A tale of long standing love
She sat there looking frail and weak. Her eyes misty blue orbs reflecting fatigue. Her skin paper thin and wrinkled gave witness to her age. Her gray hair, unkempt for a multitude of days gave exclamation to the scene. She sat there, not stoic, but purposeful. She would remain in this solitary straight-back chair for as long as the task was at hand. She had a reason for being there and nothing would stop her progression. She was easily dismissible in her smallness, yet somehow carried the strength of one thousand men in her determination.
It was Tuesday, July 11 as Lydia rose from the metal framed chair stretching her weary bones toward the sky just as she had so many days before. In an obsessive, repetitive manner she neatly folded the threadbare blanket given to her the night before to fend from the chill. Lydia was tired but she had many things to do today in this little room. They were the same rigorous endeavors of yesterday but she would do them all again today. Lydia did not mark the days upon the calendar but instead counted moments allowed. Lydia could see the dwindling of her moments.
Lydia started with completing her own personal hygiene routine for the day. She downed half of a cup of tepid, decaffeinated coffee and a portion of the dry bagel provided by the staff. She then turned her attention to the true purpose for her being in this dismal room, the man lying in the hospital bed. Lydia was weak and small, but the man lying in this bed was withered and torn. The large hospital bed consumed his tiny, worn frame. Lydia did not see the debility of the man as she prepared him for the day. She remembered him for the towering, strong man that he had always been and she spoke to him just as she always had in cryptic, loving tones.
J ust as Lydia had completed the bed bath, his breakfast was delivered. She set about the job of feeding her man knowing it was futile. She wasn't ready to give up so she encouraged, cajoled, and pleaded as she had every morning this past month. Success was not awarded. Lydia cleaned away the tray while pretending not to notice just as she had the day before.
Lydia took her place in the solitary chair by the bed, holding the hand of her life mate, awaiting the events of the day. Lydia was lost in her own thoughts, as the nurse entered the room. It was nurse Myla, a jovial, robust, and energetic woman that Lydia now counted as a friend. Lydia was gently startled from her thoughts as Myla whispered her morning pleasantry.
Myla said," Good morning, Lydia. How did he do through the night? "
In a dry, gravelly voice Lydia replied, "No change, he is still very weak."
Myla sat in a half formed arc on the radiator obtruding from the wall of the ancient hospital room. She said," Lydia, how are you holding up? Why don't you take a break and go downstairs for breakfast? I promise that I will watch him closely."
Lydia's lips pursed and defiant uttered, "Thank you, but no. He knows when I am here"
Myla replied, "I knew that would be your answer but I thought I would try again. I had a tray sent up for you and it will be here soon. You have to keep up your strength, as well. Please try to eat something."
Myla looked closely at Lydia. She knew, as a nurse, that her time with Lydia was coming to an end. Time was running out for the man in the bed, she noted while tolling her nursing assessment. After finishing her patient care for the morning, Myla's concern turned quickly to Lydia.
She said, "Lydia, what were you thinking about when I walked in?"
Lydia gave a short, weak giggle and said, "Time, and what a strange thing that it is."
With her interest peaked and a spare moment to give Myla took her place upon the seat of the radiator vent.
Myla reached out for Lydia's hand speaking in a secret murmur, "Strange?'
Lydia spoke as if on stage reciting a monologue but oblivious to any audience, "Time eats away at you without you even knowing. It is just like the soil that the rain carries away. But just like the soil still rich in potential, time leaves memories and history to grant you strength."
Myla's eyes filled with tears and her heart with compassion asked, "What were you remembering, Lydia?"
Lydia spoke slowly and with pause,"A ball...the most beautiful, elegant balls of all time. I can see it so clearly in my mind as if it were happening now."
She continued, "My life truly started the day of that ball. That is the day that I met Garrett. It was the military ball and I was the colonel's daughter obligated to attend. Part of me hated the stiffness and pageantry of these functions but daddy never gave us a choice. We went and we fulfilled our duty as expected."
With a dreamy quality to her voice Lydia described her dress for the affair, "I wore a cream colored, dress of satin decorated in tiny pink rosebuds."
She chortled," I like to think, that I looked as beautiful as a princess but the truth is that I was presentable and appropriate for a military ball, Garrett loved that dress. His nickname for me all this time was, Rosebud, because of that dress."
L ydia turned her gaze to Myla sitting bent and uncomfortable on the radiator while continuing her story, "I know that you can't see this by looking at him now but he was the most handsome, graceful figure in the room that night. Being 17 and excessively practical, I was cynical and skeptical of love at first sight until the moment he entered the ball. You see, there is that word again, moments. That is what time is made of, inescapable, unpredictable, exhausting, exhilarating, and magical moments. Garrett gave me all of these moments."
A thin smile appeared on her lips as she spoke, "He wore his dress blues, standing all staunch and tall as he asked me to dance. It was a waltz. I can hum the music in my head but I have never known the name of the song. It didn't matter what song was playing because I said yes to that dance and to all of the dances that followed."
"So Myla" Lydia whispered. "I am telling you this so you understand why I sit here everyday never leaving. I owe Garrett this dance. We will soon dance our last dance but it was a promised dance."
Myla stood from her perch on the radiator stretching her back. Her tears were evident and real. She said, "Thank you, Lydia. I have never heard such a beautiful love story."
Myla left the room giving Lydia and Garrett time to dance, as only they could do. She went about the work of being a nurse on a busy day. Her thoughts throughout the day returned often to Lydia's story. The tale of Lydia and Garrett had touched her heart. Myla knew that it was one of those moments, as a nurse, that she would carry away just like the rain carried the soil.
Myla, in her spare time, loved writing. Writing was her hobby that kept her sane in sporadic, quiet moments of a busy life. She took pen to paper this night to relate Lydia's tale and explore her suppressed emotions. Out poured the following poem, that would serve to remind her of Lydia's eternal love.
It read," You spiral down
Gravity forces seemingly envelop you
Weak and weary
A shadow of yourself, the man I know
Helplessly I watch, both of us in pain
Unable to stop your descent
Together we were strong
Through the years, as one
Our hands always clasped in unison
Your fingers, now slip from my grasp
So Hesitant, I am, to ever let go
For I long for one more dance
One more kiss and one more embrace
Time has passed so quickly
Our journey seems just to have started
For better or worse our vow before God
A Marriage for life, a love everlasting
The turn of a season leading to this final farewell
Your beseeching stare grants me no pause
Alone, my strength I must find for letting go
I shall miss the strength we found in one another
Through the years as one, our vow
Your heart, my love, I will carry an eternity
God granted me a miracle of knowing you
May he grant you peace, as your spirit, I lovingly release."
On Wednesday, July 12, Myla entered the room of her now favorite couple renewed in her purpose as a nurse. Lydia sat, again, in the stiff, solitary chair. None of Lydia's morning tasks had been done. Lydia rested gently on Garrett's arm. She had danced the last dance. Garrett's slow, labored breathing could be heard throughout the small, ancient room.