Her Name Might Have Been Nancy

This is the story of some time I spent in the hospital with my family, where I met a woman who might have been named Nancy and how she helped me steal a washcloth.

Her Name Might Have Been Nancy

This is the story of some time I spent in the hospital with my family, where I met a woman who might have been named Nancy and how she helped me steal a washcloth.

Last August, my dad got in an accident. It was one of those change-your-entire-life-in-the-span-of-two-seconds accidents. He was trying to fix my car, and he had it up on a jack on our gravel driveway. He was underneath. The jack slipped, and my car went along with it. My dad was hit in the face, and the car crushed all the bones in his face. He was rushed to the hospital.

I arrived a while later. So many people came to sit in the waiting room with us. We laughed and cried. We rested in the fact that we could do nothing. We could only wait and see what happened. It was like the eye of a hurricane. We had been through some of the storm, and there was this tiny moment of peace before the other side hit.

My mom came out some time later. Time is a blurry concept surrounding disasters. She told me and my brother we were going to come walk him to surgery. I don't do well with blood, so I almost didn't go. It was selfish thinking, so at the last second I forced my feet to move and went with her down a long, cold hallway.

We met him a minute or two later. I thought we had the wrong person. He wasn't recognizable. I don't think details are needed here. Just the simple fact that he looked like someone else in that moment, and I was scared. We were all scared.

I reached for his hand. It was covered in black grease from my car, and one of his fingers had a bandage around it.

"Can they wash his hands?" I asked.

There were definitely more important things to do than wash his hands, but shock is a funny thing. It's not rational. It's full of baby steps and blindness. I just wanted them to wash his hands. They said no, understandably.

We walked down more hallways and passed many doctors and nurses who stopped what they were doing to look at my dad. I just held his hand. I cried too. I don't think anyone else was crying, so I tried to act like I wasn't.

We finally stopped in a room and they put my dad's rolling bed against the wall while a nurse tried to have him answer questions. She said he had to say that he understood the surgery and give consent before they would operate. It was appalling. He could barely stay awake, much less understand the surgery they were going to attempt. I was so angry. I was so scared. I was so confused. And suddenly, I felt so sick.

I think I tried to give an excuse. I mumbled and ran into the hallway. I wasn't even sure they'd let me back in the room. I sobbed. I remember telling myself everything was fine, as if somehow the person in that room right there just needed a couple stitches. But right below the surface, every part of me screamed.

And then I met Nancy.

Maybe. I wish I remembered her name for sure. But I remember what she did vividly.

Because Nancy showed me love with no reason to love me.

Because Nancy gave me time even though she had nothing to gain.

Because Nancy committed a little crime to take care of me.

As I stood in that sterile hallway trying to process what was happening, a woman stepped out of the area of the hospital that my dad was in. I could tell she worked at the hospital, but she wasn't a nurse.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, it's fine."

"Is that your dad?"

I nodded.

"I saw him come in."

This shook me. I had not been around when the accident happened, nor had I been at the hospital when he arrived. This woman had seen him come in though. Suddenly, she had this vast knowledge that I didn't, and I needed to see this through anyone's eyes but my own.

"You saw him come in?"

"Yes. He looked really bad."

I scoffed a little. I can't say my heart was in the kindest place at that moment, and the last thing I wanted to hear was how he looked bad.

"But he's strong."

I remember the tears then. All over again. She knew in that short time what I had known all along. And I needed to hear her tell me over and over.

"He's strong. He's fighting so hard, and he's stable. Honey, he's stable. I promise he'll be just fine."

I know people in hospital's aren't supposed to make promises like that. Nancy didn't care though, because Nancy knew. I don't know how, but looking in her eyes, I knew she was right.

Nancy proceeded to explain that she was a social worker. She asked me about my family a little. Before too long, she asked if I was ready to go back in there. Just like she knew my dad would be okay, she knew I couldn't just leave like this. I had to face this.

"Yeah, I think I can go back in."

"I have to go grab something for you real quick," Nancy ran back into the area my dad was in again and came back with a washcloth in her hands.

"Here. It's softer than the hospital tissues."

I never saw Nancy again, but I really hope she knows how much this tiny gesture meant to me. I marched back into that room and faced things I had to face. There was blood and I cried a lot more. My brother held my hand as I stood behind a curtain so I wouldn't have to look.

And I held onto that washcloth for dear life.

I took it back to the waiting room with me.

I used it to wipe my eyes every time I cried for the rest of the night.

And in the early hours of the morning when I went home to sleep, I left it in the waiting room. I didn't know how many washcloths the hospital had, and I wanted to make sure Nancy had plenty to give to the next person. And besides, my dad was going to be okay. I didn't need it anymore.

How does it work?
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Caroline Yarborough

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