There is a patient we have seen many times over the past few years.
I like her.
She has a rare chronic medical problem, one I had never heard of before meeting her, and am now almost an expert on. When she calls, I know what to expect, where her pain will be, and what I can do to help alleviate it. I love knowing those thing, knowing that I am able to offer her at least some relief before the ambulance even gets there.
It is an intimate thing.
When a person is in a lot of pain, they are rarely at their most sociable best. Anytime someone is very ill, they tend not to be fresh as a daisy and ready to entertain, to say the least.
That we are allowed into that world is an awesome privilege.
She and I have met enough times that she trusts me, at least enough to allow me to be there, to touch her, to comfort her. She knows I care, and I know that she is grateful.
Living in a small town, it is inevitable that we would have friends in common, and we do. We don't "run in the same circle," but we do see each other from time to time at events, or in passing.
It is always good to see her when she is feeling well, when she is out being happy, being a whole, comfortable person in the world. To look at her then, you'd never imagine that she has any medical problem at all. She is vivacious, smiling, confident.
But not once, in any of the times we have run into each other outside her home, has she said hello, or acknowledged me in any way. And not once have I gone up and spoken to her, either.
It is an unwritten agreement, of sorts.
Although there are times when we are as close as people can be, sharing sweat, tears and pain, the rest of the time, I do not belong in her life. I am forgotten. Unacknowledged.
It is not that I expect her to run up to me and thank me every time she sees me.
That would be horribly awkward, at best, and isn't at all necessary.
I just find it interesting that there can BE such separation of connection.
I like how I am able to be there when she is having difficulty, and not have that spill over into a semi-social relationship, just because we live near each other. That we are not "friends" does not lessen the intensity or value of the relationship we have. It may well enhance it by removing all social awkwardness, or any obligation to each other outside the narrow window of emergency situations.