J A C K
After working many years in a large metropolitan hospital, with state of the art conveniences, my work as PM charge nurse in a small local convalescent hospital yielded many frustrations. Occasionally we lacked supplies or equipment and sometimes the food was less than desirable. The biggest problem was the lack of qualified help. Still, everyone working there had a genuine love for the patients, and did their best to care for them.
Alice, a tiny, alert elderly lady with bright blue, twinkling eyes was everyone's favorite. Her only living relative was her son Jack, a large, tough man. Tattoos covered his arms and a scraggly beard grew haphazardly on his chin. No matter how cold the weather was, he always wore a tank top shirt so the dragon and snake artwork could be admired by all. He wore faded jeans, so stiff with grime, they could have stood alone. His loud and gruff manner terrified most of the staff.
But this monstrous man loved his tiny mother. Everyday, he roared up to the hospital entrance on his old motorcycle, flung open the front door, and tromped down the hall to her room, his clacking boot heels loudly announcing his arrival. He visited at unpredictable hours so he could surprise anyone he suspected of not taking proper care of his mother. Yet, his gentleness with her amazed me.
I made friends with Jack, figuring I'd rather be a friend with a man like him, than an enemy. And I, like everyone else, truly loved his mother. One particularly bad evening at the hospital, three aides called in sick, the food carts were late and cold, and one of the patients fell and broke his hip. Jack came in at suppertime, as usual, to help his mother with her meal. He stood gawking at me in the nurses' station as I busily tried to do the work of three nurses. Overwhelmed, and near tears, I avoided his stare.
After the patients were finally fed, bathed, and put to bed I sat at the desk and put my head down on my arms for a few moment's relaxation before the night shift arrived. Suddenly, the front door burst open. Startled, I thought, Oh no! Here comes Jack, checking up on us again! As he stomped to the desk, I looked up to see his burly hand gripping a pickle jar with a bit of colored yarn tied in a bow around the neck. And in the jar was the loveliest, long stemmed red rose I'd ever seen. Jack handed it to me and said, "I noticed what a bad time you were having tonight. This is for you, from me and my mother."
With that, he turned around, marched back out the door, and with a roar from his motorcycle, rode out into the darkness.
I've received many gifts and cards from many grateful patients and their families, but never one that touched me more than the red rose in the pickle jar given to me that night so long ago.