Ever since my father was transferred to the geriatrics hospital, he has been fighting something. First it was fatigue, which they discovered was due to an infection. So, he was put on antibiotics intravenously. The last day of treatment, they noticed that he wasn’t breathing properly: the respirologist was called in. Dad had developed pneumonia. Back on antibiotics for this new infection.
After three straight days in a row of seeing my father in bed looking worse in a place where he was supposed to be getting better, I lose it. When his nurse appeared, I asked her a stupid question – Why isn’t he getting any better? The woman is shorter than I am (I’m only 5′ 2″) – a little slip of a thing as my mother used to say – but you can tell right away that she knows a thing or two about handling recalcitrant family members. But she inadvertently said the “wrong” thing – he’s sick. I lose it again. She assured me that she will come back to check him thoroughly in a few minutes. When the nurse returned, she smiled while she gave me a run down on what’s being done for my father, as she straightened the sheets and repositioned the pillows. I knew I should apologize, but I couldn’t – I was too angry. After she finished, she smiled at me, wished me a good afternoon and left.
The next day, when I arrived on the ward to spend time with my father, the same nurse was at the front desk. She greeted me with a smile, informed me he was up early in the morning for breakfast; that he ate quite a bit of it; and seemed to be a little brighter. When I entered the room, I found him just as the nurse described. I fed him lunch; read to him from a newsletter he received in the mail; and about three hours later, I reminded Dad that I wouldn’t be back until Thanksgiving and that he could call me anytime.
As I’m walking down the hall, the nurse is coming toward me. I stopped to tell her that today was my last day visiting, and I took the opportunity to apologize for the way I behaved yesterday. A beatific smile spread across her face, lighting up her brown eyes. “You’re forgiven,” she told me. She reassured me that they would take good care of my father. Then just before I turned to walk away, the nurse said “God bless you.”
Life is Like That
This was the way I was brought up: when someone apologizes, you say “You’re forgiven,” but somehow the words always get stuck on my tongue. This beautiful woman had no difficulty saying – and meaning – these words of balm. I did indeed feel truly forgiven.