don dorsey
by on April 10, 2019
"I’ve got your map,” shouted Jennifer, playfully racing past me in an obvious attempt to dare me to get it back.
“You’d better run,” I threatened, unable to conceal a wide smile.
Veering off the trail, Jennifer raced toward a thick cluster of trees, laughing and smiling, two steps ahead of me the entire way. “I’ve almost got you,” I shouted, holding back just enough to extend the thrill of the chase.
Before meeting Jennifer, I refused to hike even the shortest trail without a map. For me surprises were something to be avoided, and life was meant to be neatly ordered and planned.
Bursting through the trees to the other side, we found ourselves running through a hidden meadow, surrounded on three sides by forest, and on the fourth by a small hill. “I’ve got you,” I shouted, throwing my arms around her as we fell to the ground.
Among the mixture of clover and wild flowers the smell of springtime filled the air. Looking up at the sky, I could see the remnants of several billowy, white clouds smiling down upon us, as though to say that this meadow was meant for dreamers and to let us know that’s why we were brought there that day.
As I lay there, gazing into Jennifer’s green eyes, I was struck by the shining innocence of her smile. It was fresh and free, and somehow had the power to make all of life’s noise go away.
“I could look at you forever,” I said without warning, realizing that the words had left my mouth as though under their own volition.
As Jennifer looked away I could see her start to blush, and I knew that she had heard the longing in my voice. In time I would come to realize that it was she who had taught me to treasure the simple things in life, and steadily I learned to exist without the mundane clutter on which I used to depend. Ironically, in the end it was Jennifer who became my map.
Rising to one knee, I reached out my hand and helped Jennifer to her feet. As we stood there in the stillness of the meadow, we heard a rustling sound off in the trees. Suddenly, out of the woods walked a magnificent brown doe with long spindly legs and a curious white tail that seemed to exude its own personality.
“What do you suppose she’s thinking?” Jennifer asked, pointing to our guest.
“Well, I imagine she’s wondering if this is what all leaves taste like.”
“How do you know that?”
“Just look at her,” I said. “You can tell by the look on her face.”
“Oh, you cannot,” Jennifer said laughingly as she poked her hand into my ribs.
As our visitor wandered back into the woods, Jennifer turned toward the hill and began to race to the top. “Come on,” she shouted, extending her open hand toward mine. “Let’s see what’s on the other side.”
Hand in hand we ran through the meadow, and up to the top of the hill. From the top we could see all the greens and yellows of the field in full bloom. Surrounding the meadow was a ring of thick evergreen trees, filling the air with the scent of pine. On the other side rested a beautiful reflective pond, rippling peacefully in the warm afternoon sun.
As we sat, looking out over the pond, I could feel the breeze as it rustled through my hair. “Isn’t that pond the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” Jennifer asked, squeezing my hand so tightly that it almost hurt.
“Almost,” I said, my eyes drifting secretly to her.
“Do you ever think about things like why we are here?” Jennifer asked. “This hill has been here for thousands of years, and it will be here for thousands of years after we’re gone. We can’t just be like insects crawling upon the ground, can we, never mattering, never making a difference?”
“I don’t often think about it,” I said. “I don’t know if we can make a difference in the large scheme of things, but I like to think that each of us is important in our own way.”
Evidently satisfied with my answer, Jennifer leaned into me and kissed me on the cheek. We continued to sit there the rest of that afternoon; laughing, talking, falling in love. From that day on, that hill above the meadow became our special place. Whenever life became too difficult or our troubles too much to bear we would return to that spot, and find comfort in the warmth of each other’s arms.
After Jennifer’s illness we would return to that spot often, and try for at least a moment to escape the world and all its pressures. Although initial treatments proved unsuccessful, Jennifer was an excellent candidate for an unconventional procedure that had been working wonders. The procedure was expensive and not covered by insurance, but the love and generosity shown by our neighbors during the fund raising effort is something that will live within me the rest of my life.
It was about two weeks into the new treatment that the nationalized health plan took effect. I still don’t fully understand. “We’ve already raised the money,” I insisted. “It shouldn’t matter that it’s not covered by the plan. We can pay for this ourselves.” But the cold, impersonal words which followed will forever haunt my soul, “In the interest of fairness, no one may receive any treatment that isn’t equally available to all.”
I still return to that hill above the meadow occasionally, alone with my memories of Jennifer, and I gaze out across the forest. As stare into the pond, I can almost see Jennifer sitting beside me, her hand in mine, her head nestled against my shoulder, and I think of a time when life still had hope, a time before I understood the enormous price of free healthcare.
Donald Dorsey
Post in: Politics
Topics: healthcare
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