It’s full of strangers, all different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and different hometowns. All with their own stories. Their own struggles. Their own victories. They understand the battleground and they know where it begins. The waiting room.
The waiting room is always brightly-colored with a variety of seats, toys, books and coffee. Always coffee. In the nicer waiting rooms there are even charging stations for our precious devices. These are all attempts at distraction. However, distraction rarely comes.
This is where waiting happens. Waiting for an appointment, for a doctor, for some news. Waiting to decide the next step, make a plan, or let go. The battle ground is in front of them and they are prepared, but all they can do now is wait.
I too, am familiar with the waiting room. I have spent more hours in this brightly colored room then I’d ever care to think about. This place they provide to await a cheery nurse to call our name. I too know what it is to use the time waiting to prepare, to organize thoughts, and redirect. Always redirection.
I’m here again, waiting, and observing. I found a corner chair this time which provides me the luxury of having a full view of the room before me. I scan the faces of other parents sitting and waiting with me. I don’t know any of them, and yet I recognize them by the expressions they wear.
Slowly I scan the room. It’s easy to spot the newbies. The ones whose children give them away, or the look of fear and uneasiness on their face. They are also the ones who willingly sit in the middle of the room. They have yet to discovered the solace of a corner seat.
I see the young mom, who jumps slightly every time the nurse calls for another family, another patient, another child. She knows her turn is coming and while she wants answers, she doesn’t want to hear them. She spots me watching her and I give her a warm smile. She smiles back and takes a deep breath. That’s right honey, keep breathing. Always, keep breathing.
My gaze moves on from her. I see the dad working over time to distract his child with the video game mounted on the wall. His son doesn’t seem interested but it’s either the game and distraction, or silence and acknowledgment of why they’re here. So, they play.
In the back corner, on the other side of the room, I’ve found a kindred spirit. This mom is seasoned. With an ear bud in one ear, and the other tuned to her child, she has found the only other corner that provides a little solace from the rest of the waiting room. She has a small, but full, bag of things to help keep her child occupied. A journal for her, to provide a place for her thoughts to wonder, and a book to take her to another place.
She doesn’t jump when the nurse calls a patient’s name. Instead, she rests easy knowing that even if she misses her own child’s name, it will get called again. Her clothes are comfortable, makeup simple, hair neat and tidy. She didn’t come here to be seen. She came here to advocate, to learn, to care. I identify with her.
Distractions aren’t needed. Her time in the waiting room is a welcome reprieve. For that 30 minutes she can relax. No one telling her things about her child. Nobody forcing her to see the clinical side of a disability. Nobody demanding her to make a decision that could alter her child’s life forever. For right now all of those things can wait as she relaxes in the waiting room.
Soon enough, it’s her turn and calmly she collects her items, takes her child’s hand and turns to follow the nurse down the hall. I don’t know why they’re here, but as she steps out of the waiting room I see her change. Her peaceful demeanor falls away as they follow the nurse down the hall. Her shoulders are set, her back straight and a strong purpose in her step. The waiting is over. She is ready to face, and if necessary, battle whatever news she is about to hear.
I can’t help but cheer for her and say a silent prayer. I know what it is to look in the face of a giant and having to decide what to do about it.
One more glance across the waiting room and then my own child’s name is called. As I stand to acknowledge the nurse I too set my shoulders and with purpose prepare for whatever battle is coming. The wait is over.