She Looked Me Straight in the Eyes with Julie Gibbons

Guest Post by Julie Gibbons for the Kind Kindred series.

The Eyes Who Served Me on a Saturday - Velveteen Woman Project #18 by Make Studio | Marty Coleman
The Eyes Who Served Me on a Saturday by Make Studio | Marty Coleman

She Looked Me Straight in the Eyes

Just the week before a patient had shared with me the existence of a car park restricted to patient access and I’d gratefully bypassed the bulging visitor parking and glided into a space unhindered. On previous appointments we’d arrived early to negotiate a space and visited the cafe for a cuppa to relieve our mounting nerves, but she was fasting today, and a visit to the cafe didn’t seem at all appropriate. With the parking gods (and the help of the kindly patient) we arrived at the booking desk in perfect time for her appointment and I was relieved not to add to her increasing stress levels with that of my own.

There is an unmistakable air of dread which seems to hover thickly in hospital corridors – like Scotch mist but instead of making you very wet, it fills you with apprehension. She was full of it. Dread. Apprehension. Fear. It was almost visibly emanating from her pores. So this waiting room with its television, house plants, bookcase full of paperbacks – and most importantly, a door which blocked off the corridor – offered welcome respite. At first.

We’d missed the notice that asked you to ring the bell for assistance, but some nurses arrived shortly after us and bell rung, her appointment letter was submitted and we were asked to take a seat. We sat down to wait. More patients arrived. And they rang the bell. No one came. Ring only once, the notice announced, we may not be able to assist immediately. More patients arrived. They rang the bell. “You may as well take a seat”, we advised. “There appears to be some delay.”

About forty minutes in, I saw another notice. Your appointment time is for booking in only. It may be some time before your procedure begins. More waiting then, I guessed. I was holding on to her, offering her a healing touch; my thoughts not on the procedure ahead, instead trying to make this waiting time less painful. Some staff came and went behind the unmanned reception desk, offering glimpses of face masks in the corridor behind. Without volunteering any explanations or reassurance, they bustled busily and looked much too important to disturb. She held on tighter.

It was well over an hour before they called her name, and she let go of my hand to disappear behind a door. I couldn’t wait to leave that room with its official notices. There was no respite to be had in there after all. So I fled to the arts centre next door. All the cafe tables were full so I sucked in my stomach and sauntered down to the restaurant seating. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and quickly convinced myself I had to keep up my strength for her.

I was ever so grateful to be welcomed by ‘our waitress’. “Table for one? Come down by the window, how are you? Where’s your mum today?” I could have dropped the menu and given her a big hug there and then. I didn’t, although my eyes started to brim with tears. I hardly knew her after all, and we were skirting dangerous territory. “At the hospital, having a procedure” and I bit back my tears. “She’s been quite scared, so I’ve told her I’ll be waiting just next door, rather than go home.” A hand on my shoulder and much sympathy and soon we were off discussing how to bake a spider cake for twenty kids at a Hallowe’en party!

She came to check on me a few times during and after my meal, when I’d spread out my notebook and pens on the table, and again when her shift had ended, to let me know “That’s me off now. You take care. I hope your mum gets on fine.”

Such simple kindness. A word and a touch here and there. Unlike the other restaurant patrons, who almost instinctively avoided my unconvincing smile, she had looked me straight in the eyes. Acknowledged my presence and my anxiety. This was not what she was paid to do. This was simply who she is.

Holistic writer : creative wife and mother. I am a natural woman: organic, home exchanging, home educating and location independent. Transforming my mid-life crisis into a beautiful journey. Connect with me on my blog, twitter or facebook.


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