It was 11 a.m. by the time Sandy got out of bed. Her body ached from being prostrate too long. She stood up and steadied herself as the blood returned to her legs. Taking small steps, she walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Her eyes and cheeks were puffy and her mouth drooped in a frown. She looked tired, sad, old—much older than her 28 years. She glanced away, turned on the faucet and splashed water on her face. It was cool and refreshing and awakened her.
She grabbed a brush from the counter and started combing through her tangled hair. The first several strokes were painful, like the hair was being pulled from her scalp. She worked at it slowly, brushing out each snarl until the brush flowed freely through her long, auburn locks. The rhythmic motion of the brush through her hair was pleasurable, comforting, and she stroked her hair until it was smooth and shiny.
She walked to her closet and stood there for several minutes staring at her wardrobe trying to decide what to wear. The large walk-in closet was filled with racks of nice clothing but nothing looked right. She thought about going back to bed but resisted the urge. Finally, she pulled a pair of tan slacks off a hanger and slipped into them, struggling to button them around her fleshy waistline. Next, she put on a white blouse and slowly matched each button with its hole.
She walked downstairs and made her way to the kitchen. The house was silent. She stood in front of the sink and stared out the window, the bright summer sun hurting her eyes. She closed her eyes and could feel the warm sun penetrate her face through the window. It felt good.
She heard the turn of the back door knob, the creak of hinges, the closing of the door and then footsteps echoing down the hall. She turned and looked at her husband, John, who had just finished mowing the lawn, his usual Saturday morning chore. His face was dusty and his clothes smelled of gasoline and fresh cut grass. Seeing her standing in the kitchen startled him and he stared at her wide-eyed for a moment before greeting her.
“Hi,” he finally said.
He wanted to run to her and hug her, or at least put his hand gently on her shoulder, but he thought it best not to do that.
“I just came in for something to eat. Would you like me to make you a sandwich as well?”
She wasn’t hungry but knew she should eat. “Sure.”
He smiled at her and busily went about the task of making them lunch, overjoyed that she was there to eat with him.
The next Monday John was sitting on a picnic bench outside his office building during his lunch hour. His sandwich, chips and drink were spread out before him. Just as he was taking the first bite of his ham sandwich another man approached him.
“Hello, John. Can I join you?”
John finished chewing, swallowed hard and said, “Of course. Hello, Jack.”
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
“It is, indeed,” said John, smiling.
Jack sat opposite of him and retrieved a sandwich and other items from a brown paper bag. He had wanted to talk to John all morning but never got the chance. They were colleagues, and friends, and he noticed that John looked really good that day, much better than he’d seen him in quite some time. It was such a noticeable difference that he couldn’t help but comment on it.
“John, you look good today. How are you doing?”
“I’m good,” he said. Jack looked at him and remained silent, hoping he would offer more, which he did.
“We had a good weekend, a really good weekend.”
“You and Sandy?”
“Yes, she finally got out of bed on Saturday.”
Jack paused as he contemplated the news. “That’s wonderful. I assume she’s feeling better then?”
John looked at him with hopeful eyes. “I think she is.”
“How long has it been?”
“Nearly eight weeks.”
Jack was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe it had been that long. “Incredible. She was in bed for almost two months?”
John nodded his head, and each took a bite of their sandwich and a drink.
“Do you think she needs counseling?” asked Jack.
“I don’t know. I’m just taking this one day at a time.”
Jack looked at John and wondered what he would have done if he were in his shoes. Would he have stayed by his wife’s side that entire time, bringing meals to her bed and not expecting her to get up, go to work, or even do housework? “Does the doctor think you can try again?”
John allowed the question, although if it had been asked by others at his office he would have been offended.
“He said there’s no reason we can’t, but I don’t know. It’s too early to think about that. It took us so long to get pregnant, and then to lose the baby while she was so far along was devastating.”
“I know,” said Jack. “I know this has been difficult for the both of you.”
Each ate in relative silence until they finished their meals.
“Well, I’m glad to hear Sandy is up and around,” Jack finally said. “It couldn’t be healthy for her to stay in bed that long.”
That comment annoyed John, even though he knew his friend was well-meaning. He looked him in the eye and said, “Why not, Jack? Why isn’t it healthy to stay in bed that long after such a traumatic ordeal?”
Jack was speechless and felt terrible he’d offended him. Before he could offer an apology, John continued. “Maybe that is exactly what she needed. Maybe it was the best thing for her.”
Jack looked at him and was amazed at the depth of his compassion. He considered the thought and nodded his head in agreement. “Maybe it was,” he said. “I think you’re right, John. Maybe it was.”