On January 28th I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, when an elderly lady sat down beside me and next to her, sat her husband. ‘Allo!’ said the lady in a bright chirpy voice, giving me a wonderful toothless smile.
We started chatting and she told me how she’d been married for fifty-five years, relaying to me how she and her husband came to be together. She knew of him and he was with a friend when she saw him one day, ’They both had cars,she said and his mate asked me out first, but just as I was getting into his mate’s car, he came over and asked me out, so I got into his car instead. He was the one I wanted she said chuckling.’ ’You married the car,’ said her husband smiling.
‘It’s sad though,she continued as her husband’s attention diverted elsewhere, he’s got dementia now.’
We chatted for a long time and I learnt how her husband was brilliant at maths when he was at school, and how he had worked all his life as an engineer. I learnt how she has to cope alone with his progressing illness, being responsible for administering him all his medication, other than the help she receives from her daughter when she’s not working.
I learnt about their daughter and grandchildren and how the lady was going in hospital to have a second hip replacement, because the one she’d had eleven years ago, now had a big hole in it. If she didn’t have it replaced, she would end her days in a wheelchair.
But I learnt a whole lot more besides.
Throughout the whole conversation not once did this lady complain. In fact what was so evident was her gratitude. Gratitude for the life she’d lived, the life she still had and for the relationship she enjoyed with the gentleman she clearly still loved. ‘I don’t mind going in, she said of her forthcoming operation, I just want to know where he’s going to be first.’
I also didn’t realise until the lady pointed to it, that one of her legs was very swollen due to painful arthritis, which had mishapen and gnarled both her hands and all her fingers too. She laid her hands flat on her lap and her fingers splayed in all directions, like the roots of a very old tree.
But still not a word of complaint passed her lips, just an acceptance of how things were, and gratitude.
I think this seventy-four year old lady is remarkable!
When I asked her the secret of her long marriage she replied, ‘give and take, you’re always going to have problems, everybody does.’ And once again, she gave that lovely toothless smile.
An attitude of gratefulness……. give and take. It seems so simple, yet I wonder how many of us really cultivate this within our own lives…… being truly grateful.
I’m grateful that I was sitting in that hospital waiting room that day and I’m grateful that my appointment was late, otherwise I might never have met this remarkable human being.
It’s very true and often said that………..