“Excuse me, ma’am, I am looking for Anne Smith.”
A nurse assistant heading down the hall at a fast pace, holding a meal tray, turned around to see who was talking to her. She glanced at a man in his seventies, wearing a blue buttoned-down shirt and black slacks, with shiny leather shoes. The man was a visitor.
“I believe she is in room 302.” The nurse assistant pointed out the hall.
“Thank you,” the man politely said, as he headed to the 300 hall.
The man stopped at the door of room 302. He timidly knocked on the door, slightly poking his head into the room. He glanced at a lady resting in a recliner, watching the news on a mid-sized TV mounted over the wall.
The lady cocked her head and fixed her gazed on the stranger. She frowned, and remained quiet.
“I’m sorry, I was looking for my sister, Anne Smith,” the man said, with an apologetic expression. “I guess I was given the wrong room number.”
“A...An... Anne’s room is 304... just next door.” The woman seemed to gasp for air, staring at the intruder. “Excuse me...” The woman took a deep breath. “Are you Earl?”
“Huh? Yes, I am.” He startled—his mind racing with thoughts of uncertainty as to why the woman in 302 would know his name.
“I’m Claudine Webb.” The woman flashed a big smile. “Don’t you remember me? We met in high school.”
“Claudine!” Earl exclaimed, struggling to manage the surprise. The girl he had a crush on in his senior year of high school was there, in front of him, sixty years after their graduation. Claudine and Earl were good friends, but Earl never confessed his attraction to her. Earl didn’t want to interfere between Claudine and her boyfriend.
Earl learned later that Claudine married her school sweetheart. He believed he did fine by remaining single. He was too busy to settle.
After retiring from the Air Force, Earl decided to make Jacksonville, Florida, his place of solace. Additionally, it was a good location for his part-time job as a Consultant. He had been blessed with stable health—even now in his aging years.
Earl had flown from Florida to Missouri to visit his sister, Anne, after learning she had sustained a fall resulting in an ankle fracture. Anne came to our facility for a short-stay, until completing her rehabilitation.
“Oh Lord, who had imagined that I would see you again after all these years?” Earl looked bewildered. His thoughts promptly engaged in a debate, whether to continue talking with Claudine and catching up with her life, or going to look for his sister Anne. While in the midst of his confusion, a cheerful voice interrupted his train of thought.
“Earl!” Anne’s voice echoed throughout the hall. Rushing in her wheelchair, she was anxious to meet her brother, as staff had let her know there was a gentleman looking for her. She was expecting Earl’s visit, so she was not surprised, but rather blissful.
Anne joined Earl in Claudine’s room. Anne flashed a grin, perplexing Earl.
“What’s going on?” Earl asked Anne.
“I guess you found out about Claudine being here before I could give you the surprise.” Anne continued smiling. “Claudine didn’t know about you coming to see me.”
“You little stinker!” Claudine exclaimed, then laughing.
“Claudine is here for rehabilitation, as well,” Anne said. “She lives alone, as her husband passed away five years ago. She can’t go home until she gets stronger.”
“Huh!” Earl smiled. “The misfortune turned out to be the opportunity for this pleasant reunion!”
“A lovely reunion, indeed.” Claudine spoke with emotion, her eyes fixed on Earl.
“I didn’t get the wrong room number after all!” Earl’s flirtatious words sounded like music to Claudine’s ears.
“Earl..." she sighed. "It was the right room number.”