Notes from a post-call Sunday

Snow always looks prettier when you’re watching it from a warm, dry place. Even more enticing if you’re looking out at it from the hallway at the hospital where you’ve spent the last 28 hours.

When you are on call and you know it’s going to snow overnight, wearing open-top shoes are probably not a good idea, because there are only so many snowplows and a lot of sidewalk.

And if you are wearing shoes which do not cover the tops of your feet, and you are walking through unplowed parking lots, it’s helpful to remember where you parked. This saves you not just time but also helps head off a post-call meltdown.

Prairie Home Companion is probably the best thing on the radio. Particularly when you’re really tired and heading home to your family. Love it.

The only thing better than a post-call nap is a post-call nap with a two and half year old wearing the same Batman jammies he’s had on for the past 36 hours, and who smells like the peanut butter sandwich he just finished eating for lunch.

Sometimes pepperoni, cheese, crackers and apple slices are just enough for dinner. Especially eaten on the couch next to the same two and a half year old (wearing the same Batman jammies) while watching football.

Sleep is good. Time at home with my family is better.


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Carpe diem

He’s 87, and tired. He sleeps 12 hours a day and can’t motivate himself to clean his desk or do the dishes. He’s worried about his wife who drinks too much. They got married young, during World War II, and he left almost immediately after the wedding to fight. They’ve been married 66 years now. When she drinks she gets angry and brings up grievances from years ago. He tells me that she has a right to be angry about some things, he was unfaithful to her forty years ago and wasn’t around as much as he should have been. But for the last twenty years he’s tried to be a good husband, fixing meals for her and bringing her breakfast in bed.

“I’m 87,” he says, “and I’m tired of being yelled at. And at this point, saying life is short is a bit of an understatement.”

66 years of marriage, through wars, births and deaths of children, infidelity, and who knows what else. He’s 87 and just now is realizing that life is short.


My son sat on my lap facing me as I tickled him. He giggled, and then put on a serious face and said “No more tickles, Mama. ”

“Okay, then how about kisses?” I said.

“Yes, kisses!” he replied and bent forward to put his hands on the sides of my face. He turned my head to the left and planted a big kiss on my cheek. Then, he turned my head to the right, and again planted his lips right up against my cheek. But this time, instead of a kiss, he burped. He pulled his head back and studied my reaction, which of course was one of mixed disgust and laughter.

“Ewww!” I said, “I can’t believe you did that!”

He looked back at me, face perfectly seriously, and said “That was a burp kiss Mama, for you.” And then cracked up.

Life is short, indeed.

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Loss I

I had a miscarriage.

I haven’t said those words out loud yet. I know I will have to at some point, but for now it’s still unspoken. I don’t quite know how to articulate the story of a spot of blood, an ultrasound with an empty gestational sac, a weekend of intermittent cramping and more bleeding, another ultrasound, and finally, anesthesia, dilation and suction of my failed pregnancy.

Fail. It’s a loaded word to apply to such a situation, but appropriate. I was pregnant. Our fertilized egg made a placenta, a gestational sac, a yolk sac, but no baby. For nine weeks I carried a collection of cells, dreamed about girl babies with blond hair and blue eyes, threw up in the mornings, rubbed my stomach, and picked out names. Then I found out there was never really a baby there. At first I felt slightly better (or maybe just less bad) that my baby hadn’t died because she was never there in the first place. How can I mourn a baby who only existed in my heart?

Because I loved her. Because I wanted very badly to meet her, to kiss her and nibble on her fingers. To introduce her to her big brother. I am part of an online bulletin board for moms, and the women there who have lost babies to miscarriage invariably call them their angels. I can’t think of this baby as an angel. I don’t know when we get souls, if a yolk sac is enough to earn you immortality, or if a mother’s dream is enough to conjure you into existence. She is a ghost, my little ghost baby, and she is real to me. I’ll cry about her loss, I’ll grieve for her, I’ll remember my hopes and dreams for her. And I’ll love her.

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Starting over

I’m been neglectful, not just of this blog, but of creating in general. I’ve been spending so much time keeping my head above water I haven’t taken the time to consider what I’m treading water for. Isn’t the point to do things you want to do? Yes, I love my job, and I love my family. But I also love writing. I love crocheting and photography and colors and music. That’s all been missing, and I haven’t even realized it until now, when I’m been stopped in my tracks by an unexpected and very personal loss.  And now I need to write, need to create something from this. So I’m starting over. Here goes…something.

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“What branch of the service were you in?” I asked him, as I always do when admitting a new patient at the VA.

“The Marine Corps.” he replied. Oh God, I thought to myself, he has seen some shit.

“Where did you serve?” I asked, again as I always do.

He paused just a second. “Iwo Jima” he said, and I saw his eyes get shiny with tears. I gripped his hand.

“Thank you,” I said, “thank you for your service”.
Mr R didn’t stay long, he recovered quickly and was ready to get back to splitting wood on his farm in a few days. Like most of the WWII vets, though, he grew on me. When he was getting ready to be discharged, I sat down with him to go over his medications and instructions for follow-up. When we were done, I stood up and shook his hand. “It’s been a pleasure,” I said, “you take care of yourself.”

He got misty-eyed again and said “Well, this is a better place than where I was 63 years ago.” I sat down again and took his hand. “I’m glad you’re here now Mr R, I’m glad you made it.” He smiled and said he was glad too.

“Just one story” he said a little sheepishly, asking me to indulge him. I was happy to.

“Well, my best friend in the service got wounded when we were landing at Iwo Jima. He was a skinny little guy, and he took a piece of shrapnel in the shoulder. I made him stop and I bandaged it up as best as I could and we kept on going. A few days later, he told me that wound was starting to hurt pretty bad. We got the corpsman to look at it and he told my buddy he needed to go out to the hospital ship because he was right on the edge of blood poisoning. So my friend went out to the ship to get treated, and the next morning our sergeant asked where had my friend gone. I told him he had gone out to the hospital ship. Well the sergeant took that to mean he had died, and filed a report saying he had been killed in action.

Meanwhile, my friend was getting treated on the ship but wanted to come back and help us out, because he knew how bad we were getting it. So he told the doctor he wanted to leave, and even though the doctor didn’t want him to go, he let him. Before he left the ship he wrote a letter to his family letting them know he had been wounded but that he was okay. His family, who had been told he was dead, got a letter from him written from the hospital ship, dated after he had supposedly died. Now, his father called the Red Cross and asked them to sort it out, and it took them over a month to figure out what had happened, but then eventually realized that it had all been a mistake.

Well he and I stayed pretty good friends, and after the war he moved to San Antonio, Texas and had a beef ranch. He died at the beginning of this past winter, and a reporter called me up to interview me about his life. I told him this story, and the reporter and my friend’s granddaughter decided to do some research about it. It turns out that the mistake never got fixed in Washington, and so my friend has two death certificates!”

He laughed, remembering his young skinny friend who left the hospital ship to help his friends. He smiled a little self-deprecatingly at me and apologized for taking up my time with his story. I assured him sincerely that I love hearing veterans’ stories and that this was a great story to tell. We said goodbye and I walked out of the room marveling that 63 years ago he was on a pile of rock in the Pacific Ocean seeing and doing things no one should ever have to. He came home to his very small town, raised dairy cattle, sold insurance, and raised a family. He continued to attend Iwo Jima reunions and kept in touch with the men who had seen and done those horrible things too. And in his standard issue VA pajamas, this great-grandfather had more dignity and strength of character than most well-dressed executives. The term “Greatest Generation” doesn’t even come close.

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One year ago…


And now…


Happy Wordless Wednesday!


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Our backyard after a December storm. Happy Wordless Wednesday!


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