When Did I Get Invisible?

April 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

After being released from the hospital after a recent procedure, I was being wheeled to the exit by a volunteer, a female college student. (If you want to feel instantly OLD just get yourself wheeled around in a wheelchair.) My gray hair didn’t look its best, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and yes, perhaps my brown sweats were the teensiest bit stretched out. We came to an intersection in the corridor and I looked up as a phalanx of young professionals swept by, talking animatedly. Three rows of three each. Were they med students, interns, baby doctors of the non-pediatrician variety?

Without a miss in their steps, or a turn of their heads, they commandeered the hallway and swept past, not pausing to give the right-of-way to the wheelchair. They didn’t even glance in our direction. We waited as they  moved as a unit down the hall. I felt invisible. WE were invisible. The college student pushing the chair was pleasant, but overweight, and not dressed for success in jeans and a bulky sweatshirt. And there was me, hardly at my best.

It was a strange and new feeling. I’m tall, not afraid to speak out, and used to being noticed in a room. I felt dismissed, irrelevant and OLD. Does gray hair render one invisible? In my mind a response formed: You don’t know me. You don’t know where I’ve been, or what have done. I am NOT invisible!

The volunteer and I chatted as she rolled me to the exit. She was a senior at the University of Washington, graduating with a degree in nursing, and going into public health, hopefully among Native Americans. She had a world waiting, hopes for a bright career, and she was kind. I have a feeling that she would have stopped in that hallway and let the wheelchair go first.

And me? I have a whole lot of living yet to do as well. And I will remember when I see someone in a wheelchair to look beyond the exterior and see the person–really look until I see– and make room.

copyright 2011

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§ 2 Responses to When Did I Get Invisible?

  • Love this fresh perspective! My Grandmother recently passed away and I felt like she was invisible for her last eight weeks as she wasted away–unnoticed–in her hospital room. It is tragic to see professionals who have–in theory–dedicated their lives to caring for others become so blinded by their agendas that they fail to “see” their patients. Thank you for sharing!

    • ingerlogelin says:

      Thanks for being my first commenter, Christine! Yes, ah, the joys of gaining years, one’s perspective matures as well. It’s not just the elderly. I think we often fail to really SEE beyond the externals in each other’s lives to something rich and worthwhile below the surface.

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