If you’re younger than 40, you may have never heard of “Gidget” and her true love, Moondoggie, so you may find it hard to understand why I would bring home the video of the same name. That’s OK, my children didn’t understand either.
“Gidget” is the mother of all surf movies. If you want to know what Gidget sounded like, just listen to the unceasing talk of my 11-year-old daughter. The similarity is uncanny. If you want to know what Gidget looked like, you need to think of a “Baywatch” babe surfing in your grandmother’s girdle.
Get the picture? My kids did, so it was no surprise they were a bit thrilled when my pager saved them from gagging on surf.
“Gidget” would have to wait while I returned to the hospital to meet a real-life Gidget — a grieving, older Gidget who had lost her true love.
I found her in a hospital room lighted only with the glow of the heart monitor showing a flat line. Alone, talking in Gidget speed, she was massaging the hands of a 92-year-old man she had been dating for the past year — her Moondoggie.
The sound of her aloneness was a roaring rush of words, but simultaneously she worried aloud for her boyfriend’s eternal aloneness.
“He didn’t believe in God. I tried to tell him — to warn him — ‘You’ve got to believe!'”
“He’s not alone,” I said, stroking her back and waiting for the nursing supervisor to pronounce the obvious.
Reaching over to pull his eyelids open, she asked, “Is he really dead?”
“Yes,” I said with a nod.
“I was just here with him. He said ‘hello.’ I only lie down to sleep for 20 minutes. I was so tired from my daily trips.
“He’s Korean,” she continued, “but when he opens his eyes he looks more Chinese. People don’t think it’s right for him to be with a white woman, but people are just wrong.
“What am I going to do?” On and on she went as if trying to resuscitate him with words.
My sympathetic sounds encouraged her onward, and uninterrupted by the nurse’s arrival, she repeated it all over again to both of us.
Unfortunately, both of us had places we needed to be.
As a chaplain, sometimes I help out people and sometimes I have to help people out. The supervisor signaled me this was one of those times, and I needed to encourage an ending.
“Did the taxi bring you here tonight?”
“Your boyfriend’s nurse said she usually calls the taxi.”
She paused. “Is it time to leave?”
“You have a lot to do tomorrow,” I said.
“OK,” she said, and began to walk with me toward the door — all the while shooting more questions over her shoulder to the nurses.
As we stood outside waiting for the taxi, she continued at Gidget speed in an eternal loop. Deep in her heartache, her monologue continued to broadcast a ping of distress like a submarine trying to echo locate an ally. Sadly, she wasn’t pinging on much — not even me.
I was alternating between caring about her struggle and worrying about my teenager’s grades and my son’s broken foot. But somewhere in the fog of my mental meandering, I heard the echoes coming from her stories and her pings began connecting to me.
I dropped my hand to her face level and caressed her cheek with the back of my hand. Her hand came to meet mine, and soon her hands were holding my hand.
And things went quiet.
She stroked my hand like she knew it was there. She wasn’t alone.
Finally, she broke the silence, whispering into my hand, “Your hand’s so warm.”
I smiled. And my pager beeped.
It stunned her for a moment, but then I saw understanding.
“I guess other people need you, too? Like me.”
“Probably,” I said, nodding toward the ER doors.
The taxi pulled up. The driver stepped out, wordless, and opened the door and shut her in — alone.
I raised my hand goodbye, and realized it was really I who needed to thank her. I almost let my own plans and problems distract me from my purpose — to be there, listen through the words, to hear her heart, and to reach out and take her hand.
So, after I responded to the page at the emergency room, I happened by Moondoggie’s room, leaned into the room and kinda gave him a wink, as if to say, “That’s quite a gal you had there!”