I asked her to repeat her name for me.
It’s an old Norwegian name, she said, you don’t hear it much now.
Probably in Norway, I said.
Nope, they like new names now.
The couple was so patient. The old woman with her old name. I popped in and out, keeping them up to date on not very much.
At one point, he (her old Norwegian husband) poked his head out in his proper shoes and many-washed but pressed shirt to ask apologetically if we’d forgotten them.
She is so worried about that kidney, he said.
Yes, she said, Dr G tells me I’m fine, but I’ve only got the one and I don’t want to lose it.
I nodded then went back out to see other patients.
Made a call or two about her, talked to one specialist then another.
We all decided there was nothing to do tonight.
Back in, I asked to examine her, because that’s what we do, lay on the hands.
It was time to go, we walked to the hall together.
The two of them with their old names, their worn but proper clothes, and me in my shiny new clogs.
They took my hands, looked into my face, and said, “Thank you so much, you’ve taken such good care of us.”
Gratitude list at home that night in my journal:
#4: Old Norwegian couple who thanked me so warmly for doing nothing.
An unnecessary listen to heart, lungs, feel of the belly.
They did the treating.
A quiet moment, a sweet connection.
Theirs was the medicine I took that night:
My hands in their hands, in the middle of the hall under the fluorescent lights at Urgent Care.