I take thee

Neilson, Shane

A young man and woman walk into the hallway. A colleague walks behind them, smiling. “These two just got married!” she says.

The young woman is dressed in a white velvet coat. Her dark hair is pulled back; a black skirt falls to the tops of leather boots. She is perhaps twenty years old, petite, and beautiful. The man is wearing a t-shirt. He has a normal build but a remarkable carriage: confident, erect, unclouded. I notice that his t-shirt has a design that is the trademark of a whiskey distiller.

I am about to congratulate them when several nurses coo. They say in unison, “Married!” and begin to interrogate the bride in a gentle, coaxing way. The nurses have daughters that are the young woman’s age. The nurses want to know how it happened, who was there, where it happened.

The young woman is prepared. She has a book that is a professional wedding album, the record of their elopement to Scotland. The couple travelled in Europe and, swept up by the history and ruins, they planned in short order to have a ceremony in Glasgow. This city was where the young man’s family hailed from several generations back.

There are pictures of the young couple kissing; dancing in a pub; frolicking with friends met while travelling; jumping in the air; climbing a hillside marked with cairns; standing under an arch that is the only intact structure in what used to be a castle.

The two of them look in love. It is an unmistakable look. I look from the album to their faces in front of me and I see it still.

I notice that, in a lot of the pictures, she has the same velvet coat on that she currently wears. The nurses ask about the coat, and she says that she got it for the ceremony and wears it for comfort. The young man rented a kilt for the ceremony and the nurses linger on the pictures with his bare legs, laughing: “Well you have nice legs, and you have to have those in a kilt!”

My colleague retreats, heads back into her examining room. The nurses continue to leaf through the album. The young man looks down the hall; the young woman is attentive, watching the nurses’ faces as they look at each photograph, providing narrative for each image.

They eloped. No family attended the ceremony.

I thought of my daughter: travelling at a distance with a man, then marrying him without having me there to witness. At an age when the time behind is brief and what’s ahead is a great white space.

I looked at the young man and offered him my congratulations. He shook my hand. I expect he had been dragooned into this kind of greeting by his wife many times by now. She was pointing at the corner of a page, describing how the light had to be just right to get the proper exposure. She was talking about her wedding dress, how so many images had to be discarded because the dress wasn’t bright enough. She looked beautiful in the picture. Her husband’s head turned to look, too.

The nurses asked if the young man’s kilt was his family tartan. It wasn’t- such things need to be booked months in advance.

I walked away to a land of phone calls, lab results, papers in my inbox. When I saw my colleague again I asked her why the couple was here. Was it just to announce the marriage to their doctor?

No. The woman in the white coat was pregnant. She had missed her period after arriving back in Canada and was receiving prenatal care.

I thought of the white space of any healthy and young patient’s chart: vast, and destined to be filled. What kind of fathers will we be? What kind of mothers? What kinds of husbands and wives? What other variables are there that matter?

Is there any other narrative than, We love one another and are not too afraid?

I remember the young woman pointing to the corner, to the cloud cover that allowed the photographer to capture her resplendent figure in the white dress. The only narrative is: I take thee.

Theme: Family | Famille
Theme: Health Care Delivery | Prestation des soins de santé
Theme: Patients | Patients

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --.




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