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Sitting in the reception area waiting for my insurance to be verified; formalities really, it was that time of the year once again for my yearly mammogram screening. This was the Cancer center for a very large Hospital so you can imagine the size of the place.

As I took in my surroundings, I realize I am the youngest woman present. Every other woman was elderly and there were quite a few of them. A few had companions, perhaps husbands or relatives; while a good number were alone.

As I sat waiting, I dread the onslaught of abuse my poor boobs were about to encounter in not too far away minutes. It’s the same every year…for ten to fifteen minutes, my boobs and I go through some roughening up, all in the name of good breast health!

I suppose it’s worth the trouble in the long run, might as well brace myself and be a big girl.

45 minutes had gone by and I’m still waiting. They are taking their precious time and I begin to fidget…it was then I noticed her; sitting in a corner was the most beautiful woman. She looked about 62, beautiful auburn hair that fell loosely on her shoulder. She had on jeans and a gorgeous Missoni top. Yeah, I know right, I just had to notice that top.

She was lost in thought and had to be called twice before she got up hurriedly. “Mrs. Cole, Amanda Cole?” the petite nurse called out again. “Yes that’s me…sorry I was day dreaming again.” She was soft spoken and had a southern drawl. Watching her walk away, she had the grace of royalty. I found I wasn’t the only one staring at her. What an interesting creature, and oh…that top!

Moments later I was called and went into the inner waiting room to disrobe and be manhandled. The nurse asked that I wait to be called and I joined five other women, including the beautiful Amanda Cole.

This place was rather posh. The white robe I was given was of rich soft cotton, the seating was plush and comfy and to the corner was a coffee table with a wide range of beverages to choose from.

My mind began to wander again, this time my concern was my husband…I was anxious to get out from here so I could talk him through cooking some lentil porridge for the children’s lunch. Men! I sighed frustrated…why? I must have talked him through lentil cooking half a dozen times. Why the hell couldn’t he just get it? Just then I heard Amanda laugh. She had a belly warming laughter, the kind that comes right from within. She had been talking quietly with another woman, an older woman.

Their conversation soon became more audible and it turned out it was the anniversary of the older woman’s husband’s passing one year ago yesterday. “It gets better Iris, you’ll see” Amanda comforted her. Iris looked to be in her 70’s. Misty eyed from nostalgic memories, she replied, “It does? I think it’s better with the men. Honey, the speed at which they remarry soon after their wives have passed is amazing.”

Sitting right beside me was the oldest looking woman amongst us, I heard the nurse call her Dorothy earlier. In a clear crisp voice, she responded to Iris.

“Well you know they say, if a man remarries soon after his wife’s death, it’s a wonderful compliment to her.”

“Huh!” Amanda, Iris and I said in utter surprise, looking at her sharply with both Amanda and Iris’s mouths hanging open. A mischievous twinkle in her eyes, Dorothy clears her throat and continues.

“Aah…I see I’ve got your attention. It simply means that he had such a happy married life, he wants it to continue. On the other hand if he never marries again….” She chuckled happily shaking her head. “Get the picture?”

Poor Iris laughed so hard, tears streamed down her cheeks. Amanda on the other hand looked puzzled and shook her head. “I could never remarry; in fact I still think my Harry is here with me. I talk to him every day and I miss him so much.”
I was humbled being in the presence of these veteran women from the battlefield of relationships. And though I had only spent a few hours with them I got know a lot about them and began to draw contrasts between them. Dorothy for one was vibrant, very much alert and had a wicked sense of humor. Dorothy smiled at Amanda and said “I too never remarried; my Victor’s been gone 12 years. The first two years were a blur; I have no recollection of that part of my life. All I know was that my sons were shuffling me between their homes and families in Maine and Connecticut. I woke up one morning, wondering what the hell I was doing here. This is not my home. I went back home and made peace with Victor. I was furious with him for leaving me behind. I could not do anything, stuff like putting gas in the car and going to the dry cleaners. Heck I didn’t even know where the gas tank was.” This got a chuckle from both women.

“I used to sit in the car and cry, I was really so angry with Harry for leaving me.” Amanda said softly. He was my second husband. My first husband Andy died when I was 29. He left me with four children and clueless about anything. Then I met Harry 8 years later. We were married 30 years when he died. Can you imagine…who buries two husbands? I used to think people looked at me funny you know.”

“Was he much older than you?” Iris asked.

“Yes, 15 years older.” Iris reached out and squeezed Amanda’s hands to comfort her. Then I began to wonder if these women knew each other before today. Dorothy went on to tell how her life had diminished in some ways since Victor’s passing. She marveled at all he used to do which she never really gave a second thought until he was gone. Things like mowing their 2 acre lawn, putting gas in the car every week, the tune ups and dry cleaning.

“The world had really changed you know…” She said looking at Amanda and Iris. “I have a niece in her twenties, she could be on high heels but if anything was to go wrong with my car, she would get off those heels, pop the hood and fix whatever was wrong. She’s quite good with cars. Then there’s my nephew who makes fun of me because I’m unable to put gas properly into the car. I’m always wondering why the tank gets empty quickly. He says, “Aunty, because when you pay $20 for gas, $10 worth is what you put into the tank while the remaining goes on the floor.”, “The irony of this is that he’s no better than me when it comes to cars, heck he doesn’t even know how to pop the hood.”

Her list was long and each woman smiled with affirmation to her nostalgia and acknowledging her husband.

A nurse approached indicating to Iris it was her turn for screening. As she got up to leave, Iris hugs Amanda, “Was nice meeting you sweetie; if I had a daughter I would have wanted her to have your spirit.” There was a lively spring to her step, and she went gingerly on her way.

Still sitting here, I’m totally floored by their discussion. Indeed it made me think of my boo and all his wonderful awesomeness. I will definitely do better with my impatience especially in the lentil cooking department.

The day wasn’t going so bad after all and this was turning out to be a pleasant experience. I smiled, remembering a certain young gentleman friend of mine; he recently observed how easily we bare our lives on the internet with complete strangers. I think its because it’s often easier to admit our flaws and inadequacies to strangers than those in our lives. These women had taught me a lot and I was going to share this with my girlfriends and daughters.

Dorothy too soon left us, leaving Amanda who was sitting across from me. She took the last sip of her beverage and uncrossed her legs. She looked up and our eyes met; I smiled acknowledging her and she waved, shifting slightly in her seat.

“I get very nervous on days like these…Harry used to come hold my hands.” I smiled again, hastily replying that it will soon be over.

“You see, my mom died from breast cancer; two years ago they caught a lump. Now I come every six months…just in case.” Amanda said sounding a bit nervous.

“Oh…” Was all I could muster. God! She was so beautiful. Did she even realize how beautiful she was? I knew I would ask a dozen questions if she started a conversation with me, and  I feared I may become intrusive, so I made up my mind escape to the bathroom. As though she read my mind, Amanda got to her feet and in two strides was sitting next to me.

“Could you please hold my hands, please?” She asked hesitantly.

How could I refuse? Now I see…that’s what Iris had been doing for her, when they were whispering softly before her initial outburst of laughter.

Her hands were soft and clammy and she was shaking. “Don’t worry, everything will turn out okay and will be just fine.” I whispered softly. Her breathing slowly steadied as we sat there hand in hand. The door opened and another nurse walked in. “It’s time Mrs. Cole, room 4 please.”
“Okay” She responded, slowly rising to her feet and I rose with her. Together we walked to room 4 and I squeezed her hands reassuringly. “Think of Harry.” I whispered in her ears, but she stiffened and then smiled as she mouthed a “Thank you.”

Returning to the waiting area, I am now all alone with a warm glow is in my heart. I don’t feel as bad about booby and I being yanked about. Here was a woman, totally terrified of the unknown and suddenly the magnitude of this preventative measure hits me like a bolt.

Mrs. Ad!^#$$%3…she totally murdered my surname. “Hi I am Thuy, may I call you Dotta?”

“Sure Twi” I replied

“No, not Twi, pronounced THUWEE” she corrected me.
Thuy was Asian, tiny and on her body was the most beautiful face! What’s with me and beautiful women today, I thought as I walked into the screening room. She talked fast and her spoken English was a little challenged.

As I began to take off my jewelry and glasses as instructed, she added “Your shoes too please, you too tall, Thuy short!”

I smiled as I got off my 3inch wedged Kors, facing her braless and ready to go.

Now this is not something pretty I tell you, ladies know this! Like a huge piece of rump roast, one baby is flung on the slab waiting to be carved and the pressers came down. Thuy is talkative and charming…I suppose she does this to get your mind off the abuse.

“So you hear about the royal breast?”

“Huh?” Was all I could say, not knowing what she meant.

“Oh! I mean Prince William’s wife.” She was referring to the news about Prince Williams’ wife.

“My husband so angry.” She continued. “He say, breast is breast. All woman breast the same, why you want see royal breast? Royal tiny breast too.” I couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. This woman was hilarious.

“Noooo! No laugh. Thuy has to do again.”

My laughing had caused a ripple on this take, so once again, my member is pulled, stretched and put on the slab. This time it all went well and Thuy continued talking.

“She no have affair you see. In her house with husband and they invade her like that, very bad. People retarded I tell you.” I was enjoying her entertaining talk and she had an impressive vocabulary for sure and her husband was a joker.
“Dotta, next breast now.” Thuy said. So I positioned my right boob.

“My husband artist, he draw. He always say women are silly and confused. Now why wear a dress if it don’t fit you? He says to me Thuy, don’t wear jeans.” At this time she’s facing me and wriggling her bottom. “He says I have no butt. See…he’s right. But he buy me beautiful stole for winter, and strapless gowns. He say Thuy has the most beautiful neck and shoulders.” I wanted to laugh at her no butt comment but had to stop myself. I looked at her and I agree with her husband, her neck was slim and long, and beautifully rounded shoulders. She tells me how her husband cannot quite understand what motivates women to wear some of the things we do, and worse still, do some of the things we do to our bodies.

At this point we are almost through with my workout and Thuy lifts both boobs and placed them for the final press…ouch! The hurt!
Thuy told me she sees breasts all year long. “Fifteen years now I see breasts Dotta. Sometimes I screen breast bigger than me.” As she says this, she sticks her fingers on my left boob, as if to say “and here lies one of those I just talked about.” We both laughed and I told her she was mad, very mad.

She agrees…”My husband say that’s why he marry me. He 6’1 and me am 4’11 and no butt or breast.”
I was laughing so hard now, she had to stop. “Okay, okay I’m ready.” I say.

“You know in South Vietnam where I come from, when we are young we don’t wear tops. We show off our beautiful breast all the time. But when we get old, we cover them up. See what my husband mean? If it’s ugly, don’t show it.”

She was in stitches from her own stories and I must confess, this woman made me cry and laugh all at the same time. I asked her what she thought of her husband and his definite ways, do you not mind that he tell you what to wear?

“Not at all.” She answers, I like that he notice me and what looks good or bad, besides; he spend all his money buying me pretty strapless dresses.”

I was positively entertained by nurse Thuy. She had a beautiful spirit and her tales about her husband even made my previous encounter with Amanda, Iris and Dorothy more poignant. As we said goodbye, she reminds me to schedule next years’ appointment.

“Life is beautiful Dotta, live it well.”
“Why thank you Thuy.” I reply, “It’s been a real pleasure meeting you today.”

As I sit in the parking lot of the hospital writing this, I think now that I understand Thuy’s husband and his vision to life through the eyes of the artist that he is. Legs, breasts, hair, face etc. can only go so far. That which lasts the longest is deepest. These are things covered not only by this flesh, but which resides in depths far beyond reach. These things are only tarnished and mauled if we allow outside negative invasion.
Be it the royal breasts, or the breast-less Thuy’s; be it departed loves or broken hearts. It could be the fears and apprehensions of the unknown etc. One thing glares directly at us all….we are fragile and everyone at one point or another will either protect, or need to be protected. This is what makes us one, the weaknesses we share.

I forgot to call boo about the lentil talk, frantic, I search for my cell to call him, but he’s sent a text, “Where are you baby? Anyway, don’t worry about the talk…I figured it out. It’s cooked and delicious if I may say so myself. I’m off to the cleaners now, remember 6:30 @ Marty’s, they have the loaner ready for you. Love you.” A tear drops on my notes, Marty’s our local mechanic…it’s time for my tune up. Next I think of Amanda, Iris and Dorothy and I smile.

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