Thursday, September 23, 2010

You taught me.

So many things, you taught me.

You taught me to be self-reliant, then begrudgingly smiled called me "Little Miss Independent" when I tartly insisted, "I do it my-sef!" You taught me that I was to respect others; adults, other kids, people I thought were different from me (they weren't, I learned that from you). You treated people as you wanted them to treat you, and I saw that. You showed me the value of sportsmanship and gave me holy hell one day when I showed off after making what I thought was a great play. Well, it was a great play... but you were right. You taught me that cheating myself or letting myself down was the worst kind of cheat, and as long as I did my best, it was plenty good enough for you. You told me no. You told me no... a lot. Thank you for that.

You encouraged me to do whatever it was that I loved. My drawings were plastered all over the fridge, on the walls, stuck in the corners of your bedroom mirror. You read to me, you read with me. You came to all of my games. You knew all of my teachers. You taught me how to dig a volleyball and play shortstop. I never could throw fastpitch like you, but I think the batting stance and swing I picked up from you more than made up for that. You wanted a girly-girl but what you got was me. I'm just like you.

I learned the value of hard work from you, helping you count hundreds of dollars worth of change in tips, every Friday night. We'd sit on the living room floor, you still in your waitress uniform still reeking of grease and fried cod, and me in my jammies. You cleaned offices in the evenings so that you could pay the orthodontist $70 every month for those braces I hated so much.

You showed me I didn't need a lot of friends, just a few really good ones. You let me help in the kitchen, even though it would have been quicker and easier to do it yourself. You left me chore lists when you weren't home. You ran behind my bike, miles probably, until I didn't need you to hold me up any more. You gave me freedom and you had high expectations of me. You taught me how to swim, mostly against my will. I should have known when all the inner tubes were gone from the pool that something was up. The neighbors said they heard me screaming all the way down the street; little did they know it was because you and dad were tickling me under the arms to get me to loosen my death grip on the pool ladder. You taught me to appreciate long walks with the dog, exploring and having conversations that lasted for hours on those walks.

You told me it was beautiful when I scratched and squeaked my way through "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" for the first time on my violin. You made me practice. You came to the concerts. You tirelessly helped me practice my lines and cheered the loudest of anyone in that elementary school gym when I played Annie Oakley. You removed splinters from my butt cheek one by one, after I decided a plywood board would make a neat sliding board.

You and dad sang to me on the porch swing:

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

You would have been 72 years old today.

I miss you but I know that you're keeping an eye out for me, still. How else could I explain that despite all the bumps in the road, I'm at the place where I'm meant to be? There were too many people at your funeral to fit into the funeral home. I will never forget a woman I knew only by her nickname who hugged me, sobbing, "She was my hero."

Mine too.

Goddamn it, you left some big shoes to fill. I'm trying.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's cliche`

Of course it is. But cliche`d sayings become that way for a reason - because they are true.

Bad things happen to good people.
Family man. Self-employed. Builds pneumatic machinery for a living. Experimenting currently with ways to recycle fiberglass and plastic and make the combination into something useful. Did I mention what a nice guy he is?

A shredder he's using catches his gloved hand, his gloved right hand, pulling it in and, well, shredding it. Because that's what shredders do. Calmly, he tells his son to reverse the gears on the shredder so he can pull his entrapped hand back out. I wince and tell him I'd rather not do that and damage his hand more, and call the fire department.

"Oh, you want this machine taken apart?", he asks, and deftly loosens the bolts that hold the shredder together with his left hand, while his mangled right hand remains trapped. Seconds later, he's walking up toward our ambulance, shredder and shredded, entrapped hand being supported by his other hand, looking back at me as if to say, "You coming?"

I feel silly asking patients like this to rate their pain. It's like asking the poor slob on the Weather Channel who's reporting from the thick of the hurricane to let me know if it's a little windy. So, 20mg of Morphine and the guy isn't feeling any less pain. But, you know, the guy is as stoic and as grateful and as ... nice as can be. He had every right to be pissed. Pissy. Shitty. Mean. But he's not. He asks our names, talks about his son's nursing school plans, expresses concern for his wife driving in an unfamiliar area in rush hour traffic. You ask him how his pain is, and he smiles, "It's there."

In short, he's the kind of patient you care about. You want him to do well; in fact, you wish you could just give him a do-over on the past hour of his life. You might think we care about everyone this way. You would be incorrect. Most people, I can't wait to get away from. I nod and say, "Uh huh" when they ramble on about their aches, their pains, their inflammed hemorrhoids, their goddamned bunions. The 45 minutes I spend with them is about 30 too long.

Not this guy. I fought tears as I handed him off to the hospital staff, because I knew what uncertainty his future held. I hugged him, which is something I do with a patient about once every ten years, and he smiled at me as if to assure me that no matter what, he would be alright. I believe he will be, but I'd still like that do-over for him.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What an honor.

It's not something that happens very often. To most people, we're a vague memory on one of the worst days of your life. We don't often get to find out the outcome of the time we spend with you. Was our diagnosis correct? Did we do everything right? Did we make you better? Did you have any idea how much we cared?

However, last Tuesday, we had the honor of meeting a patient who, over the past year, we've thought of often. She was 10 weeks pregnant and had announced to her Latin Impact exercise class that this would be her last night teaching... when the lights went out, and the gunfire began. In the aftermath, she lay on the floor, bleeding from two gunshot wounds, wondering if she and her baby would survive.

It was a story the media loved. Pregnant fitness instructor shot, survives, has healthy baby boy 7 months later. She graciously gave countless interviews, bouncing the curly-haired cherub on her knee, her expression clearly saying, "Screw you, coward. We're still here." In one last media blitz on the incident, just following the one-year anniversary, a local trauma center honored the EMS crews who responded on that night, and 2 (well, really 3) of the survivors. It was very touching that a former co-worker actually flew back from his new home and job in Florida, to meet a patient he cared for over a year ago, shake her husband's hand, and lay eyes on the baby who made every bit of painful physical therapy worth it.

From tragedy, one happy ending.

Story here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm not dead, just... floating

Geez, where does one begin when so much time has passed? There's been fun. There's been love. There's been birth. There's been death. There's been a lot of work and daily life and monotony in between. Let's see if I can condense it into one of my beloved bulleted lists, and promise never, ever, ever to be gone this long again.

  • Married my soulmate in April, on the day in between our two birthdays. Sweet, huh? I've known him for 16, almost 17 years, and we were engaged 2 years before we took the leap. Needless to say, I was damn sure of what I wanted from life by then, and I'm so freaking happy these days you'd want to slap me. Really. It gets obnoxious, all that gushing about how wonderful my husband is. He makes me laugh until I wheeze like Muttley, he gives me goosebumps, he gives me comfort and he loves my dimply sarcastic ass.
  • Just prior to that, we spent 2 heartbreaking weeks apart, as he sat by his mother's side; first in a hospital, then in a hospice, watching her slowly slip away.
  • Seeing my best friend hold a newborn (hers!) was the most surreal experience of my life. She's a crazy dog lady like me. Well, now she's a crazy baby lady who sings and coos and turns all mama bear, and I still can't quite wrap my mind around the new her. And I love it for her.
  • I got a new car.
  • I wrecked my new car.
  • I cried off and on for 2 weeks.
  • I got my car back from the shop and it completes me.  Every time I see a deer, I fucking cringe and swear out loud, because avoiding one of those idiot creatures in favor of a guide rail is how I did almost $8,000 worth of damage to my baby. Not to mention the damage to my once-brazen confidence.
  • I'm learning how to golf and I am pleasantly surprised that I am enjoying the hell out of the whole experience. Hell, I'm not getting any younger. I might as well learn something I can do in my old age.
  • That picture above? That was today. There were so many things I saw out there that took my breath away: swarms of tiny turquoise-blue dragonflies alighting on my blue Dragonfly (yeah, I named my kayak, big woop. Wanna fight about it?), tiny birds suddenly in a feeding frenzy over me and the water, some flying by so closely I could hear whiffwhiffwhiffwhiff as they dive-bombed on by. The lady swimming her dog and talking to her just like I talk to mine "Good girl, good little swimmer you are!", said with such love that I had a sudden pang of guilt for not having my sweet little shadow with me - then remembering that this was the first time since last summer I had been to the lake without her.
I can't think of anything else major to report now. Life is good, often too good. I look around and wonder when I'm going to wake up from this wonderful dream, then I do wake up, and it's even better. Obnoxious, huh?

Life is good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

See this movie!

Temple Grandin, currently showing on HBO channels. Claire Danes is nothing short of fantastic, and Temple herself is a fascinating person.

I've watched it 3 times in 2 days and I'm not even close to tiring of it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's been confirmed.

My beloved just confirmed to me today (very tactfully, as is his way), that I am a much easier person to be around when I get my workout in every day.

It's been a rough couple of weeks... I've been sort of tied to the house while he goes to work and a guy with long legs, a comically short torso and hilarious eyebrows shows up and hangs out in the basement for several hours, muttering. He's not a long-legged troll, he's our HVAC guy, and he's been installing a new furnace and water heater.

Anyway, I don't have any qualms about leaving him alone in the house - we've been using the guy for 10+ years and trust him. However... what to do, what to do with the "security system", as he calls my beloved sweet puppy. My sweet little fuzzy puppy who turns into a whirl of teeth, fur and noise when there's a knock at the door. My lovey little angel, who, as long as she has her training collar and a leash on in the house, is the perfect hostess; remove those and you might as well yell, "Chopper, sic BALLS!" 

So, stuck at the house, I was.

I have a very small window of time tomorrow that I can go to the gym during non-obnoxiously-busy-time. If I can get motivated enough after working a 12 hour night shift, I'm going. If not... sigh... back at it 5am Monday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's not normal.

How much I love this dog.

What is it? Is it the expectation of nothing more than a couple of meals and a couple of trips outside a day? The sheer jubilation when I have more to offer?

Maybe it's the way she stands there looking at me with those eyes of molten chocolate, then - so as to further cause my heart to melt - rests her chin on my knee, or the chair, or the side of the bed... just staring up in ... what? Adulation? Pity? Hunger? Who knows? All I know is that when she does that, my heart feels like it might burst.

Maybe it's the fact that with her, there are no bills. No laundry. No discussions. No wedding guest-lists to discuss, no job stress. No arguments - none that can't be won with an all-natural peanut butter biscuit, anyway. There are only walks, and play, and kisses. And leans. I don't know why, but when she walks over to me and simply leans herself against my legs, I feel like I own the world. The complete lack of barriers, the trust it takes for an animal to want to come to you, and then lean its body completely against yours... I can't describe the calm that overtakes me when there is a dog leaning against my legs. No words are necessary. They should give dogs out in pharmacies instead of statins and antihypertensive medications.

It seems like with each dog I've been privileged to know, the bond becomes stronger. Exponentially so, if I may hyperbolize.

They all have a special place in my heart, as if each one gets their own chamber in which to reside forever. This one, however, seems to want to take up the whole damn thing, and I'm inclined to let her. Wherever I go, she follows. If I shut the door behind me, she'll wait outside for as long as she needs to. If I stop, she stops. If I sit, she sits, or she leans. Leans on me like I'm the only thing that can hold her up.

Little does she know how she holds me up.