May 12, 2021

Melissa went into the hospital to undergo a procedure last week.  As is normal, it involved the typical hurry up and wait.  Arriving just before the weekend we needed to wait until Monday before it could happen.  I was just thankful they had opened the area for visitors.  As little as two months ago none were allowed due to restriction caused by the covid-19 pandemic.  While I understood the need for the precautions, I was also touched by the additional trauma this placed on both the patient and their loved ones.  It is hard enough to wait, but even harder to wait alone.

On Monday, the wait was over, and the doctors were ready to begin.  Melissa was whisked off and I was told where to go to wait.  A friend had already arrived and been shown to a private room to wait.  When I arrived from upstairs, I was directed to the same consultation room.  As we began to wait, she asked if I had ever played Backgammon.  When I mentioned I had never played, she told me she had brought the game if I wanted to play.  As the wait went on, I decided to give it a try.  She had never taught anyone to play but had brought the rule book that came with the board.  I read through the book, asked a few questions, and we began to play.

The game of backgammon is more than 5,000 years old and is one of the world’s oldest games.  The checkers are set up on one of the board’s four quadrants, each with six landing spots.  Each player rolls dice in turn to determine how far to move any of their checkers.  The aim is to get all your checkers past those of the opposing player and then off the board.  If you are first to move all your checkers off the board, you win.  Backgammon is not hard to learn to play, but the strategy and luck of the roll means it never stops posing a different challenge.  Initially, my wait partner was easily winning. Then I was able to roll doubles on multiple turns, allowing me to pull ahead and win by one checker.  Since the game took about 30 minutes to complete, this was a good way to wait. 

Thoughts:  I have been in several situations where I needed to wait on both sides of this process.  While I had to wait as a patient, I have been anxious about the procedure, but once it started my wait was essentially over.  As a loved one the real wait comes as the procedure is being done.  You wait during the procedure, during the recovery, and then as the patient is moved to the ICU.  I have noticed different ways how either I or a wait partner have responded.  Some think it is important to maintain an ongoing conversation to keep each other occupied (distracts me).  Others sit in silence and turn to their own thoughts (isolates me).  Thankfully, my wait partner used a mix of both approaches.  She talked when I wanted to talk and left me to my thoughts when I needed to be left.  This form of communication is a good rule to follow in all situations.  It means you also need to pay attention to the needs of the other.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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