I found him in the waiting room. As far as waiting rooms go, this one was better than most. The light was soft without being gloomy. The pictures on the wall hung like patient servants, each offering a silent invitation to find refuge in its depths- a landscape, a seascape, a quiet room, a woodland path. There were no televisions suspended from the cielings, disgorging the latest if-it-bleeds-it-leads television news obsessions.
As I approached him I noticed that he held a piece of paper with both hands.
Those hands whose fingers were as thick as sausages were trembling like leaves in a breeze.
We said hello. I avoided "How are you?" not because it was a bad thing to ask, but simply because in that moment it didn't feel like the thing he needed. After a bit, I asked with a smile, "Is that your honey-do list for today?"He laughed, producing an unexpectedly boyish laugh for a man so large. He said, "You know us well. But you are wrong today. That list is here." He touched his breast pocket.
"I made this one for myself this morning. I woke up early and managed to get out of bed without waking her. Here, take a look."
The paper was crumpled, as though it had been balled up and straightened out again several times. At the top of the paper was this title: "Things to Do Instead of Trying to Make Her Feel Better On My Account."
I only remember a few of the items exactly, so the list below is an approximation. But the memory of my feelings as I read those items is crystal clear.
- Listen without talking. Look at her while you are listening.
- Hold her hand.
- Put your arm around her.
- Pray silently.
- Ask her what she would like to do.
- Get her a glass of water, maybe a glass of wine if it is after work.
- Give her a card with this message "Today you are all I am thinking of. You are my only prayer to God"
- Ask her if she wants to sit on the porch.
- Talk about a good memory, like the time we were floating down the Colorado. If she wants to remember it with you, let her tell most of the story.
- Bring home supper.
- Ask Laura (a friend) what else I can do instead of running off at the mouth.