When Hope Pays a Visit, Rich Paschall
Bill woke with the Florida sun proclaiming the new day, as he did on most days. He did not set an alarm clock, it was against his retirement protocol. Instead, he waited for the room to brighten with the energy of a new morning.
As he wandered through his house, getting ready to meet the world, Bill thought of what he would do that Friday. It seems he had been on a futile mission all week. Nevertheless, he would try again, and give it just one more chance. It felt like the least he could do for his friend.
Bill’s morning routine could not exactly be described as a routine. Rather it was haphazard at best. He went to the washroom. He went to the closet. He went to the kitchen to start coffee. He went back to the washroom to shave. He looked again in the closet for what to wear and he went back to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. It took him over an hour to get ready to start the day, but that was Bill’s retirement plan. In other words, there was no plan.
His neighbor Harold, on the other hand, always had a plan. His time seemed to be allocated to the minute. While Bill liked Harold, he was not fond of the rigid lifestyle. That was no way to retire, Bill thought. Of course, it all did not matter now.
At the beginning of the week, Harold was found lying on his screened in patio and carted off to the local hospital, just a short distance away. It was not unusual for the Emergency Medical Technicians to pick up old timers in this part of Sarasota County, but it was still a shock to the few who knew Harold. Bill was one of those few.
Although a daily purpose was never part of Bill’s retirement goals, he nonetheless scheduled himself into a visit to the county hospital every day in a vain attempt to learn something, anything, about Harold’s condition. He was not immediate family and he was not named on any medical documents, since Harold, Planner Supreme, had no plan for this life-altering event. So Bill had learned nothing all week-long. Still, he could not settle his mind over the thought of Harold just falling over on his patio. So he kept trying to get a medical update.
When coffee was gone and toast was eaten, Bill was ready to make the trip to the county hospital. He stepped out into the Florida sun to find the day was already hot and humid. Neighbor Mabel Crockett, would tell anyone who would listen that “the air was so think you could cut it with a knife.” And so it was exactly that.
Bill hopped into his car in the driveway of his townhouse and hoped that the air conditioner would be at work right away. He was a bit disappointed at that, but he did not have far to go.
He arrived at the parking lot that was just two dollars for patients and visitors for four hours. “Don’t forget to have your ticket validated,” the guard warned Bill. If he forgot, the charge was double. Bill did not seem to care too much about that.
He entered by the Emergency Room and walked past the Trauma Triage and down the hall to the main lobby area. There he walked right up to the same receptionist who greeted him every day that week.
“Yes?” the elderly receptionist said with a sigh. She recalled Bill immediately and was prepared to go through the routine again.
“I am here to see my friend Harold. He came in through Emergency on Monday.”
“I know,” she said with a tired sound. It is the same sound that came with all of the disappointing statements she must give to visitors. “I’m sorry,” she continued. “Your friend is in intensive care. I can not give out information to anyone but immediate family.”
Bill started with his usual response, “But I might be…”
“I know, sir, and I am very sorry. It is the regulation and there is nothing else I can say,” the grey haired woman proclaimed with a heavy dose of sadness.
They stared at each other for a moment when Bill finally conceded. “I understand,” he said with a bit of a choked up sound. He could understand the rule, just not the dogmatic enforcement in this circumstance.
Bill started back down the hall toward the exit by the Emergency room. He passed pictures of important donors, including the Ringling Family of Circus fame. There were also paintings of peaceful ocean scenes that would seem to go with the best rooms at a Holiday Inn. Bill noticed none of it all week-long. He just knew how long the walk would take to the exit.
As he got half way down the hall, Bill felt a tap on his shoulder. “Excuse me,” a voice announced. “Excuse me, sir.”
Bill turned around to find the elderly receptionist right behind him. She seemed a bit out of breath, probably from her pursuit of Bill.
“I am not supposed to say anything,” she said softly, as if she was telling a big secret, “but what are they going to do? Fire me? I am a volunteer.” At that, Bill saw her first smile of the week.
“Your friend is doing better,” she stated, “And they should move him out of Intensive Care soon, maybe tomorrow.”
Bill grabbed the old woman and gave her a big hug. Tears formed in his eyes as he told the receptionist, “Thank you so much!” This was followed by another big hug.
So Bill thanked some woman he didn’t know for some news about a neighbor he hardly knew. The news itself really wasn’t anything at all, but it made Bill’s day complete.