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“Well, it’s official, Liz,” the hospice nurse said, her smiling dark eyes peering over her mask. I sensed good news coming as she unzipped her sleeveless quilted vest and sat opposite the Valentine bouquet on my dining room table. “Medicare has re-certified you until mid-April. Another will follow, but unlike before, there will be no hesitation—you’re finally beginning to look like a hospice patient, both in our records and in your person.”

She was right. Despite eating regularly, my weight continues to drop due to poor metabolism sloughing off the nutrients. Other than smaller pants my sister bought me last November, I’m loathe to replenish what’s hanging in my closet. My belt buckle holds everything together and keeps me presentable. Bulky sweaters of many colors cover a lot. Rather than pitch an old pair of blonde corduroys, this morning, my helper patched the hole in the seat; such still keeps February’s nip at bay.

Besides, my new slimness is quite the fashion, from what I observe online.

When I reflect upon my clothes history, a close look at trends had directed my choices and expended money, better used for other things, especially charities that I traipsed by. Only in later years, the ugliness of department store clothing drove me to significant finds at Goodwill or the Scholarshop.

Aside from this trivia about clothing, a time will come when I step outside of time and have no need of clothing. For the present, though, it’s about preparing my wedding garment, one day at a time. This, I cannot do alone.

It is Monday morning. Outside my study window the Elgin street cleaner hovers over the clean street and cleaves the brooding silence with its low roar.

Yet another day has passed since Christmas, whatever that was: a mélange of the absence of God, of loneliness, the routine of ADLs, frigid winds of angst, tasteless food of my diet, expectations for consolation that never happened. My psyche felt like ashen chips of worn out fillers. Finally, it was time for my nightly “cocktail,” the oblivion of sleep, and relief Christmas was over. I did the best I could.

Then, a cheerful voice tore asunder my mood.

Earlier, I’d left a voicemail for my handyman who had been servicing my appliances for years. When he had first knocked on my door, he reminded me of Santa Claus with his white beard flowing over his belly, gold-colored spectacles, his bright orange suspenders, the rolled-up sleeves of his blue shirt, and black boots. Prompt, knowledgeable, personable with a quiet manner, his service was impeccable, even innovative. He’d been helping other customers for over forty years.

“Yeah, that’s right,” he said, “I’ve finally retired.” This I had known from calling his other number and learning of his replacement. The cheerfulness in his voice warmed me.

Santa did come—just a few days late!

It is late morning in the chilly waiting room. Most of the navy leaf-patterned armchairs lining the walls are empty of other patients. On the couch next to me slouch three millennials, in Gothic attire, studying their cells, and occasionally rolling their eyes and giggling at each other. Across from me, a woman with graying cropped hair wipes her bifocals, then delves into her romance novel; next to her, her husband drums blunt fingers upon the armrest. Another heavyset man, wearing continuous oxygen and a pulse oximeter around neck, stands in line at the check-in desk, a tank of portable oxygen by his side. Tedium weights down us like a sooty tarp.

After I settle my purse on my lap and button my cardigan, I hug my sleeves while admiring the over-sized autumnal prints, taken at the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area, which line the walls. Suddenly, a strange chill wells up from somewhere. I shiver, thinking it inconceivable that an engineer would turn up the A/C.

“Mary Moloney.” I hear my name and rise from my armchair. A plump respiratory therapist, poured into black sweater and tights, blanches watching my first steps toward the opened doorway. I am dripping. I look down. A wet circle, the outline of my bag, imprints my jeans. The tawny-maned therapist only relaxes after learning the source of the wetness: the loose cap on my bottled water, not a weak bladder. But my wetness does not deter her from administering the prescribed tests.

Still damp, I pace the corridor as I wait for the pulmonologist’s evaluation. By this time, the stain on my jeans is not as glaring as earlier, but a synchronicity is about to occur. A resourceful nurse happens by, learns of my mishap, and plugs in a space heater in the exam room for my use. In twenty minutes, I am dry.

I give thanks … with full heart …



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