Friday, March 30, 2012

No Regrets

There's a handful of days in my life that I'll always remember the date of. July 4, 1993 was one of them.

An old friend and college roommate, Garrett, was visiting for the weekend. I'd been having a crazy year-- working two full time jobs, and carrying on a couple of relationships. I was looking forward to the summer-- that would mean a break from one of the jobs-- the teaching job-- and a break from both of the relationships I'd been carrying on. My life had become impossibly complicated because of it all, and I needed to back up and figure it all out. A weekend with an old friend was just what the doctor ordered.

My friend and I had been out hitting our favorite watering holes-- he'd roomed with me for a couple of months when he'd gotten out of the military a couple of years before, and wanted to go to the places we'd hung out in back then.

I got a call the morning of July 4th-- I was hung over, had my friend and a couple of other people sleeping at my apartment. It was one of the women I'd been seeing. She was, she told me pregnant.

I felt like a building was collapsing around me.

Over the next nine months, I struggled to keep it together. I felt completely unprepared to be a parent. I kept thinking of an old Firefall song, "Cinderella."

Cinderella by Firefall

"Last December I met a girl
She took a likin' to me
Said she loved me
But she didn't know the meanin' of the word

She imagined love to be grand
Me holdin' her hand and
Whisperin' sweet things and
Cooin' softly like a song bird

Then one mornin' she came to me
With a tear in her eye
And a sigh on her breath
And Lord, she said,
"Hon, I'm heavy with child"

And I said, "God damn girl, can't you see
That I'm breakin' my back
Just tryin' to keep my head above water
And it's turnin' me wild"

Cinderella can't you see
Don't want your company
You better leave this mornin', leave today
Take your love and your child away

Rockin' chair on the front porch
Well, I'm thinkin' about all the things that I did
As a young man
Now that I'm old

And I remember her and the boy
Did he have all the toys and the joys
That a young man should have
Before he gets too old

Cinderella couldn't you see
I didn't want your company
You shoulda left that mornin' left that day
Took your love and your child away"

One night, I was drinking with a couple of friends and discovered they had a copy of the album this song was on. I played it several times, drunk, letting the song sink in. I puzzled over the meaning of the song. Did he stay, giving up his youth to make sure his son had all the "toys and the joys that a young man should have before he gets old?" Or was he sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, full of regret, wondering what happened to the woman and the boy?

In the end, I stuck around. She and I made a go at it, but eventually ended. But the boy stayed. I took an ass-whipping dealing with his mother but I have no regrets. I don't have to wonder. He had baseball and Yu-Gi-Oh and Spongebob Squarepants and Star Wars and music and nights out for Chinese food and friends and the things a young boy should have. He's had laughter and love around him-- at least in my home.

He turned 18 earlier this month. He got into the college he wanted to go to. He got a scholarship and some loans and my plan, to get a nursing degree and a nursing job, worked; thanks to that, I'll be able to come up most of the rest.

His imminent departure brings out conflicted feelings. I did my job. I did my part in raising a smart, happy, confident adult. But my heart is breaking knowing I'll only see him a few times a year.

I keep coming back to a moment right after he was born when my father, who was full of regrets about his own children, told me: right now you're looking at the next 18 years as a long, long time. But you'll discover someday that it will turn out to be a short, short time. You get them such a short time in their lives and then they're gone. They come and visit, and you have a relationship with them and talk to them on the phone, but this time, this next 18 years, enjoy it. Remember that money comes and goes, but you can never get back time missed with them.

I'm sure glad I listened to my father.

At Long Last Friday Random Ten

Hello? (echo, echo, echo...). Anybody still there?

My posting has been incredibly lax. I do have a pretty good excuse-- working lots and lots of hours. Lots of overtime. We're very shortstaffed, and with a kid starting college in August, I'm not inclined to saying no to overtime.

Still, I've missed blogging. Lots has gone on besides overtime. I'll post more on it later-- two losses recently, two of my favorite people. My mother-in-law passed away about three weeks ago, and my friend Larry's mother, passed about a week later. Both shall be sorely missed. As I said, more later.

On the job front-- feeling more and more confident, and at the same time getting really disenchanted with it. The unit I work for is so poorly run. I've got some feelers out about other jobs. It'll be a year in August, and maybe time to move on. More on that later too.

I've got a list of posts to write: thoughts about the upcoming election, the Supreme Court hearing on the healthcare law, some music and art stuff, and of course, reflections about my son turning 18 recently, and his imminent leaving of the nest to go to college.

But until then, I've got to get back to my blogging duties, including posting my Friday Random Ten. Without further adieu...

1. Nobody But Me- The Human Beinz
2. It's Hard Enough Knowing- Pete Shelley
3. All My Loving- The Beatles
4. New Gun In Town- The dB's
5. That's Entertainment- The Jam
6. It Keeps You Running- The Doobie Brothers
7. West LA Fadeaway- The Grateful Dead
8. Show Me The Way- Peter Frampton
9. Chicago/We Can Change The World- Graham Nash
10. Souvenirs- John Prine

1. Great one-hit wonder that's on the Nuggets set. I think the word "no" is said over 100 times in this song.
2. The closing track from the Buzzcocks' frontman's first solo album, which I played to death in 1982.
3. One of the Fab Four's first hits
4. From the dB's' record "Like This," which I played to death in 1984 and 1985. The cd was very rare for years, until it was re-issued, thankfully, a few years ago.
5. Heard recently that Jam frontman Paul Weller quit drinking. He'll probably suck now.
6. "The Best of the Doobie Brothers" was one of the first records I ever bought, along with Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" and the Eagles' "Hotel California."
7. Wasn't crazy about the "Touch of Grey" album when it came out, but have come to love it. Particularly like this ode to the dangers of the Chateau Marmont and its temptations.
8. Was delighted by the story recently where Peter Frampton was reunited with the guitar he had on the cover of "Frampton Comes Alive," which was lost in a plane crash in 1980.
9. About Bobby Seals and the Chicago 8/Chicago 7 trial relating to the 1968 Democratic Convention events.
10. "All the snow's turned to water/Christmas days have come and gone/Broken toys and faded colors/Are that's left to linger on." Maybe the most melancholy and beautiful song ever.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Price

This has been a week at work. On Monday, I was in an "acute room" at one hospital-- instead of going to the bedside to the patient to do the dialysis, the patients are brought to us. In this particular hospital, two nurses work at once, two patients each. And in this particular hospital, we have a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) that the hospital provides, to help us with everything.

The other nurse and I were setting up, and the LPN started bringing in our patients. I had gotten in a little earlier, so I determined, with the LPN, which patients were going where-- the patients have different prescriptions for which dializer, dialysate, etc they use, so each machine is set up individually for each patient. As the other dialysis nurse got ready to set up one of his patients, who had been sleeping while waiting for dialysis, he tried to take an initial blood pressure. He realized he couldn't get a blood pressure.

We called a "Code Blue," and a "crash team" descended on the acute room. They worked on the patient for about half an hour, but were never able to revive him.

Yesterday, I was called to a hospital to I hadn't been to for a couple of months. I recognized the name, but it wasn't until I got there that I remembered the patient. I had done the first dialysis treatment that she had gotten when she entered that hospital, in late December. She had been lucid-- because she had a trach tube, she couldn't talk, but she could mouth words. She was one of the few patients who had ever thanked me for her life-saving treatment.

I noticed that she had nothing personal in her room-- not the pictures, flowers and cards I usually see with a lot of the patients. I talked to the primary nurse and discovered that she had no visitors. I made a mental note to stop the next time I was going to have her as a patient (we are usually told the night before who our patients are going to be) and get her a little pointsetta plant or some other little piece of holiday cheer.

As luck would have it, I wasn't called to do treatment on that patient, or even to that hospital, for a couple of months. When I arrived at her bedside, I was in for a shock. She looked nothing like the last time I saw her. She was not alert; her skin was dull and lifeless. She opened her eyes, but I could tell there was no cognition.

As I set up to do her treatment, I talked to her primary nurse, who told me that she had been doing better and better-- until two weeks ago, when she "coded." Obviously, she had been hypoxic (deprived of oxygen) while her heart and lungs were stopped long enough to damage her brain.

She was never going to get better.

As I finished the treatment, I quietly apologized to her that we medical professionals, with all of our expensive equipment and meds, couldn't help her get better. I found myself regretting that I hadn't been called to that hospital to treat her, and that I hadn't been able to drop off a pointsetta to brighten up the dreary room that will probably be where her last days will be. And I realized that the price I will pay to be in a profession that I love, and one that allows me to make a living helping people, is to be looking death in the face.