Sunday, April 13, 2014
She's 80. Her husband is 89. He travels slowly these days. That's because he uses either a cane or a walker, depending upon the situation. She, not as encumbered, does a lot of waiting for him. She's OK with that. They're in love and there isn't a doubt in the world that he'd do the same if the situation was reversed. The other day, they traveled to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Jamaica Plain. The husband, Bill - a Bronze Star World War II vet - was having a procedure done on his eye. His appointment was at 10:30.
They live on the South Shore. Bill, with infirmities of leg and eye, isn't able to drive himself these days. There isn't any easy public transportation option. Bill's daughter sometimes does the driving; other times, Connie - Bill's wife - handles it. It's a somewhat long drive, through both expressway and city traffic. She doesn't enjoy the drive, but she does what's needed. As I say, they're in love.
Connie is my mom. Bill is my stepfather. Since I was otherwise unengaged, I volunteered to take the driving off of my mother's hands. I used to drive cab in Boston. City driving doesn't bother me.
We arrived on-schedule, but then we waited. Apparently, this is standard procedure. Get there when they tell you, then park it in a waiting room. When they call your name, travel to another waiting room down the hall. Wait there until you're called again.
Around noon, Bill was seen by a doctor. After that, we went back to the second waiting room. We sat until another doctor came and took care of Bill. Then we drove back to the South Shore. I'd estimate time spent with medical personnel at 45 minutes, tops; maybe an additional 15 minutes doing paperwork, so call it a productive hour. With his walker, Bill travels slowly. I'll be generous and say it took him a half-hour overall to get from place to place. Waiting time? At least two hours. We didn't hit the road again until 2:00pm.
Let me be clear. The people at the VA were great. Everybody had a smile and a kind word. The doctors were patient, answered questions thoroughly, and appeared to be doing everything in their power to keep it moving expeditiously. Other staff members were cheerful and accommodating. So, nothing personal, but why in hell did we cool our heels for so long? Why schedule some poor soul for 10:30 when he won't actually see a doctor until noon?
Putting that aside for now, I can truthfully say my own time wasn't wasted. I got to see something worth the wait. Everywhere I looked, there were veterans with physical problems. You'd expect to see that at the VA. But what touched me, and made my visit very worthwhile, were the healthy people with them. Obviously family members, they were guiding the blind; pushing the wheelchairs of those without capability to walk; filling out paperwork for those with crippled hands; and otherwise doing whatever else was needed, even if it was just waiting patiently. It's never a waste of time to see love in action, especially when given to those who, in many instances, made severe sacrifices on our behalf.
So, I'm glad I did the driving and my own time wasn't wasted. But, on behalf of the vets, I've got to ask again: If a person isn't going to see a doctor until noon, why is he scheduled at 10:30? If you have the answer, you're one up on me.