The room is full, a straggling chair or two in the corner.
Men vs. women, about 50/50.
There are no more blocked-out spaces, but every face is masked nonetheless.
“Have you traveled anywhere outside of the country in the last 4 months?”
“I’m a teacher. I can’t afford to go anywhere.”
There’s a hesitant chuckle. “Hopefully that… will improve, ma’am.”
“Even if things improve, I’ll still be a teacher.”
The room’s chatter is low, respectful.
Broken only by an occasional voice from the front.
The voice calls out, “I have three more names on the booaaard….”
The room pauses as everyone turns to look.
Three people stand up. The low murmur returns.
A farmer from Tennessee meets a farmer from Corpus Christi.
They may not shake hands, but their friendly voices do.
A third aged voice chimes in, “My late husband used to farm in East Texas.”
Mixed southern accents discuss the impact of hurricanes in the east on the crops.
“How’s your cotton doing?”
“It’s alright. We’ll go to harvest in September.”
“We’re a little earlier than that. How’s your corn though?”
“We didn’t get enough rain in spite of that hurricane.”
“Your fields on irrigation?”
Everyone listens, quietly appreciative of the social ease found in this place.
A woman gets up to go check on something,
phone in hand, leaving her purse on the floor, open.
There’s a solidarity in the room. Not only will no one
bother her purse, no one would dare to.
It’s a fraternity that no one chooses to join–but it is one nonetheless.
The woman returns to her open bag. A man wearing a backpack,
a leg brace, and carrying a telescoping cane limps by her side.
A glance at their wrists tells you–she’s the patient, not him.
The room is a sea of silver hair, spotted with dye jobs. In 45 minutes
of polite waiting, only 3 patients appear to be under the age of 60.
Two are quiet, unabashedly former or current military. Only one,
quiet, lanky 20-something in the room. He is my son.
I see the faces look toward my son. Their eyes soften as they
see him next to me. I’m used to it. My son stares at his phone.
A look around the room tells you, most of these people came here
alone. A few with spouses. What a good son they know mine must be.
“I wish my son were here.” The barely audible whisper echoes
across hidden faces and watery eyes. What a good son.
He is, but they don’t know why.
The board on the wall changes. “I have new names on the booaaard…”
And there he is.
My son stands up, in his tank top and camping shorts. He
ambles to the front of the cancer lab. Startled looks spread
across the space, a wave bouncing from one wall to the next.
“Hi, Mr. Chambers. Have you had a fever this week?
Let’s get your bracelet printed.”
July 12, 2021
Copyright © 2021, Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved. No part of my post, writing, or words may be copied and shared without my express written permission and attribution.
If you found this page because your family is fighting glioblastoma and you need support, please visit https://frellcancer.wordpress.com for some helpful resources.
PS I am still looking for full-time work to cover cancer care at MDA. If you know anyone who needs a writer, I would be grateful for an introduction.