Orange flowers hang from tree branches

Gratitude for tenderness

Gratitude 30/40

An old television playing 1950’s Christmas carols welcomes me to the CT scan waiting area. The door to the scan room is wide and the steel door jamb looks like it belonged to a bank safe. The yellow “Caution Radiation” sign has me feel a bit uneasy.

When the door swings open, a platinum blonde woman waves me in. She wears dark blue scrubs with penguins dressed in winter attire, skiing all over her body. On her headband are four oval-shaped light bulbs glowing red, blue, green and yellow. If her attire isn’t enough to disarm me, her language is. She says a sincere, “Welcome honey.”

I can tell I feel more relaxed (or is it relieved) than my previous CT scan because this time I notice that the tree in the sky-blue ceiling tiles is the same as my neighbor Ed’s tree. The picture was taken in early spring after the leaves unfurled and before the blossoms wilt.

This time I go feet first into the donut-shaped machine. Once the scan starts, the blonde woman’s voice reaches me through speakers. “Lie perfectly still and don’t swallow,” she says. And goodness knows, in that moment a tiny bird lays a warm hard-boiled egg at back of my throat, pressing onto my vocal cords. All I want to do is to swallow it away. So I wiggle my toes. I hold the urge in loving care. I think of kittens. But nothing works. In a quiet machine moment, I succumb and swallow.

When she helps me up after the scan, I say, “I’m sorry, but I swallowed.”

“You did good sweetheart,” she says. “Don’t worry about it.”

When the heavy door closes behind me, a grey-haired gentleman stands under the TV fiddling in with his faded hospital gown. Our eyes meet and he says, “These are so hard to close.”

“Would you be okay if I close this for you?” I ask. He nods and turns around. His back is bare and his skin, sprinkled with sunspots and freckles, feels strangely close. I take the cotton laces between my fingers and turn them into bows.

There is a tenderness we can experience in vulnerable moments and I feel lucky to be in its flow.