Empathy

two woman hugging each other
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

I remember to wear my turquoise fleece top to my dental appointment. The office is well appointed and lighted but cold. I check myself before I get in the car. Insurance, HSA card, and license are all in there.

The wait is short and I am in my chair before I know it. It is my favorite hygienist A. She is one of those people who seem effortlessly happy. Her lips curve upward naturally giving the impression she is pleasant all the time. She bustles about with the energy of someone who jumped out of bed declaring today will be a good day.

She pulls up my chart and reviews if I need bitewings or any follow-up images before she gets to the business of cleaning. While we wait for the system to warm up and actually tell us, she turns to me, eye to eye and asks if I had a good holiday. Did I have a lot of presents under the tree?

Her eyes are intense brown. She really seems to want to know. It comes spilling out, this thing I have held in for a few weeks now.

“No, not a single present under the tree. It was my birthday too, I add for effect. No card. No balloons. No cake. Nothing.” I say with relief, happy to get it off my chest.

“I even stuck a candle into a fruit cake I had picked up at the store and wished myself a happy birthday,” I say, laughing at the thought now.

She looks horrified.

“That’s not okay. Not okay at all.”

I agree, a little too vehemently. I tell her how I love celebrating birthdays, why I think of all the anniversaries, birthdays are truly unique. She gets it, this girl in front of me. Just when the silence would have become awkward, the images load and we turn to talk about my teeth.

The next half hour is largely one-sided. She talking and working. Me lying with my mouth open and feeling very vulnerable.

Just when I think we are done, she turns the lights off. “I have a birthday gift for you,” she says. I turn, half expecting a cake with candles. Instead what I see is a bright violet UV scope.

It is the annual oral cancer screening. The one I refuse every visit because insurance does not cover it. I have standing instructions on my file to never perform any service that is out of pocket without expressly consulting with me. It is our inside joke.

“it’s your birthday present.” She says.

I am overcome. She shines the light into my mouth. She checks my lymph nodes. She checks my thyroid. She declares I am golden.

As I stand at the counter paying my dues, I turn to her and stretch my arms. She hugs back, a ferocious, you belong, hug.

Sisterhood is an incredible thing. Everyday kindnesses have the ability to bring a grown woman to tears. Empathy is a beautiful gift.

I am blessed today.

Laksh

Author. Parent.

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