He came to measure and replace something, hobbling painfully up the stairs with a wounded knee - a crusty New Englander who looked older than his years. He chewed gum loudly and threw his clipboard upon the bed as if it were his own personal possession, dropping things here and there of pencils, paper, a supplier's brochure. None of this was done but with an air of innocence, of long practiced work that had developed certain habits of the trade, certain ways of relating.
He surveyed the work to be done quickly, having his own way of summing up the measure of what was needed, and almost as soon as he had begun, he was finished. He then hobbled painfully down the stairs, clearly uncomfortable though stoic, speaking of the surgery that he hoped would fix his knee. This was to take place in a number of days - surgery he should have had two years ago, he said, but he had had other things on his mind. Now, he was hoping for the best. He told me this as he sat on the two lowest steps, relacing the boots I had asked him to remove when he came in.
"May I take your hand?" I asked. He put his hand out gently without asking for an explanation. "I'm a healer," I told him," and I'd like to help make your surgery easier." His hand rested in mine while he talked once again about his surgery. His hand felt soft and gentle between my palms despite the callouses, and I felt his trust, and I felt his innocence. He took his hat off then and said to me that he should remember not to wear a hat in the house. A subtle remembrance - a sign of respect and honoring that was taking place as I held his hand.
"Oh, well. Gotta go," he said. "I'll get back to you in a couple of days about the work." And he was gone in an instant, on to his next job.