Teaching an Old Dog

Written by: Joe Flach

All I remember is going into the garage to get the snow shovel.
 
I am not even sure how much of the driveway I managed to shovel.  Apparently, I was lying in the snow for several hours before one of the neighbors noticed me.

The next thing I remember is waking up from a deep sleep to the sounds of beeping machines with tubes and wires stuck into and on my body.

As I slowly regained consciousness and my eyes were able to focus, I was aware of a young, bald child looking down on me.

“Hi,” said the smiling, angelic face.  Given the child’s age and complete baldness, I could not tell whether they were a boy or a girl.  And, with the tube inserted in my throat and taped to my mouth, I was in no position to return their salutation.

I tried to remember who this child might be and why they were here with me.  I guess my eyes displayed my confusion as the child said, “I'm Elizabeth.  They let me walk around the hospital a little.  Sometimes I sneak out of the oncology wing and look for people who have no visitors.  I like to make sure someone is there when they wake up.  I know I always like to see someone when I wake up from my operations.”

She just stood above me smiling.  I then noticed she was holding my hand.

“Sometimes it is hard for family members or friends to come visit.  Some people just really don’t like hospitals.  And, I guess”, she said, “not everybody has someone that close to them.  So, I like to become their visitor for them.  I hope you don’t mind.”

I didn’t mind.  Although it did make me embarrassed to realize that I fit in the latter category; I didn’t have anybody that close to me.

She just smiled at me and petted my hand as the medications worked their magic on me and I started to drift back off to sleep.  I heard a nurse come into the room and say, “There you are, Honey.  You need to get back to your room now and leave this nice man be.”

The next time I regained consciousness, I noticed a hand drawn picture of a house with a Christmas tree out front with a note that said, “I hope you get home before Christmas” and was signed by Elizabeth.

Each new day, I was welcomed by another drawing of Christmas scenes; smiling faces; reindeer; and, starry skies.  All containing a happy note and all signed, ”Love, Elizabeth”.

After ten days of recovery and following the insertion of two stents into my heart, I was well enough to return to my empty home.  On my way out of the hospital, I stopped by the Oncology Wing to say good-bye and thank you to Elizabeth.  When I asked the nurse at the floor station where I could find Elizabeth, she replied, “Oh I'm sorry, Elizabeth is no longer with us.”

I then said, “Well can you tell me her home address or phone number, I would really like to thank her for visiting me in my hospital room this past week.”

The look on the nurse’s face indicated that I misunderstood what she had meant.  Elizabeth was no longer with us.

Sadly, I started walking towards the exit.

Just before I got to the elevator, I noticed an open door with a man lying on his bed, with tubes in his nose and throat and nobody else in the room with him.  I went into his room and sat in the empty chair.

When he opened his eyes two hours later, I said, “Hi, I'm Joe.  I noticed there was nobody here when you were brought back from your operation and I know how nice it is to see a smiling face when you wake up, so I thought I would sit here with you for a while.  I hope you don’t mind.”

He squeezed my hand; gave a slight smile; and, slowly drifted off back to sleep.