I was sitting in the doctor’s office this morning waiting , as usual, and filling out paperwork, when an elderly couple came in. She was a tiny, sprite of a woman, who moved with quick, birdlike starts and stops as she urged her husband across the floor to the sign in desk. He was a tall, heavy set man, with a manual laborer’s hands, and pure white hair that contrasted beautifully with his dark mahogany skin.
She was talking as fast as she could, and just kept on talking as the receptionist asked the man questions. He was, I understood, the patient. She was, however, his designated speaker. She answered every question, told him where to sit, told the receptionist that she didn’t want to wait long, and to hurry up the nurse and doctor so they could go have lunch. She fussed and fiddled until the elderly man reached up and took her elbow. And just like that, she stopped talking and sat down next to him.
While he filled out paperwork, she started telling him what to write down, he just kept on doing what he was doing, as if he didn’t hear a word she said. Soon she was carrying on a conversation with the woman next to her, and they set about solving the problems of the world. Well, she did, the other woman’s end of the conversation was pretty much, “mmhum” and “I hear ya on that one Sister.”
When the man got up to return his paperwork, he reached over and patted the old woman’s shoulder. She stopped spouting words, and sat still in her chair. When he got back and settled, she started talking again, and he reached over and patted her knee. He noticed the other woman and I exchanging a “can you believe that” look, he grinned at me and winked. Leaning toward me, he said, “It’s the signal we came up with years ago when she was talking too much or too loud. She can’t hear a thing, deaf as a post, but she surely does like to talk anyway. She reads lips real well, so you’d never know she can’t hear a word you say.”
I asked him how long they had been married. “Almost 60 years, now. And she is still the most beautiful woman I ever seen.” Then he turned and patted her arm, as she was talking a mile a minute to the woman next to her. He pointed at the door where the nurse had just called his name. The woman got up and started fussing and hurrying him along as if he were a toddler. He winked at me again. “Don’t tell her I said that though, cause I will never hear the end of it.”
When I left the doctor’s office, they were getting in their car. She was fussing and fretting as usual. I wondered if she was a backseat driver, or if she just prattled on until he reached over a patted her to remind her to let other’s get a word in edgewise.