A Whimpering Old Woman

Sometimes your heart breaks.

I was at the skin doctor last week to have a few more pounds of ugly cut off the top of my head. But when I arrived at the clinic, there was no receptionist; just three people standing in line.

I joined them in the line for about five minutes, but then I decided to go sit down in a complete huff, making one of those long sighs that men make when they want everyone to know how put upon they feel.

A few minutes later, a door opened down the hall, and I heard a woman’s voice. “You’re doing find. You’re doing fine. We’ve got you. You’re doing fine.”

Then I heard a whimpering sound that made my heart stop. A soft whimper mixed with small gasps for air, almost crying. It was an awful sound that made you want to help, and made you want to cry.

Slowly, the receptionist appeared from down the hall. She was walking backwards, arms stretched out in front. “You’re doing fine. Just keep walking. It will be OK. You’re doing fine.”

But the old woman who was gasping was not doing fine, not at all. She was whimpering, and gasping, head down, using every ounce of her strength to move forward, one labored step at a time, supported by her stroller. She looked to tired and worn out, just so pathetic.

Then I saw that the left leg of her pajamas was covered with dry blood, stuck to her lower leg. He left foot was bare except for a fat bandage; only her yellow callused toes were showing. Her right foot’s poor old toes had such gnarled toenails that they might have been untended for years.

“Keep coming, dear, it’s OK. You’ll be OK. You’re doing fine.”

When they were fully in the waiting room, I realized the old woman was also being supported from behind by an ambulance driver. I was struck by how calm the receptionist and ambulance driver were, and how upset and distraught I felt.

I wanted to do something to help, but what? I leaped up, pulled the chairs out of the way and opened the front door.

Ever so slowly, so sadly, so painfully, they moved outside. When the whimpering, gasping, exhausted old woman had to walk down two stairs to the ambulance, I was terrified she would collapse. And I was angry, wondering why the hell she was not in a wheelchair; why the hell wasn’t one of her family members there with her.

When they had helped her into the ambulance, someone shut the front door of the doctor’s office. I think it was me, but I can’t be sure. My mind was flooded with images of this poor, old, bleeding woman. I could not get her whimpering or the cacophony of angry questions out of my head.

My mind demanded to know if she was being taken to a nursing home, where someone would look after her, or whether she would be unceremoniously dumped in a lonely house or apartment, where she would be alone, and in pain.

I wanted to ask if she needed someone to help her. But I didn’t want to intrude. I didn’t know what to do. I still don’t. And I feel awful for her. She’s somebody’s mother, somebody’s grandma. Where was her damn family? Who is taking care of her???

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