She is 100 years old and the best thing about my job. She is tiny and spunky and she greets me each morning with a hug and kiss. She is a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother and a great-great-grandmother. She has lived through times that I can’t even stretch my imagination around. She has seen the metamorphosis of this planet and the good, bad and ugly the changes encompass. On days when her old bones ache and she feels especially tired, she still manages a positive word and a smile.
I was never supposed to be a nurse. It is my younger sister’s gig, not mine. It was a decision of necessity; a consequence of my choices, which are now over half my lifetime ago. Yet, here I am. It is something I consider a genetic flaw in my character–the constant feeling of twisting in the wind. I have carried this feeling of incompleteness for so long that I no longer feel a separateness from it, but rather it has become part of who I am. It’s a feeling of knowing that what I am doing isn’t what I was born to do, yet never being able to fully recognize my true calling. It is like chasing the tiny slip of paper from my fortune cookie on a very windy day; knowing my destiny is within my reach, and just when I think I have it in my grasp it slips through my fingers.
It is with deliberate effort that I have managed to make career choices, which keep the standard core of nursing (needles, IVs, blood, doctors, drips, monitors, instruments of torture, sick people, wounds, dressings, catheters, drains, etc.) at an arm’s length. I have made every effort to steer clear of the five P’s of nursing (PUKE, PUS, POOP, PEE, and PHLEGM). It isn’t that I am particularly squeamish or that am repulsed by the P’s, because that isn’t really the case. Nurses, generally speaking, are made out of durable, pliable, industrial strength quality material. My construction is more of the duct tape/string cheese variety.
In nursing school, all my classmates would get so excited when they got to take part in Emergency Department traumas or assist in a Code Blue resuscitation in the ICU. If a CODE BLUE was called, my peers would go sprinting in the direction the distress call, eager to provide chest compressions or squeeze the air into someone’s lungs with the ambu-bag. I would go in the other direction and hide in linen closet or sneak into the newborn nursery and practice swaddling newborns. In my defense, if ever a newborn was in need of a swaddle, I had it covered. It wasn’t that I didn’t, or couldn’t or even don’t do nurse things. I can and I have and I do…it’s just that I am so distracted by that little piece of paper in the wind.
The fact that I found myself working in a skilled nursing community as the assistant director of nursing is one of those things I never believed would happen. It has been nearly five years and there are parts of my job that I like fine and there are parts of my job that I don’t particularly like. But the people–the people I love. I have great co-workers, but the residents have carved out a place in my heart, they have changed the very composition of my heart as well. Friendships have bloomed in places I would have never cultivated before I came to be a part of this community. In many ways it is home…yet there is always that little unknown fortune dancing in the breeze.
Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to try something different. There have been many times in my life when God has opened a door and I balked, because I was scared of failing. Fear of failure has had a lifetime paralyzing effect on my willingness to venture out of my comfort zone (i.e. hiding in the linen closet during a Code Blue in nursing school). I stared long and hard at that open door trying to summon the determination to step over the threshold. The fear of leaving my coworkers, residents, and security has me hesitant; but the fear of failing has a death grip on my courage.
She is 100 years old and the best thing about my job. Nearly every day she reminds me how important it is to be kind to others, even though she admits it’s not always easy. At times, she becomes frustrated with the parameters old age puts on her ability to be independent. I often slip away from my office and steal a moment or two with my friend and I always come away with a smile. Today I sat quietly by her bed and watched her sleep. I wondered what a person who has lived 100 years gleans from the recesses of her mind to dream upon. I wonder how many doors God has opened for this precious woman in her lifetime and I wonder if she regrets allowing herself to not pass through any of them. I wonder if she knows how much I love her. It is going to be hard starting my work day without her, but I know this one truth (and I am pretty sure she would agree) life is too short to watch my dreams flutter in the wind.
UPDATE: I did leave my position at the Nursing community and I had a lot of adventures. I traveled the country and saw many things and met many people. I even got to work and travel with my daughter. In my new role I ventured into new long term communities and stayed a short while and was on my way to my next destination. There were so many new things I was able to learn and I am am thankful for the experience. The money was good. The travel was nice, but there was something missing and so after a few years, I found my way back.
Why did I come back? I missed the people. I missed the relationships. I missed making lasting connections. My role is a lot different than before, but yesterday I got to dance with a sweet lady in one of our Memory Care communities. It is that smile; those moments; those connections I was missing. I get to work with amazing caregivers and they have such a BIG job. There are things about my job that I like just fine and things I don’t particularly like. But the people–the people I love.