Op Note XXX
He was one of my favorite patients. He and his wife were so loving and tender together. She never left his side. She slept on the couch in his hospital room and greeted me in the mornings on rounds in a fuzzy robe and furry slippers. You really care, that’s what’s different about you, she used to say. In the way she said it, it somehow wasn't cringe at all. Watch this man closely, she used to tell my medical students. I felt seen. Isn’t that wild? Here I am, making it all about me. But that’s ok. They wouldn’t have minded. They always knew what was real. I think they were both very religious. About some people you can just tell. A certain manner and grace, no matter the circumstances of life. Holiness without a lick of sternness. They never asked me to pray. Just to tell the truth. They noticed that I listened. That I remembered things. They brought me old books from his collection because they knew I liked to read. He was a retired college professor, philosophy and literature. I think there is a textbook somewhere with his name on it. His eyes widened like a child's or a well-lived grandfather, any time I entered his room. Even though I hadn’t been able to cut it all out. His wife looked at me like a long lost son, the son who never called, who left under a cloud of suspicion but came back just in time for Christmas the year before it was too late. Always grasped my hand with her two soft hands. All this time I worried she was mad. She was always so kind. Elevated me. And me, just shit, not deserving one bit. I wish everyone in my life was like them. I wish they were more than just my patient. I wish she was the bored teller at the bank. The hospital president who doesn't even know my name. The angry guy flicking me off in traffic. The old lady in front of me at the grocery, writing a check for eggs and milk. I wish he was my uncle. My dad. Or a guy I got to see everyday like the old hospital valet. Man, they were so much better than me. Man, I could have learned so much more from them. Man, I wish I was even ten percent as good as they seemed to believe. I wish they were everywhere and everyone. Maybe then, the giant trespassing tumor wrapped around his aorta and infiltrating the rest of his abdomen would get spliced up into a billion little harmless tiny pieces and parceled out amongst all the good and willing of the world. I’d ask to carry a few pieces too. Would be the least that I could do.