Smile break (before the cane flew)


A woman’s timid voice from the row of chairs behind us: “Excuse me. Lady in the brown shirt.” Pause. “With the white hair.”

Tim, Jerry and I were in our GP’s waiting room. There was only one other woman  in the room and that would be me. I looked down. Yes, brown shirt. White hair? Oh, yeah, I always forget.

I turned to see who was speaking. She was a large plain woman with very close-cropped hair.

“Your hair is so white!” she was exclaiming. “It just glows! How do you get it so white?”

We hadn’t even said hello. We hadn’t exchanged names. And compliments throw me off at the best of times.

“It just is,” I said. “My grandmother’s was that way. And my mother’s.” I was embarrassed at her intensity.

“And there’s so much of it! It’s so full! You’ve got it all!”

Tim put in, “Our grandmother’s hair was like that. When she went to Japan she caused a sensation.” He was speaking from sixty years ago. That wouldn’t happen now. I tried to explain. “Back then Japanese people hadn’t seen any Americans but GIs. Children followed her everywhere.”

“Has anyone ever asked you if they could touch it?”

I was still trying to deflect attention from myself. “In Japan people wanted to touch my grandmother’s hair all the time.”

I hadn’t heard her real question. She had to put it into words.

“May I touch it?”

More embarrassing yet, from a stranger. “Sure.”

She jumped up, stepped forward, and patted my head, murmuring, “It’s so soft. It’s so full.”

I guess she even embarrassed herself because she giggled and said, “And I’m not even a lesbian!”

She scurried over to meet a woman emerging from the door to the doctors’ offices and they left together. . .

Then Tim’s name was called and I went with him to talk to his primary about his chronic cough. Tim was sitting down when she came in. She noticed his cane lying across the hazardous waste bin and complimented him on the fact he was using one. She added pleasantly, “If you ever need to, you know, you could get a walker.” Of course he already had one at home, prescribed by the head PT who evaluated his strength, stability, and balance over a period of weeks. One he refuses to use.

So that’s how the day, our relationship, started disintegrating. A doctor had confirmed Tim’s opinion that he could get along with a cane alone. It was written in stone by the finger of God. Screw us.


About Jessica Renshaw
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