Saint Francis Wood

“Don’t cry because it’s over…smile because it happened.”

-Dr. Seuss

Everyone I know hates hospitals. But this is just a matter of attitude, I think. It does seem odd that the very instrument of survival would be loathed. But, obviously it is the fear one takes in that you may never leave. So it is, when we are released, cured, or escaped, the relief at fresh air, the blinding sun, the frigid breeze, the cacophonous sound of the city…all have the flavor of revelation.

“Oh, my GOD, what a beautiful car…what a color!”

He was held under the arms by two attendants, who were grinning with amusement at the frail old fellow who approached me under their support. I was amazed to realize that he was talking about my car. He told me as we drove that he had just had surgery on his eyes which partially restored his vision after seventeen years. This yellow cab was the first bright color he had seen since then. Throughout the ride he sat looking out the windows, muttering, “How beautiful…how beautiful.”

The next patient was older, and more frail. I held his arm, as he walked to the door I had left open, and felt it’s bony weightlessness as I helped him in. He began a non-stop ecstatic monologue, about how he was headed home after six weeks in the hospital and wanted to surprise his wife. She didn’t know he had been released, he said, and the old boy was giddy with expectation. He was ninety-seven; his wife, a mere ninety-four, and they were having a contest to see who was going to live the longest. He told me she was the most beautiful girl in the world, and how their life together had been a long dream of joy. They had travelled throughout the world, living in exotic places, and struggled together through four wars.

In his recollections, there was no mention of children, yet he seemed a child himself, on his way to see his love, held fast in the flush of girlish beauty. He grew more excited as we neared his house in St. Francis Wood, and began drawing me into his playful conspiracy  while we walked arm in arm up his front sidewalk.

He wanted to ring the bell instead of using his key…”And you wait and see, how surprised she’ll be, oh yes, she will be…just…delighted…”

Giggling in eager anticipation, he rang the bell, and waited…and waited. He rang again, …and again. “It’ll take a while, she doesn’t move fast…”

Minutes went by, and I asked, “Are you sure she’s home, maybe she went to see you in the hospital?”

“Oh, of course she’s here,” he said, “she can’t travel…couldn’t even come to the hospital to visit.”

He rang again, and then knocked until his knuckles were sore. His apparent enthusiasm was being replaced by puzzlement; still, he said, “She’ll be so surprised…you’ll see.” Many more minutes were spent knocking and ringing to no avail. Feeling he had lost the element of surprise, he fished through his pockets for a key, but found none. Puzzlement was slowly turning into panic; I could almost see the frightful thoughts he was trying to keep at bay. My mind was sorting through various emergency options and I asked if I could try knocking. I let fly with my heavy handed pounding on the door. Still nothing. I turned to him and he was searching around trying to determine if this was really his house…bewildered. I started to worry more about him than his wife. I began to say very quietly, “Maybe we should…”, when there was a soft click as the front door began to open.

She was tiny, and in a gray cotton dress with a yellow ribbon in her hair, her posture slightly bent. As her bleary eyes blinked into recognition, they filled with tears, and yes…she was beautiful.

“Sweetheart!” she cried, and stumbled elegantly into his arms. The worry on his face vanished and was replaced by a broad grin of contentment, as he spoke softly into her hair…”See…see how surprised she was.”

They held each other tightly while tears streamed down both their faces.

“I waited for you every day,” she said, “…sitting by the window, and I had a feeling that you would be home today, and I was so happy…I sat and waited and waited to see you come up the walk…but I fell asleeeep.”

The last word was said with such drawn out exasperation that we all laughed.

They brought me inside, and while he searched for his wallet, she held my arm and looking up, with her teary eyes, thanked me for bringing him home.

She guided me through beautiful rooms, and proudly stopped before every picture on the walls, to show me what a great artist he had been.

“Then, as all my soules bee,

Emparadis’d in you (in whom alone

I understand, and grow and see),

The rafters of my body, bone…

Being still with you, the Muscle, Sinew, and Veine,

Which tile this house will come againe.”

-Thomas Wolfe

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~ by theoxherd on October 1, 2012.

10 Responses to “Saint Francis Wood”

  1. What a lovely, amazing story. If only we all could experience that kind of lasting love. I think I may be incredibly envious of this couple.

  2. True and lasting love awaits… very motivating and heartwarming story.

  3. I was hoping you would read that story…

  4. Your story brings the flickering light within more glowing…there’s always hope. Thank you for your story. And the painting is luminously exquisite.

  5. Ooopps…the beautiful tree is blinding me. It’s actually a photograph. Still splendid…

  6. You were probably remembering the painting above the previous post…a copy I made of a painting by G.B.Tiepolo in Venice. He was a fabulous artist.

  7. You must be right… 🙂 You have a priceless gift — the painting is truly a remarkable work of art. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

  8. Kindred spirits are always welcome. I am pleased that you have delved so deeply.

  9. The pleasure is all mine. 🙂

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