Yesterday was December 20. And for the first time in years and years, I did not go all morose because of the date. In fact, I wasn’t even sure of the date until evening, when I was marking a container of something to put into the refrigerator.
Maybe it was because I used up much of the day clearing the table in the study then writing addresses on envelopes, and trying to decide about pictures to stuff in with the newsletter.
For whatever reason, the date got by me, and I am fine.
The question is, why did it take 28 years to get to this mental status?
Husband often quotes something about a story being told three times, and then it is finished and should be done and put away. So perhaps a story written on the Internet means it could be neverending.
Thoughts going round and round for years come to mean the same thing.
Anyway. December 20, 1977 was a day I had been anticipating for months. It was the day my fella was coming home from college for Christmas Break. I was working as an LPN full time, and taking an evening class at the community college in the old hometown.
Still living with my parents at age 21, but saving every extra penny towards rent for an apartment, and using every spare minute to be at the sewing machine to do a quilt for my fella’s Christmas gift.
I was to be disappointed. He had decided that it was time for us to split, we wouldn’t be having dates or seeing each other any longer. There was some mumbling about no one else, long distance relationships, different status in living conditions.
I insisted he take the quilt, I had made it with him in mind and didn’t want to have it just lying around.
My job that night was in a mental fog. I was on the graveyard shift, and thank goodness it was quiet.
The next evening, December 21, the instructor for my class was having a Christmas party, so I went there before going to work. It was fun, and I realized that I had other friends who would stand alongside me through thick and thin. I did imbibe a couple cups of the spiked punch, washed down with a bottle of 7-up.
I figured the night before had been quiet, so why not have a little holiday cheer.
When I got to work, I learned that someone had called off (big surprise at the holidays) and I got pulled to another wing where I hadn’t worked for a couple months. There was a great Nurse’s Aide on my team, so I knew we could make it through the night.
About 3 hours into the shift, she came out of a patient’s room looking white as snow. She motioned for me to come quick. It seemed the patient had used the bedpan, then just breathed her last. There’s a medical term for this, something to do with the autonomic nervous system, but after 28 years, the word escapes my memory.
The rest of the shift was used up by calling the Night Nursing Supervisor, the family, the undertaker, the paperwork, and trying to keep the rest of the patients on the floor content. All while short-handed. There is much to be said for keeping busy to get over heartache.
I was off the night of Dec 22, and I slept for much of the day and all the night.
The night of the 23rd, I knew I was on the schedule for another wing. There was a lady there who was awake every time I did my rounds, most unusual for her. Finally I just asked her what was bothering her and she said that no one had done her hair. Her family was coming on Christmas Eve, and her hair was a mess.
She had long hair, down to her waist. Thick and the most beautiful silver. I’m sure she must have had ancestors who lived here before Columbus landed.
In order to quiet her down, I promised to come back on my break to brush and braid her hair. She needed to sleep, especially because she had company coming tomorrow.
At my break time, I took my cup of yogurt and a cup of coffee over to her room, then did her hair. She was quite pleased.
But she couldn’t lie back in bed. It might mess up her hair! She agreed to go sit in the easy chair, so we took her walker and she went over there to rest.
Later, when I was doing rounds, I went into her room and had the feeling something wasn’t right. I went in closer, then felt her wrist for a pulse. There wasn’t one.
She was sitting there all prettied up for company and had just passed away in her sleep. I guess at age 84, that’s the way to go, but it sure left me with mounds of explanations.
The orderly who was helping me to put her back in bed made a joke about people keep dying wherever I’m working. And I had to ask the Nursing Supervisor about the date. Technically, it was Dec 24, but who wants to tell the family members that their aunt died on Christmas Eve?
The rest of the week must have passed, but is a big blur in my mind. A couple moments and Christmas presents with my little brother who was then age 3 are sticky, otherwise, shrug.
I was off the night of Dec 26 and watched a midnight movie with one of my sisters.
The night of Dec 27, I was back (at long last) on my regular floor. The Surgical wing. It was a small hospital, no ER, no ICU, no Labor and Delivery of babies, no doctors round the clock but maybe one on call.
Any operations done were voluntary um, what’s the word….Elective. Now that Christmas was over, folks were coming in to get a hernia fixed, or breast reductions. Easy doing.
There had been an admittance that day, and some of the paperwork wasn’t done before the surgery could be performed. Late in my shift, early in the morning, I went in to do pre-op details and get a signature on a form.
I was unable to rouse the lady, even when shaking her shoulder. I realized she was showing symptoms of a stroke. I pulled the cord from the wall, the signal of an emergency in a patient’s room in those days. The other LPN came rushing in, and by then we had a patient in full cardiac arrest.
According to Code Team policy, other staff came from their floors, but I was the one who found her, so I had to run it.
We worked for about a half hour, but gave up the CPR. I was cleaning her up when her daughter came in for what she thought would be to see her mom before she went in for surgery. We had been so busy that no one had called the family. Thank heaven that someone on dayshift was able to cope with her breakdown. I had to write my paperwork.
On New Year’s Eve, one of the orderlies made sure he was around for the minute of midnight so he could give me a kiss. He was a sweetie, both to work with and for going to get a milkshake after our shift was over. He tried gallantly to get me to laugh. I remember his kindness when I get most depressed.
I was off New Year’s Night. And I went out with a couple girlfriends and got the drunkest I ever got in my life before or since. It seemed I had good reason, and I was age 21.
This week is Christmas 2005. My responsibilities and obligations are practically zilch. All I want to do were cookie donations for the party after the Children’s Christmas program at church, and send out the yearly newsletter with pictures from our 25th anniversary. It may take some time, but finding a great guy and raising a family with him is a good way to live.
there’s snow on the ground, frost on the bushes, fog in the air.
Indoors, I have envelopes to address. The rolodex is open to the letter S and I’d better get to it.
~~love and Huggs, Diane
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