November 13, 2020
It was a quiet Saturday morning, and I was sound asleep when Steve gently tapped me on the shoulder. “It’s over”. That’s all he said. That’s all he needed to say. He sat on the bed as we hugged one another, so relieved that we no longer had to wait.
Waiting. It’s part of life. Waiting begins when we are infants: We cry and wait for a parent to lift us out of the crib or give us a breast or a bottle. Then later, we wait in line to go out to the playground at school. We wait for the bathroom. We wait for school to be over. We wait for the bus. We wait for our turn to get on the slide or our turn at tetherball, and we wait for lunch. Many of times we find that it has been “worth the wait”.
Waiting promotes the development of patience and it is how we learn that we have little to no control over many things in our lives. And we learn that good things often occur if we only wait long enough.
I once waited for over an hour in the rain to be picked up by my father from piano lessons. (He had forgotten to pick me up).
I’ve waited for report cards and grades, and, in 2000 I waited for two painful months to find out if I had passed the National Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology Exam. (I passed)
I stood in line at Disneyland for one hour on a hot July afternoon when I was 9 years old, waiting to ride the Matterhorn. By the time I finally made it to the front of the line I had to pee, and it was quite the uncomfortable ride.
I waited, in active labor, for 23 hours for the birth of my first child. My dear Jonathan was more than worth the wait!
I have waited in multiple doctor’s offices with sick babies, and twisted ankles, and two weeks ago I sat in the dentist chair waiting for my mouth to get numb enough for the dentist to pull a tooth.
I waited two years ago for breast biopsy results, all the while making plans: What will I do if the results are positive? What will I do if I am told I have only a few months to live? ( I decided to drive down to the Mexican border and protest the caging of immigrants if I was told I was going to die within a few months). But the results were negative.
I waited in Wasilla Alaska at a gas station for 12 hours in 1973 while the mechanic tried to repair my fiancé’s old pickup truck. I had flown to see him a few months before our wedding, but he became ill one day after my arrival. I loaded him into his pickup in Willow Alaska where he worked at a facility for Juvenile Delinquents and raced to the hospital forty miles away where he was hooked up to IV’s and placed in isolation. On my return trip to his home, the engine in the pickup died in the middle of nowhere and I was thankful that the mechanic, who picked me up from the side of the road, was a kind gentle soul who, I’m sure, felt sorry for this 20-year-old girl stranded alone in the wilds of the north. After I returned home to Oregon, I had to wait two more months for my wedding day.
I waited alone in 1990, sitting next to my father’s bed in ICU, knowing that his kidneys had shut down and that it was just a matter of time before he would breathe his last breath. He had suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm earlier that day. I sang songs, I whispered my love to him, and waited as I watched his heart monitor flat line. I was alone, and I waited for my husband, who had just stepped out for a few minutes, to return.
I waited deep into a warm summer night in Yamhill in 1995, pacing the floor, the porch, the lawn, worried. My 16-year-old daughter had not come home, and I had no idea where she was. I could hear sirens in the distance and prayed that she was safe. At first I had been angry when she didn’t return home, but the anger soon turned into panic, terror, and limp helplessness. When she came home at 3:00 in the morning, I was too relieved to be angry, but wept tears of joy that she was safe. The anger would come again the next morning.
I sat waiting with my brother next to Mother’s bed in 2003, and several times we thought she had breathed her last breath. But then she would heave a big sigh and begin regular respirations again. As an old hospice nurse, I knew that there was a word for her breathing pattern: “Cheyne Stokes Breathing”. I had sat with many dying patients and knew that she may last many more days like this. Thankfully, her respirations eventually ceased after seemingly endless hours of waiting for the inevitable. I was mostly relieved at the time and would only be able to mourn several months later, after we sorted through her belongings and sold her house.
We plant annuals every spring, and it’s fun to wait for the plants to grow into colorful flowers and bushes. It’s always worth the wait.
These days I stand in line as I wait at the grocery check-out (but I only shop where there is careful social distancing and strict adherence to wearing masks.)
I wait at the drive-through to get take-out food and lattes.
I wait at the computer for my Telehealth clients to connect for their psychotherapy sessions and hope that they don’t have any problems logging into the system.
I wait at the gas station for the attendant because in Oregon it’s against the law to fill your own tank with gas.
Four years ago, I was quite nervous as I waited to hear the presidential election results. The polls had all been favorable but I was worried. My son texted me at midnight: “MOM!”. I checked the news app on my phone, and I was devastated, not because my candidate hadn’t won, but because a man with no morals or the capacity for empathy, had won. Even worse, his victory meant that almost half of the nation chose to vote for a misogynistic sexual predator with no moral compass. Three days later I began taking anxiety medication. The world I thought I knew had crumbled, and I became afraid of strangers and the people I thought I knew – friends and family with whom I had previously thought I shared similar morals and values.
Over the ensuing years, relationships with old friends and family members would disintegrate due to political differences, and as time wore on it soon became apparent that the “checks and balances” of the government were not enough to protect our democracy from this narcissist who receives his advice from conservative news pundits. I became increasingly afraid, not for myself, but for the underserved, those who have no voice, the disenfranchised, and for my grandchildren who will have to live with the long range effects of the divisiveness and destruction brought about by this administration.
So, I once again I waited. My husband waited. Again. For four years we waited, and over time we found new friends who shared our passion for justice. We became active in local politics, put political signs in the front yard (one was stolen but we just put two more in its place) and flew my dad’s American Flag every day to display our allegiance to our country. Steve began wearing his Army cap everywhere.
By September, the polls looked hopeful, but last time they failed us, so we were wary about getting our hopes up. We all knew that the votes would not be completely counted by election night but we had hoped for some inkling of positive news by Wednesday. The entire nation waited.
As the week wore on, voters on both sides became impatient. Of course, accusations of voter fraud abounded, and the media twisted the knife of uncertainty into our hearts. We were told that the voting process would be legally challenged and that the occupant of the White House would refuse to go down without a fight. We tried to concentrate on our everyday lives, but it was difficult.
And then Saturday morning, my dear husband delivered the news I had been waiting to hear for four years.
But it’s not really over, not until inauguration day and not until decency, compassion, and wisdom once again drive the priorities of our country. But we can’t expect the magic of a new administration to turn everything around. Positive change will require a group effort and we all must focus on reclaiming the soul of our country. We must strive for healing, peace, and justice. It will take time. But for now, the waiting is over.
And it’s our turn.