Quick Visit

I wasn’t sure whether or not a short visit with Alexis’s family would be a good idea or not. The fractured skull she’d sustained in the collision between the four-wheeler and a pickup truck the previous evening had landed her in the intensive care unit. Her father, Barry, is in charge of grounds keeping where I work but I don’t know him well enough to know how he’d respond to having Randa and me stop by the hospital.

We were already in Saint Joe so it wasn’t distance or time that made me hesitate. “I’m not sure whether he’d want us to come or not,” I explained to Randa. “Some people resent it when someone they don’t know very well shows up at the hospital.” Since Barry is a big guy and toughened by years of hard work, I really didn’t want to do something that irritated him.
“I think we should go,” Randa responded quietly.
So, we went.
The waiting room outside the ICU is about thirty feet wide and sixty feet long. As we walked in, I saw Barry in a recliner, looking like he was nearly asleep. I’ve known the exhaustion of long hours waiting at a hospital but I hadn’t been through what he was going through. Intently attentive to his body language and facial expression, I approached him quietly.
He barely noticed me at first but then recognized me as I got closer. He stood up quickly and stepped toward me. We shook hands and hugged at the same time in that manner we have developed in our culture that lets us simultaneously attend to both manliness and affection. It sometimes seems a bit awkward but it is effective, nonetheless, a good compromise for guys who’ve been raised with less emotion than they felt.
It is also a good technique for letting someone know right away whether or not his visit is welcome. When such visits come from genuine caring, they usually are. A man whose child lies in critical condition will usually tolerate all of the support he can get. Especially if it comes from genuine caring and without solicitation of private information.
Our visit with Barry while his wife sat in the room with their unconscious daughter lasted only a few minutes. I suspect his memory of our simple empathy will last a bit longer than that.
H. Arnett
6/22 /11

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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