Small Gifts

20 Dec

by Andrea Kelton

(I heard a story on NPR’s “This American Life” where a mom taught her daughter “never talk about your health.”  The mom stressed that “nobody wants to hear about your health.  It’s boring!”  Which might be true.  But what do you talk about when so much of your life is spent at the doctor?  Here’s a story I just wrote for my weekly memoir writing classI hope you don’t get bored. )
Small Gifts
The computer system at my eye doctor’s office was down, but the staff made the best of it.  I only waited 15 minutes before the tech called my name.  I followed him to the first room.  He told me that the computers were down.  Then he checked my acuity and eye pressure.  On to the next waiting room.
15 minutes later Dr. Ruderman called my name.  He led me to the examining room.
“Our computers are down,” he explained.  “So I need you to refresh my memory.  In 30 seconds, tell me your eye history.”
“Ok, umm…I was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974…had cataract surgery…”
“What year?” he interrupted.
“Uh…2003.”
“Both eyes?” he asked.
“Yes.  6 months apart.  Oh, and then the tube shunt you put in my right eye last June.”
“Ok.  Let’s take a look.” I heard him rolling my way as I positioned my chin and forehead on the metal rest bars.
Then he made extensive notes.  Finally he said, “You’re pressure’s good.  There are no active cells.  Continue all the drops and I’ll see you in 3 months.  You’re doing okay.”
“Okay?” I thought.  “The tech had told me my pressure was especially good—11 in my right eye 16 in the left!  And no inflammation.  I know eye dodctors don’t emote much, but…’Okay’?  Just ‘okay’?  !!
So I said, “How about we say I’m doing fabulous?”
He looked at me a moment and then asked, “Are you still working?”
“Yes.” I told him.
“And what do you do again?”
“Teach adults to read.”
Handing me my paperwork he patted my shoulder and said, “OK.  You’re doing fabulous.”
“YES!”  I thought.  “I am.”  (I may have prodded the flamboyant out of him, but it still felt darn good to hear!)
I’ve been teaching Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago since 2005.  The day after my doctor’s appointment, the subject was math. Most of my adult learners are working on reducing fractions.  But Willie’s just starting square roots.  (Willie’s been in my class –off and on- since 2005.)  After I introduced the lesson, Willie worked independently on square root word problems.  A little while later, Willie paused from his work and motioned me over to his table.
“You know what?” he said.  “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually having fun.”
Tears flooded my eyes.  I thought my heart might burst.  “Oh, Willie,” I told him, “that’s the best thing a teacher could ever hear.
“Thank you so, so much!”  I whispered.  “You’ve just made all my years teaching worth it.”
You know, when I was younger, I thought happiness came in big glitzy boxes.  Over the years I’ve learned that it’s really the small gifts that bless my days and bring me joy.
May your 2014 be filled with small gifts that bless your days and bring you joy!
And from Vision Through Words, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season & Happy & Healthy New Year!
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One Response to “Small Gifts”

  1. Marcia Knudson January 10, 2014 at 9:25 AM #

    That’s beautiful Andrea! Yes, indeed, it’s the small things, the small connections that make all we do with others worth it. I need to remind myself of this every day. And, YES, you are doing fabulous!!

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