The gentleman across the hospital waiting room had Vietnam Veteran sewn on his cap. When I asked what branch of service he had served in, he laughed, horrified to think he just couldn’t look like anything other than a Marine. Our conversation allowed him to say; it’s just too hard to talk about those times, and he shared stories of his life instead. He stood up when it was my turn to leave and thanked me. Me? For his sacrifice? Good grief. When he was serving, I was busy making forts in the woods, doing pirouettes at ballet class, and playing Red Rover in the backyard.
I am humbled.
I was waiting, again, this time in a different clinic. My watch said I had been in the VA hospital for three hours. My stomach was growling, and I was a bit agitated that I had missed my 10:30 jolt of caffeine. A young man with a cane sat down across from me. It was quite evident that he didn’t want to be waiting either, but it was here where we were thrown together. I asked him how he hurt his leg. He said he didn’t think he should share the graphic details, and although his legs were physically there, everything on the inside had been scraped and replaced.
Then, something happened.
My part was easy.
I just listened.
I only interrupted when he said he felt guilty about missing anniversaries and his young children’s birthdays. I reminded him that it’s not about counting what he missed and instead counting every one he has; starting NOW. He talked of some buddies and more about his family and his goals. I loved listening to him. His life experience was that of a much older man, and I told him about the man I had met earlier. At one point I looked at the receptionist and she winked at me. I was called shortly after that and when I was ready to leave he stood up and extended his hand. I told him I was that hugging type, and he cried, and he didn’t let go, and he thanked me too.
Dang it. I didn’t cry.
It wasn’t my turn.
I told him not to lose site of the dreams he had told me about, and how I have such admiration and respect for his willingness to protect my and his families way of life. I walk gracefully through life with the knowledge that I live this life because of men like this 33-year-old hero of a man.
There is a message here….
PS. I cried when I got to my car.