Thursday, September 25, 2014



Certain recollected images from our yesteryears remain so vividly clear, so vibrantly alive that, even six decades later, they retain their original emotional impact, and can briefly enhance, enrich the present as much as they did the past. Yesterday continues to shape today, as surely as today shapes tomorrow, as surely as our anticipations about tomorrow shape today. At any one moment, we were, we are, we will So, I worked once as an orderly in a Catholic hospital wherein most of the nurses were nuns, servants of suffering humanity in black and white, habit and wimple. For reasons that will eventually be explored in future blog posts, I have never been comfortable with the costumes and trappings of "organized" religion; so, I was often ill at ease, but my determination to be good at what I was doing overcame the aversions and contempts that plagued my soul at the time, and I gradually came to respect the dcedication and hard work of those "brides of Christ." I rarely talked with any of them, except to discuss particular patients' problems. Perhaps my prejudices worked more powerfully and subtly than I thought, but it seemed to me that most of them were essentially unattractive--grayish, wrinkled, watery-eyed, thin-and-tight-lipped, with lots of facial hair and unpleasant voices. There was, however, one unforgettable exception. Sister Mary Teresa was, as they say, "something else": flawless pink skin, bright clear blue eyes (one bewitchingly darker than the other), teasing dimples, and invitingly full lips (how often the thought went through my mind, "What a waste with no one enjoying them" -- supposedly). As for the rest of her flesh, my imagination worked overtime on that. Somehow we began exchanging a few words when we were working in the same room, trivia about the weather, local news, the war, hospital changes ... We occasionally brushed against each other, but I don't think our hands ever touched, although once in a while we stubbed each other's feet when treating the same patient. I grew so relaxed with her that one day I asked her if she ever wore anything besides her habit. I regretted that lapse immediately. "You mean the penguin outfit?" She said it with a smile, but I sensed a bitter edge to her voice. I felt mightily embarrassed. She was promoted to Head Nurse the next day, so I rarely saw her after that. She did stop me in the hall once to tell me that she was going to return to convent life, to contemplate. On my last day there, before I returned to college, I was told she wanted to see me in her office. When I opened the door, I think I gasped. She said, "Stephen, I just wanted to tell you how much we appreciate what you have done here. I thank you." I could barely mumble a reply (and I forget what it was ). Her phone rang, and she signalled farewell with a wave of a lovely bare arm. Hand on the knob, I looked back, still a bit benumbed, to have etched in my brain (and heart) for ever, the image of Sister Mary Teresa with shoulder-length reddish hair, wearing a bright yellow dress!

No comments:

Post a Comment