By Karen Brode
The thought of riding an elevator made me feel as if I couldn’t breathe. The morning of my appointment with Dr. Fredericks, Mother and I had gone up the dark stairwell by Bear Drug to avoid riding the elevator to his office. I was afraid he would find out about that and make me ride the elevator.
“Why are you so worried about your mother?” Dr. Fredericks asked. He looked at me and waited for me to answer. Earlier, he had asked my mother to leave the room. I felt threatened and defenseless. I wanted to go home.
When I didn’t answer him, he handed me a jump rope and told me to jump in order to see if there was anything wrong with my heart. I was seven years old. The idea of that seemed crazier than I felt. I didn’t expect there was anything wrong with my heart. I just couldn’t breathe well. I felt like I was in a plastic bubble of worry and grief all the time; but then, those were emotions that don’t normally plague seven year olds either.
I jumped rope. My heart was fine.
“Well, why are you so worried about your mother?” he asked again.
I told him I didn’t know and stared at the floor.
“She says you have trouble breathing sometimes,” he said.
I shrugged and continued to look at the floor.
“When do you have trouble breathing?”
“Mostly at night,” I said.
Whenever I lied down to go to sleep, I couldn’t breathe. The more I tried, the less I could. I gasped for air, but couldn’t get any. I always ended up jumping out of bed in a panic. The night before our visit to Dr. Fredericks’ office, Mother had taken me out on the front porch. She sat on the steps with me in her arms with hopes the night air might help.
Dr. Fredericks watched me and made a steeple out of his hands. He sat quietly for awhile. I stared at the floor. The tiles were black and white, but mottled, not pure black or white. The janitor had missed some parts around the corners of the room. It looked pretty dirty there.
On Dr. Fredericks’ desk was a picture of his children, sunshiny children laughing and happy at the lake. I knew he was glad his children were not like me.
When we were back in the reception room, I looked at the people waiting in chairs around the room. I stayed very close to Mother who was paying the lady behind the desk. The elevator opened and several people got off at the reception room. The whole experience seemed so uneventful for them.
The lady behind the desk smiled at me and said, “If you hurry, you can catch that elevator before the door closes!”
I looked at Mother who was closing her purse. She saw my panicked face and told the woman that we would walk down the stairs.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.