How Not to Get in Good With the Snotty Girls

imageAs I ran to the playground, I spotted my “sometimes friend” Betty Green deep in conversation with Rita Lawson, the principal’s snotty daughter. The choice of friendship each day was Betty’s. Her mother and mine were friends, so when when we we at my house or hers, chances are she’d be nice to me, unless she wasn’t.  I was a friendly kid and would have played with a rattlesnake. When Betty saw me running up, she turned her back, making it clear she didn’t want my company when she finally had Snotty Rita all to herself.  Ignoring her cue I tromped right in. “Wanna play chase?” They didn’t. They were both squalling and loftily resumed their tearful conversation, bonding over shared grief. It seems each had recently discovered the existence of a baby sister, dead and buried long before either of these two snotties were born. I listened in awe, caught up in the drama, knowing I had nothing to offer on the altar of their shared grief.

I rushed in and questioned Mother as soon as I got home. “Did you ever have a baby that died?”

No she didn’t. I had heard women whisper of losing babies. I had no idea what that meant, but it might be worth a try.

“Did you ever lose a baby?” She was hugely pregnant at the time and quite touchy.

“No, now get started on your homework. If you don’t have any, help me with supper.”

I recalled lots of homework. Remembering an ancient picture in a box in Mother’s closet, I prowled till I found it. Aha! This will surely get me in the dead baby club!  I slipped it into my math book, the first time that book had been opened at home that year.

Betty and Snotty Rita were still best buddies at recess the next day. I ran up, ignoring their cold looks, as I pulled my prize out of my jacket pocket. “Look, I have a picture of my dead baby sister. She died before I was born.” The sad image of an angelic baby in a white Christening dress, laid out in a homemade wooden coffin, her eyes closed in death was undeniable. Her black hair curled around her tiny face. They examined the picture somberly, giving me sympathetic looks as tears sprung to their eyes. I enjoyed their friendship for about thirty seconds until Betty turned the picture over and found scribbled, “Carrie Louise Perkins, born and died July 7, 1904.” I was out!!!

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My Condolences

imageOne of the hardest parts of  being a nurse is comforting and supporting the bereaved family at the time of death.  Normally, family members are heartbroken, grieving at the death.  On a few occasions, I witnessed something different.  Mr. Jones, an elderly patient owned a successful insurance agency. Every morning, he donned freshly laundered silk pajamas.  When discharged,  He wore a fine finest suit, shirt, shoes, and hat and took great pride in being noticed.  He bragged of buying a new Cadillac every year, dining at the most prestigious restaurants, and enjoying a membership at The Country Club.

His son, Junior Jones was in his late fifties and had always worked for Daddy.  It appeared Mr. Jones was none to generous nor kind to Junior.  Junior dressed in cheap clothes and drove an ancient compact car.  It must have been miserable since he was so tall he had to fold up like a jackknife to fit in it.  When Junior came to the hospital to consult with Daddy about the business, Daddy was condescending, snide, and critical, never showing Junior the least respect.

One the morning Daddy died, we’d called to notify Junior his father’s death appeared imminent.  Junior came streaking into his father’s room just moments before Mr. Jones’ death.  I offered my condolences.  Junior ignored me, opened the drawer of the bedside table, dug out the keys to his father’s Cadillac, his father’s checkbook and left the room without speaking.  A nursing assistant who was a friend of the family walked him out to the parking garage.  He handed her the keys to his small car and drove off in his father’s big, black Cadillac.  That was different!  I guess he’d had enough.

Goodbye, Randy

A dear friend died this weekend.  He’d suffered for years, rarely complaining.  He was the best father I’ve ever known, even doing little girl hairdos with matching bows to socks and dresses.   His cardiac illness was first diagnosed twenty-three years ago, when his girls were tiny.  Thankfully, he recovered some cardiac function, enabling him to guide his daughters into warm, lovely adults.  Though it has to break their hearts to lose him, what a blessing it is his family had that twenty-three years.  The girls knew a great father instead of always hearing what a wonderful father he would have been.

What a blessing to be whole again after so many years of pain and struggle.  We’ll miss you, Randy.  Our tears are only for ourselves.

At the Moment of Death

I thought I was at the moment of death.  As a nurse I’d been with patients in their final moments but now found myself preparing to face my own probable death. Late one evening, I was trying desperately to get home amidst severe weather warnings.  Thunderstorm warnings were in effect with strong likelihood for development of a tornado.  We live near a lake in Louisiana experiencing frequent tornado activity, so bad weather is always a concern.  I was within a mile of home when the worst of the storm hit, stranding me on an overpass over the interstate.  I was caught between cars, visibility so low I couldn’t even see the tail lights of the car ahead of me.  Rain and straight lines winds buffeted the car, moving it and rocking it side to side.  I waited, terrified, not knowing if I was going to be swept from my high point by a tornado or killed by impact from a vehicle behind.  Though, I couldn’t see it, I learned later the tornado touched down about two hundred feet behind me, destroying everything in its path.

Once I determined death was inevitable, my fear left me.  I felt gratitude for the life I’d been given and was grateful that my husband was there to finish raising the children. In a minute or so the skies cleared as I headed home to my worried family who was hiding in a closet from the tornado I’d just escaped!  I’ve never felt a dread of death since that day.