Thursday, May 24, 2012

Self-Indulgent Pre-Ladder Drivel. Enter At Your Own Risk

Lori encouraged me to go back and look at the first year of the blog, so I did.

What I see is life in the middle of transition: new town, new job, new orientation in the universe. The end of a crushing free fall, the first glimmers of light after a long ugly walk in grayness and the process of learning to navigate a new reality. A few devastating failures, a few surprising successes, the daily slog through a life that's not particularly remarkable or important, except to me.

Six years later I feel pretty good, which paradoxically has left me less inclined to process the minutia of my life in such excruciating detail. I feel like the actual stories of life have become straightforward now, but partially because I've learned things that were hard to accept. People just get smarter by living. Life lessons are like wrinkles: you don't see each one arrive.

This weekend I'm going to tackle my fear of ladders by hanging some gutters and roofing a little patch of porch roof.  In anticipation of that I've been walking laps around the house looking at the roof and reminding myself that all sorts of people work on ladders all the time and live to tell the story, and that I don't have to be fearless, I just have to be brave.

Which led me to bravery, which leads me to:

I work in a tiny community hospital now, with a weensy E.R. and 26 inpatient beds, mostly occupied by elderly people approaching the end of their lives. I feel lucky to have this opportunity to meet them and watch their journey, even though at some point every damn one of them looks at my badge and tells me that they had a sister named Evelyn but she passed. I may be the only Evelyn left alive on earth.

My old people (because they become mine after a few months of waking them up at 4 a.m. and drawing their blood) are mostly small town people. Many of them have rarely left the county they were born in, and they think I'm impossibly worldly and exotic for having lived in Arizona. They're smart and funny and brave and petulant and sullen and immature and kind and ugly and beautiful and boring. They talk too much or not at all. They apologize for having bad veins, laugh at my jokes, yell at me for turning the lights on (or for turning them off), bitch about the food, worry about their pets, reminisce about their youth. They are almost certainly the same people at 80 that they were at 8 but with more layers and nuances. And eventually they die. They lead small quiet lives and die small quiet deaths. The process leaves me in awe.

I wonder if they realize how many people they touch?

No comments: