Encounter on a Wednesday
Did the things you asked of him
but didn't do them quite right
you'd written them all down
word for word
Do this, you wrote
Avoid that, you added
Go here, you underlined
And whatever you do
go there, sir
You'd written it all down
word for word
and put it in his hand
so he wouldn't forget
It's important, you implored
Okay, he replied
So he kept the appointments with you
but missed the others
All of the others
that you'd worked so hard
to get him scheduled into
Did you get the MRI?
Did you see the neurologist?
Did you get the ultrasound of your heart?
You know. The echo?
But see, he kept the appointments with you
All of them
And he smiled and nodded when you talked to him
so why wouldn't he
get the MRI
or go see the neurologist
or get his heart ultrasounded.
Or, you know, echoed
"Do you know if he can read?" This was my question.
"He finished high school," you replied.
"Yes," I asked, "but, again, is he comfortable with reading?"
And you became silent for a moment
then admitted quietly that you weren't completely sure
Even though you were sure
that he'd completed high school
"You tell him when his follow up appointment with you is scheduled.
But the others come in the mail."
You nodded in response
He did finish high school
So we went in and talked to him
Explored why it was hard for him to do things like
get an MRI
or go see a neurologist
or get his heart imaged in two dimensions
"I try my best."
And so we asked, this time specifically.
Not could he read in the black and white sense
But how comfortable he was with it
in the gray sense
That's when he gave us a clearer understanding
of his gray areas
"I can't read none."
Yes, a high school graduate
with a job
and medical problems, too
With a high school diploma
and an inability to read or write
we wrapped up the visit
with this new piece of information in mind
Glad for what we'd gleaned
to help us understand him more
and sad that this wasn't the first time
that he'd slipped between the cracks