February 17, 2021
It was just a moment. Just a brief encounter in a medical center parking lot. But it moved me deeply.
Last Friday, I went to the medical center in St. Cloud to get my second dose of the Moderna COVID 19 vaccine. I had made my vaccine reservations a month earlier, before we even knew that the Publix store on Osceola Polk Line Road, just a few blocks away, would eventually become a vaccine site.
Several things inside makeshift vaccine clinic should have annoyed me. There were no clear directions from anyone on where to go next. One of the helpers was coughing constantly. I wondered if her mask was sufficient to contain any virus germs. Another helper, closer to me, wanted to chat. Each time she spoke, she pulled her mask down from her face to speak. I was concerned, but I didn’t let the situation get me out of sorts. I tried to focus on being grateful to get the shot, and to remember that this has been a tough time for all of us. My getting upset wouldn’t help anything. It would only make things worse. Soon I was grateful for that serenity.
When my fifteen minutes was over, and I was cleared to leave the clinic, I headed for my car. When I got closer to the car I saw there was an elderly man, no mask, standing next to my car looking lost. I could also see there was someone, a woman, trying to get out of the driver's seat of their car. I waved at the man and stood patiently. The man waved back, but still looked lost.
After a couple of minutes, the woman finally got out of the driver's side and slowly hobbled to where the man was. They both looked to be at least 85 or 90 years old. She patted the man on his shoulder and told him she was there. Then she saw me, waiting a few feet away.
She asked if they were in my way. I assured her I was in no hurry and to take her time. I couldn't see her mouth, because her mask, but I could see in her eyes she was tired and concerned. She nodded in my direction, then turned back to the man. She took him by the hand and pulled a mask out of her pocket. She made sure he was looking in her eyes and said "I'm putting this mask on you. You have to keep it on. Do you understand? You have to keep this mask on." He just looked at her, not moving.
Once she had his mask on, they slowly walked away from my car, her hand on his elbow, toward the clinic entrance. I told them to have a good day and waved at them. The man stopped and waved back. The woman gently pulled at his arm and said "Come along, dear. Let's keep walking." With one more little tug on his arm, she was able to get him moving again.
My eyes welled up with tears as I got in my car and watched them slowly walk into the clinic. As I took the long drive back to Touristburbia, I thought about love and patience and gratitude and serenity. And growing older.