Waiting for someone to recover from anesthesia can provide an unexpected opportunity for conversations that never would’ve been. The woman, with the slight accent, sitting next to me looked over at me and then at the TV screen which was promoting some type of new medication. “Can you imagine,” she said, “that in Europe we have remedies for things such as this and they won’t use them here in the United States?”
A bit more of conversation revealed that the woman had an enormous wealth of information passed down to her from both her feisty grandmother as well as neighbors in the area who also used herbal and natural remedies for many of their illnesses and pains. In addition to her knowledge of herbal medications, the woman began to talk about politics; quite an uncommon combination.
“My grandfather,” she said, “was for democracy in my country, Poland, and he fought until they forced him to flee into the woods. For two years, he lived in the woods until they caught up to him and killed him.” She said all of this with little emotion, as though she were relating a story that she had told many times before, causing the emotion to be pushed into the background. Of course, the political issue was now in the fore because of political issues in the United States. Although she loved this country, she could not understand how anyone would ever allow its democracy to be threatened.
“My grandmother was such a believer, that she would put on the radio programs, Radio Free Europe, that gave us information about what was happening in politics in Poland and she would put the sound as high as she could as she opened the windows for all the neighbors to hear.” The family feared for her safety as well as their’s because the Communists were trying to suppress any hint of democracy in the country. Death could be the ultimate result of a radio played too loud. Her grandmother didn’t budge in her efforts to provide news to her neighbors.
“She was so astute,” she continued,”to how to carefully tune the dial,” and here she illustrated with her hands and fingers as though tuning to find a specific radio band. “The Communists tried to block all transmissions, but my grandmother knew just where to find the news and she got it right all the time.” I remarked what a wonderful woman she must have been and she heartily agreed with a broad smile underscoring her love for the woman.
“Yes, she was quite wonderful and she wouldn’t have died at 90 if she hadn’t gotten pneumonia.” Here the conversation switched slightly to political corruption and corporate America and how it controls access to not information but natural remedies that everyone in Europe uses and knows are helpful. Cannabis, of course, came up as a useful medical herb. “Yes, you can use CBD oil for pain and you can buy it on the internet.”
“I even bring garlic from my mother’s garden,” she offered, “and I have to smuggle it in my belongings because you can’t bring plants or food here.” A look of accomplishment crossed her face as she displayed obvious pride in having this fresh herb she knew was better than anything we have here.
“I always look at the packaging and when I see it’s from China, I don’t buy any food products.” Garlic can readily be distinguished as to whether it had been grown in China or the US; Chinese garlic has the bottom roots cut off for a clean appearance, US does not. “And I only buy wild salmon from Alaska.” We discussed this plus the production of pharmaceuticals for a bit longer and then she was called by an attendant. “She’s ready now,” the woman announced.
“I have to go because I’m interpreting, but it was a pleasure having the opportunity to talk with you,” she said as she quickly gathered her belongings and disappeared out the swinging door.
You never know how sitting and waiting can provide so much in the way of life stories that are engaging and thought-provoking.