zona Rosa. I was welcomed with open arms to the group, and immediately was immersed in a pool of talented southern women writers. Each has their own story, and being near them inspired me to share one of my favorite southern stories again here on my blog. So, this post is a blast from my blog past, but still holds so much meaning in my heart.
Moments in Hand
I woke this morning to a crinkling sound coming from my husband’s closet. Only a sliver of light slid under the closet door in our dark room, but with Herculean effort, I willed my eyes to stay open and focus on the light. It’s summer time, the kids are out of school, and I am out of the practice of waking before dawn.
What is he doing in there? How loud can putting on his scrubs for work really be?
The scent of his Father’s Day cologne wafted toward me in the showery moist air from the bathroom, and I sat up as the day’s schedule of events filtered into my head through the haze of sleep. Then, my stomach lurched.
He’s opening the dry cleaning bag. Today is the funeral.
Every evening, after the dinner-bath-clean-up-your-room-yes-you-HAVE-to-read-your-book hurricane settles down with the kids, my husband and I shut our bedroom door for 15 minutes so we can catch up on each others’ day. Alone at last. We plop on the bed next to each other and stare up at the ceiling, as if it were the magical starry sky we used to gaze at together in our youth. His news is usually about the cool, gruesome procedures he got to do, or anecdotes about interesting patients he’s met (no names, no details, so don’t call HIPAA), and my news is usually about the kids (are you surprised?). Usually it’s the “same-old-same-old,” but when we are done reporting, we look at each other and hold hands for the first time in the day. These moments are the glue that keeps us together.
One evening, a few months ago, he remarked to me about an elderly woman, with whom he’d developed a friendship beyond that of patient and doctor. She was the proverbial little, old southern lady who’d live in rural Georgia all her life…and she loved her new dentist. He told me he would take extra time to sit and chat with her during her visits. She would talk and he would listen, her hand in his, even when other patients reclined in wait. I picture my husband, a child of Apartheid, born a stranger to whites, leaning in to hear the words of an elderly, white lady of the Jim Crow South, both of them suspended together in these snippets of time.
But that day, amidst their small talk, she’d come out and asked him to be a pallbearer at her funeral. When he relayed this request to me, the shock was still on his face. He said he loves his patients, and enjoyed his relationship with her, but he didn’t quite know how to process her request. Usually patients who like him bring cakes and cookies to the office. But, none has ever expressed their affection for him in this way.
Of course, he said yes.
Two nights ago, he gave me the news that she had passed. I could see the sadness in his eyes, but also a little discomfort. He doesn’t do well at funerals, he said. He doesn’t really know her, he said. But, honoring her request, he got his suit dry cleaned. And this man, who never takes a vacation, cancelled his appointments for the day, so that he could travel nearly to the Alabama state line, to her small hometown, and carry her to her final resting place.
Before he left, I got out of bed to give him a send-off hug, and wished him luck. After straightening his tie, I gave him a long, silent squeeze of the hand, before he rushed out the door. I stood there in the dark, holding our moment in my hand.