Okay cool, the blogger I follow who’s doing a 30 Day Writing Challenge has posted Day 2’s question: Write something that someone told you about yourself that you have never forgotten.
Here we go. Circa 1997 I was a few years out of nursing school and working on a coronary progressive care unit. I was taking care of a little lady who I’d taken care of frequently. I enjoyed taking care of her. Her condition caused her to tire easily and she always needed help with her ADL’s-Activities of Daily Living. Helping patients with their ADL’s was always a perfect time to talk to them, get to know them and tidy up their rooms. So I helped her bathe and afterwards I helped her walk to a chair so she could sit while I made her bed. As I helped her back into bed she looked me in the eyes and said, “I was talking to Jesus about you the other day. We agreed that you have a gift, you don’t know you have. You need to figure it out”. My little newly wed 27 year old self told her that my husband and I were hoping to soon start a family, maybe the gift was me being a good mother. She said, “you’ll be a mother soon but that’s not it. Think about it”. I couldn’t wait to talk to her about it more but I got busy the rest of the day and I didn’t see her after that. I later learned that she’d passed away at home.
Those moments with that patient and that conversation will live in my memory forever. I remember what the hospital room looked like and I remember what room and bed she was in during that admission. I remember her face. The image of me bathing her, making her bed and talking to her is still there. The image of her looking into my eyes to tell me about my gift still there. For awhile I racked my brains trying to figure out what the gift is. I know in due time it will present itself. If the gift is being a writer, I’ll dedicate my first book to her.
Despite the cold winds and low temperatures, the streets were lined with a large crowd. Families and friends bundled up in coats, hats, scarves, mittens and blankets. People standing, sitting in chairs or even sitting on the ground, holding coffee or cocoa to keep warm. People of our community watching each group march by. Finally, Santa’s sleigh arrives and the crowd began to cheer. I didn’t come to see Santa though. The highlight of the parade for me was the last group to march down the street.
I spotted her immediately. The Santa hat was secured to her head, allowing her hair to flow down. Her clear blue eyes were focused forward. She looks so sharp in that navy blue uniform. Her lips were pressed to the mouthpiece of her trumpet. The trumpet, decorated with red and white tinsel was aimed high, demonstrating discipline and confidence. Last year my daughter refused to even go to this parade. She said she needed a break before it was her turn. I think she just didn’t want to walk in my son’s shadow.
Walk in my son’s shadow in this marching band, she has not done. This was his marching band for four years. Yes’s she’s marched with some of his remaining friends but this is her marching band now. This year, this marching band marched in five field show competitions and scored higher than they ever have. As the underdogs, they competed against twelve other bands for the state championship and came in second place putting the band, the band parents, and the band directors on a huge emotional high. The following week they went to Mid Atlantic Regional Championship and became the first band in our county to qualify for the final round. I’d say my daughter has blazed her own trail in this marching band. My son, the awesome big brother that he is, simply showed her the way to the field and stood on the sidelines to cheer her on and enjoy her triumph.
Each year, this parade is the final event of the marching band season. By this time, the band’s competition season has been finished for a few weeks. The kids enjoy decorating their instruments with cheer, playing holiday songs and letting their hair down for one final march of the year. This is the fifth consecutive year my husband and I have had a child march in this parade. For us, it hasn’t gotten old. Standing in a shopping center in the cold with my husband and our band parent friends waiting for our kids to round that corner to complete the parade after Santa passes by always makes me smile.
August 12, 2016: I have a weekday off and I am out to lunch with my kids. I enjoy taking them out for lunch when they are on summer break. I look across the table at my son. He wears a goatee on his chin and the rest of his face has several day stubble of beard. He looks like a man now. His serious brown eyes tell me differently though for they are still the eyes my little boy. I know what’s going on in his head because it’s the same thing that went on in my head 25 years ago. It occurs to me that soon I won’t be able to enter his bedroom at 0530 each morning to kiss his forehead before I leave for work. On this day, August 12, 2016 I know that I have approximately ten days to finish dorm room shopping, help him order his college books and get my emotions in check. He’s leaving for college.
Rewind my life back by twenty five years to August 12, 1991. I was weeks away from my 21st birthday and my mother was preparing for my departure. I couldn’t write about this on August 12, 2016 though. Too many emotions involved. Today I can.
At 0700 we stepped off the elevator onto a medical-surgical floor. The aroma of night time body odor, cheap hospital soap and powdered eggs greeted us for the first time in our lives. I immediately gagged at the odor and wondered if I’d made the right choice. We checked in at the nurses station and got our patient assignment. Our task for the day: to administer a bed bath. I knocked on my patient’s door and there was no answer so I walked in. My patient was sitting up in bed with a sheet over her head as if she were a dead body covered up. I backed out of the room with eyes wide open to show one of my classmates and get the attention of my instructor. My instructor and I went in the room together. My patient was a little old lady with dementia. My instructor helped me bathe her. This lady incredibly was strong. She was combative and she kicked my ass during that bed bath. I remember noticing how easy interacting with the patient during the bath seemed for my instructor and hoped that one day I could enter a patient’s room with that much confidence. I never saw that patient again but I’ll never forget her either.
I remember so many firsts during that time of my life. I remember when they taught us how to do the hospital tuck but I was proud because I already knew the hospital tuck way of making beds because me grandmother taught it to me as a little girl. I remember the first patient I became attached to. I remember the first time I saw a baby being born and the first time I realized one of my patients was deteriorating over a period of several days and was going to die. I remember my first cardiac arrest and how scared I was. I remember the first time I saw the cardiac rhythm Atrial Fibrillation on a telemetry monitor. It’s not the most lethal rhythm but a dangerous one if uncontrolled. I remember the first time I suctioned someone through their tracheostomy and how when the patient coughed the “trach cough” that it startled me so badly I jumped. I remember calling my mom at work to tell her that I’d given my first blood transfusion and how she yelled out to her coworkers, “my daughter just gave a blood transfusion today”. I remember my first AIDS patient and how his family turned their backs on him because he was gay and dying of AIDS and that he died alone. I remember hearing helicopters and sirens at all times of the night because I lived in the dorm next to the hospital. I remember the oxford blue shirts, white pants, white socks and shoes we had to wear. By graduation those oxford blue shirts had pit stains on them from all the blood sweat and tears we’d put into this. I remember two nursing instructors that were tough as nails to me because I was a young smart ass and I deserved the torture they put me through.They turned the light bulb on in my head and taught me to look at the bigger picture, the patient as a whole. After that I was ready. I remember after each clinical day in the hospital, I’d hum the MASH theme song to myself because I’d helped people just like those nurses did.
I remember how it felt to hold my nursing pin in my hand for the first time on May 14, 1994, the day I graduated Nursing School. I remember coming home from errands on July 18, 1994. My brother was holding a thin envelope addressed to me from the Missouri Board of Nursing notifying me that I had passed my state boards. I was now a Registered Nurse. I remember sitting for my Board Certified Emergency Nurse exam and having a panic attack because I thought I was going to fail that exam. I passed the exam. I remember walking across the stage on May 28, 2011 to receive my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
I remember August 12, 1991 alright. It was my first day of Nursing School. The day all of the above began for me. Never forget what you’ve earned and what you went through to get it.
This is a response to Daily Prompt- Burn.
When I think of the word burn, I think of my childhood in Buffalo, NY in the 1970’s. We didn’t have all these music groups my kids listen to today that make wonder who in the world they are listening to and why this is music. We had Saturday Night Fever, The Bee Gees, and Disco. We didn’t sit in the house all summer long watching Netflix on our smart phones and playing XBOX either. We were outside where we belonged. We got dirty, played kick ball and rode our bikes. We ate homemade popsicles made from juice frozen in tupperware popsicle holders. If we didn’t like the babysitter we’d stage a water balloon fight minutes before my parents got home so they would be annoyed at the babysitter and all the deflated balloons on the lawn and not ask her back. We also had the game Burn.
Burn was a game my brothers, our friends on the street and I made up. Each player had to stand with their backs and arms flat up against the garage door. The object of the game was to dodge the ball being thrown at you without removing your back and arms from the garage door. If you removed your back and arms from the garage door you were disqualified. The person throwing the ball hurled it and if the ball hit you, well it burned. It was a good game of Burn if you had welts all over you where the ball hit you. At some point someone would break out in song, the song by the Tramps “Burn baby burn, Disco Inferno”.
We’ve long since outgrown the game of Burn and moved out of that house. We are all now in our 40’s and can’t move as fast as we used to. I am sure if we had a rematch today one of us would end up with welts. Probably me. In my mind I can still see that garage door and feel the welts on my skin. I always think of the game Burn when I hear “Burn Baby Burn, Disco Inferno”. A memory burned in my brain and frozen in time.
There is a card game called “Bullshit”. The object of the game is to simply get rid of all your cards first. The deck is dealt evenly among each player. During each turn, cards are put down clockwise in ascending order beginning with the player who has the Ace of Spades. When it’s your turn to play, you put your cards face down and announce how many of that card you are putting down. If you don’t have any of the card you are supposed to play or you want to get rid of more cards, you can try to bullshit and put down cards you are not supposed to. If you get away with it, great! If one of the players thinks you are lying, and you are, then they call bullshit and you have to pick up all the cards in the pile and put them in your hand. If you are not lying when someone calls bullshit on you, then they have to put the pile of cards in their hands. The winner is the person who plays all of their cards first.
Last night, my husband and I played a few hands of Bullshit with our teenage son and daughter while we were waiting for supper to finish baking in the oven. Playing Bullshit with people you live with isn’t as easy as it sounds. My husband and I have been together 29 years. I know he knows when I’m bullshitting and I know when he is too, or so we both think. There were parts of the game I found myself having to put my cards over my mouth when I was trying to pull off a Bullshit maneuver because I couldn’t control myself. Some I got away with it, some I didn’t. It was interesting watching each of my children trying to pull off a bullshit. They pulled off some slick maneuvers themselves and I enjoyed watching them nail each other for a bullshit as they are close siblings. The games were heated and intense as we all bullshitted and hoped not to get busted. In one move my husband accused my daughter of a bullshit and she wasn’t bullshitting so he had to pick a large pile of cards. “Oh yeah, there’s lot of bullshit going on here” was all he could say. All we could do was laugh and laugh and laugh and keep playing and keep bullshitting until someone lays down their final card and declares themselves as the master bullshitter of this hand. It was beautiful and I am still laughing to myself about it.
There are moments of life, like snippets of film that we wish we could pause because we never want them to end. This silly game of Bullshit was definitely one of them. When your kids are babies you enjoy each new stage of their development and each milestone they master. It’s so far away you can’t possibly imagine what it feels like when your first born is nine days away from high school graduation and three months away from moving into his college dorm or that your second child, your little girl is just three months away from beginning high school. It’s real now. The milestones and achievements hit you faster and faster now like a freight train and their transition into young adult hood is blatantly obvious. Change is coming to a theater near you. When you look back, you realize there are rolls and rolls of paused film all over your life.
Our son thinks his life is the only one with uncertainty in it because he’s the one going off to college. In reality it’s all of us. How’s it going to feel for my daughter to come home to an empty house after school each day and have no one to routinely agitate on a daily basis? How is it going to feel when I walk by my son’s bedroom at 0530 each morning and he won’t be there for me to kiss his forehead before I leave for work? How will it be for my husband when he won’t have his daily dose of male bonding moments with the boy? How often will the boy come home? Will he be able to come home to watch the girl’s high school activities? Will his future summer jobs interfere with our family vacations? The boy doesn’t like us reminding him that he’ll be leaving soon so we just pause the film and enjoy each moment we have left of a household of four.