It was another quiet day on unit 35 of the city hospital.
The man in the wheelchair sat quietly waiting.
I was hurrying, breathing a sigh of relief when I found a parking spot and nearly running across the parking lot and through the front doors. My footsteps down the hallway were hastened by thoughts of the lateness of the hour and by the time I arrived at unit 35, I practically skidded to a stop in front of the man in the wheelchair wrapped in the cobalt blue shawl who was waiting.
I kissed his neck and adjusted the shawl around his frail shoulders doing a quick calculation in my mind as to the number of minutes left before supper was served.
With the time allotted, I figured my sister and I could take our brother out of unit 35, wheel him into the sunshine and still have enough time for him to be in his accustomed place at the table when his food tray was delivered.
I wanted to take him out of unit 35. It is, after all, a hospital ward, and even though the nurses, the heartbeat and lifeline of all the units, are wonderful, it can be a dark and dreary place with white walls and ominous machines that disturb the silence with mysterious beeping sounds.
And, for just a sweet little moment in time, I wanted to take my brother away from all that. I wanted him to feel the warmth of the sun on his face and I wanted his eyes to be assaulted by the blaze of colours that zigzag with reckless abandon through the trees on days such as this.
I wanted him to hear the sounds of laughter, of children, of car engines. Mostly, I just wanted him to hear the heartbeat of life that exists outside of hospital walls.
And so, according to plan, my sister and I wheeled him outside.
It was wonderful. We sat under a huge expanse of summer blue sky that was interrupted only slightly by a sphere of pure gold. The grass was green and soft beneath our feet.
It was good. Life was good.
I mentally congratulated myself on perfectly executing my plan.
But, my congratulations to self were short lived.
I felt my brother’s gaze upon me, his eyes, like twin chips of blue steel, boring a hole into my very soul.
“I want to buy a lotto ticket,” he said.
His was the voice of authority, no doubt, honed by years of military training.
And even though he didn’t say the words, he didn’t have to. I knew them by heart.
“I am a Korean vet. I served overseas in Germany and in the Belgium Congo.
And, now I may be old and in a wheelchair and I may have suffered several strokes, but I know what I want.
“I want a lotto ticket”.
I looked at my sister and she looked at me and, silently, we agreed.
“Let’s go by him a lotto ticket.”
And so we forgot about the golden sphere in the summer blue sky and the soft green grass and we wheeled him back inside to white walls and institutional meals served on trays. We went directly to the lotto ticket booth.
We let him pick his ticket and painstakingly pencil in his numbers.
And then we let him throw that ticket in the garbage because those weren’t, in fact, the numbers he wanted.
And we let him do it all again.
My sister, who is generous to a fault, but somewhat naïve, paid for the tickets.
“That will be $25,” the girl at the gift store said.
My sister never blinked an eye, even though inside I’m sure she was quaking. She, who had never so much as bought a quick-pick in her entire life, had just unknowingly bought two lotto tickets.
I smiled. “When did you start gambling?” I chided gently.
“Shut up,” she said, but not unkindly.
I smiled again and together we wheeled our brother back to Unit 35 and his supper.
And all three of us were actually quite happy and pleased with ourselves!