I’d worked at the clinic for years, and with any number of other staffers. I had trained most of them, and hadn’t found a single one with whom I could not get along.
But that was before Lee. I didn’t understand why my boss hired her, and she seemed inept at best. Despite her best intentions, she tried my patience.
She was tall and statuesque; pretty and sweet. She had a mild stutter, and something of a lisp, as well. She was mother to a small boy named Jared, and doted on him unmercifully. She was a Navy wife, but seemed to keep to herself. She didn’t speak of having any friends.
I began to dread going to work, as she shadowed me, every day, and the questions she asked seemed inane and foolish. I know, there’s no such thing as a stupid question… but hers sure seemed that way, despite my belief.
She questioned every move I made, and every one she made. After weeks of answering what seemed to be endless questions, and listening, during the lulls in activity, to her chatter on about her son, Jared, I dreaded just the idea of work. I’d always loved my job, and as I had moved up and taken on more and more responsibility, I should have loved it more.
I resented Lee, for making me hate my job. And I didn’t see how I could continue that job, with the resentment I felt. As I got into bed at night, I would pray that when I went to work the next day, she would have quit without notice, or at least, that the stupid questions and chatter would cease.
But the prayers went unanswered. Lee continued to annoy and frustrate me more, instead of less. I knew I would have to quit my job. I bit my tongue, around her and hoped that I would make it through each day, without blowing up at her.
One day, when the patient load was slow, I was busy in Radiography, using the x-ray table to cut drapes for surgical packs. Lee wandered back, to see what I was doing and ask whether she could be of any help.
“No!” I said sharply. “I’d rather do this alone, if you don’t mind.”
Her face fell, but she must have expected the response she got, because I watched her draw a deep breath. Just as sweetly as always, she said softly, “I’m sorry… to bother you. I just… I just thought that m-maybe I could learn… how you do that, so that if, if, if you had to take time off, some, someone else would know, know how.”
“Never mind that.” I said. “I always make sure there are plenty of drapes cut so no one will ever have to worry about doing that unless I drop dead.”
“I, I, I… hope that… doesn’t happen.” She replied, as she turned away, looking forlorn and dejected.
I knew I could have handled it better. I didn’t have to be so mean. Still, I didn’t feel I’d said anything out of line, and I hoped that I’d made an impact. Perhaps she would leave me alone, instead of shadowing me as she had been.
I heard the bell ring, signifying that someone had come in, and I heard what seemed to be a dog, coughing. I knew that Lee could handle checking in a patient, so I stayed where I was.
It was only about five minutes later, that my boss came back. “Clear the table.” He told me. There was a patient in need of radiographs.
I cleared the table and turned on the processor, then got my lead apron and badge, as my boss came back with the Border Collie patient in his arms. I held the dog while he suited up, and together, we shot two x-rays. He returned to the front while I shut the door and blocked the light under the door, preparing to develop the films.
After I had put the films in the developer, I sat in darkness for the required developing time. There was a light available, but I’d always been adept at working in the dark, and preferred the quiet darkness for the few moments of peace it offered. I sat on the x-ray table and waited for the timer to ring.
And I thought about Lee. I’d been praying for her to become less worrisome, for weeks, but God just didn’t seem to be answering my prayers. I didn’t understand the point of her questions, her imposing herself on me… and I really did not want to quit my job, but didn’t see how I could go on as I had been. There, in the dark, alone with my peace, quiet and prayers, I lifted my face toward the ceiling and spoke in a softened whisper.
“Please, please… give me whatever it takes to be able to tolerate Lee. Give me patience.”
All too soon, the timer rang, and I opened the door, letting in the light once again.
My boss read the x-rays, and diagnosed the Border Collie. Within minutes, the client had left the office, medication in hand. We had three more hours left, with no scheduled appointments.
I stood in the front office, looking at the schedule.
“Well,” I said, “It looks like I’ll be able to cut a bunch more drapes this afternoon.” I turned and headed down the hallway toward radiography, again. Then I stopped, looked behind me, and without a thought, returned, sticking my head around the corner to where Lee was sitting at the reception desk. “Come on back; I’ll show you how I do it. You’re right… someone else should know.”
Lee looked up at me and a smile crossed her lips. “Okay, then!”
I didn’t know what had come over me, but I smiled back. We made our way to the back, and spent the next hour together. By the time the phone rang again, Lee was a master at cutting and folding drapes, and I had invited her and her family to a cookout that weekend.
Lee and I became great friends. I babysat for Jared, on occasion, so that she and her husband could have a “date night.” By the time she left the clinic, a few months later, her husband having been transferred to another station, I hugged her and cried. I missed her, on the job, until the day I left it as well, years later.
I tried, for a while, to tell myself that it was something about her which had changed. It wasn’t, though. It was me. I had admitted aloud, that I was lacking in tolerance and patience. I had asked for help, not to change her, but to change myself.
I still miss my friend. I lost touch with her, years ago. At the time, she was pregnant, and not long after, she delivered a little girl. I never saw her baby, and I never saw or heard from her again, because I lost her number.
I keep a picture of Jared in my wallet, to remind me of Lee and the lesson she inadvertently taught me, about patience. More than likely, he’s a grown-up now.
And so am I, thanks to his Mom.