Bill in the Waiting Room

visual image of hospital waiting room

He sits by himself in the hospital waiting room.

“Where you from?” he asks, as if welcoming the stranger who’s come to hid home for a stress test.


Where?” he asks over the whine from his hearing aids.

I’m not anxious to strike up a conversation. I’m here for a stress test. I’m an introvert. Chatting with strangers when I’m gathering myself when I’m under stress, waiting for a stress test, is the last thing I want.

C h a s k a!” I repeat.

“Oh! I’m from Waconia! I’m Bill.”

He gives a broad smile as though we’re related. (Waconia and Chaska are neighbors in Carver County, MN.)

His gowned wife, fresh off the treadmill, returns from her stress test.

“This is my wife, Jane. She’s a lot younger than I am. I’m 96.”

“Ninety-four,” says the younger wife. “We’ve been together 15 years.”

“Chaska’s the county seat,” says Bill. “That’s where i was sworn in.” (Clearly, he’s an extrovert. He feels better when he has guests.)

“World War II?”

“February 6, 1942. Eighty of us. A lot of guys from Chaska.”

“Where’d you serve?”

“He was part of D-Day,” answers Jane. Bill’s head sinks toward his lap. His chin begins to quiver. A long pause follows.

D-Day, WWII.

Only 15 of us came back.”

“Were you injured?”

“No,” he says, forming his hands in prayer and looking up. “I don’t know why.” He falls again into silence.

Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minnesota

Bill’s body is with us, but he’s not here. He’s back at Normandy Beach on D-Day.

“That’s a lot of death,” I say. “A lot of killing. A lot of loss.”

He looks up, nods, and drops his head again.

Post-traumatic Stress,” I say quietly to Jane. “I’m a pastor. I’ve seen it so many times with Vietnam War and Iraq War veterans.”

“I think so,” she says. “He still can’t talk about it after all these years.”

The technician calls my name. “Mr. Stewart?”

As I stand to leave the stress test waiting room, Bill reaches up to say good-bye with a firm handshake and friendly smile for the whippersnapper from Chaska.

Robert Davis of Clarkston has an outpatient stress test run by exercise physiologist’s Richard Andrevzzi and Donna McCollom in the Royal Oak hospital.

I leave the waiting room and get on the treadmill, reminded that there is stress and there is stress, knowing that mine bears no comparison to Bill’s and thankful for a few moments with 94 year-old who has every reason to think he’s 96.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 27, 2017.

14 thoughts on “Bill in the Waiting Room

  1. Gordon, we’re moving slowly htalk with you about ere but I’ve asked the leader of our group the Searchers to put your coming to the group when you’re in Chicago in October. If we can swing it, would you be interested in being the preacher for the day? Without telling you much other than we would like to you about Be Still. If you were to do that what would be the honorarium? If you were to preach, the church has a set fee but I don’t know what it is. Hope we can have a conversation sometime after the 16th of July. I’d appreciate it if you would send me your email address. Be well! Don

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Every time I comment after BJ, my inclination is to say “What she said.” And yes, as Nancy said, you did good.
    It is a little what? — odd? — difficult? to think of the outgoing, friendly high school student campaigning for, and winning the position of President of the Senior Class as an introvert. Were you also Prez in other years? I forget.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Carolyn, difficult and odd I am! But, according to the MBTI Personality Type Inventory, I am an Introvert! But only slightly more than I’m an Extrovert, which is difficult and odd in itself, isn’t it? I’ve gotten “odder” as the years roll by and the hearing loss has driven me deeper into solitude.

      The class presidency thing happened because of Maria Storzbach and some of the rest of you in the more advanced academic track nominating me for junior class president. I remember what happened when someone told me about the nomination. It was the beginning of a biology class. My response: “Oh, right!!!” I was sure it was a joke, and it was, but of a different sort, like so many other things in life. Thanks for remembering and for the lovely comment on the time with Bill in the waiting room.


  3. What a beautiful and painful encounter. I come up,with so many “whys” from this, and mostly I think there are no satisfactory answers.


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