Woke up with a burning throat and a runny nose. Unsurprisingly, found my car dead and just walked to work in the cold dark. Before even hitting the floor, was pulled aside and it was professionally implied to me that I need to step up my work performance.

I was seething with a burning throat. I felt my spirit dying and my anger growing. 
I walked back out to the floor after my lunch break, my throat so swollen I could barely swallow my food, and having seriously considered the feasability of putting in my 2 weeks. I took a seat next to a snoozing patient. I rub her shoulder gently til her eyes open and ask if she wants to use the restroom. Her eyebrows crunch up, but she nods. Patiently, I help her to her feet and escort her to her room. I congratulate her when she makes it. I sit on her bed across from her and wait for her. When she’s done, I ask if she wants to take a walk. She says she does. We walk slowly around the chairs and down the short hallway. I tell her she’s doing really well. She looks up at me and smiles. “You’re the best worker,” she tells me, and for the first time today, I smile too.

Respite – fin

Shes not tired, atleast not as tired as she should be. She finished the lime redbull ages ago. By now darkness had fallen and an odd mist was all around. She drove at a little less than a comfortable pace, but it was okay, the cars in front of her kept her honest. One cat on her lap, the other in the passenger seat. Some time ago her GPS had failed. It wasn’t that she didn’t know the way, having driven it a dozen times since last spring, but that the 280 mile journey felt a little less lonely. And though she knew the heavy clouds and fog probably had something to do with it, she half suspected her GPS was simply giving her the silent treatment from having been argued with so much on the trip up. Silent, save for every hour or so loudly chiming in with, “GPS signal lost!!” Rudely interrupting the soothing sound of Aaron Manhke’s voice, and causing her heart to jump more than it should. Aaron’s subject matter, half hour long podcast episodes of Murder and Monsters. It is her cup of tea, and driving thru the dark and the mist, provides for the perfect atmosphere.

Once darkness falls, the drive becomes dangerously monotonous. She suddenly finds herself traveling thru a wormhole. She might be flying thru a Stargate. And when the rain starts falling, and the cars in front of her begin spraying water at her, she might have been traveling thru hyperspace. Destination: Home.

And in those long, dark hours, one cat cutting off the circulation to her foot, soothing, but spooky tone of Aaron’s voice in the background, rain drops hitting the windshield, almost creating its own sound of radio static, she feels herself changing. Mentally morphing herself back to reality. When she reached the end of the wormhole, she would be back home. Back to life. Back to her every day. 

One cat suddenly sits up and begins yowling and pacing back and forth, as though awoken from a nap and not quite sure where he is. “I know buddy,” she says, rubbing his head til he settles back down, this time on her other leg, “you and me both…” He lets out a sigh. Aaron continues his story. GPS chimes in that her signal has been lost. “You never even tried,” she says, begrudgingly. But then shrugs, soon they would be home..

Respite – Day Extra

The truth is, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go back home yet.

I squished over in the large bed to make room for my fur sister. The emotional creature she is, she could sense I was leaving when I eventually began gathering my things together. Her cold nose pounding on the closed door while I was getting dressed. And though my mother talks to her, the truth is, no words will soothe her soul when I leave again.

But I couldn’t do it. The long weekend, in which I’d traveled 280 miles by jeep for some rest and relaxation, had turned into anything but that. The 60 mile drive to the hospital, the impromptu wedding, the death, the mourning, the dinner, and the 60 mile drive back. I came out more exhausted than I went in. 

The clouds were heavy and grey, threatening to pour at any moment, but we still piled into the car and drove into town, to have a Me day.

 I wish I could tell you how exciting it was, but it wasn’t. It was falling in love with a local coffee shop’s brew, and the boys who wear flannel, not cuz its hip, but because thats just what you wear up here. It was smelling herbs and spices til we choked, and tasting oils and vinegars til our tongues burned. It was spending half an hour in a shop no larger than a trailer, locating gems. It was inhaling incense in the New Age shop and feeling the magick all around me, or maybe it was the woman gently singing along to the music. It was eating burnt pizza in a hut and laughing with my mom, and trolling thru the grocery store, cherry picking items. Lamenting on the lack of availability back home. The truth being, its never been home. The truth being, I make the 280 mile drive up here, cuz this is where my heart is. This is where I rest, and write, and breathe..

Eventually the rain began to come down, and we grow tired, so we began back. Back to the house where dinner was cooking and the pets were waiting. Tomorrow, life will resume its flow. I will pack up my things, and my four pets, and I will make the journey back. Maybe I didn’t get the rest I’d come for, but I am leaving with so much more. This weekend scared me, but it also opened my eyes. And for the first time, I finally feel my age.

Respite – Day 4

There is nothing sexy about the lips pressed to her throat. Nothing quite terrifying either. The mouth opens and teeth come down hard on the skin. There is a pinching sensation as the skin is broken, and then immediately it is gone. She doesn’t necessarily feel it as her blood begins to flow out, but feels the chill. She feels the sensation of cold spreading down from her neck, thru her body, and out to her extremities. She feels her pulse under her skin, begin to slow. She feels her body begin go grow numb, as she becomes frozen. Now forever frozen as she is…

Morning comes. I stare at the face staring back at me in the mirror. Reluctantly, I concede no amount of makeup will be able to hide the bags and dark circles under my eyes. I sniffle, feel a throb in my head, and sweep some foundation under my eyes anyway.

The weekend wasn’t exactly the respite I’d hoped for. The constant pain in my neck and shoulders has only gotten worse. And the fatigue is more apparent on my face than ever. I finally look my age. I feel much older.

It was a kick in the pants though. I awkwardly sat in the hall, not sure where to be, listening as the mother sobbed. Giving in to emotion and letting the tears flow freely. “Its just not fair,” she cried. And it was true. I believe that sometimes bad things happen for good reasons, but where was the good in this? This woman who had two beautiful children, a job she loved, an adoring family, and the full love and support of peers, taken unexpectedly.

She was only a year older than me.

It made me realize that at some point I simply became frozen. I stopped living my life, I simply began sliding by. I stopped living with energy and enthusiasm. I stopped dreaming. I stopped writing. I stopped living.

I had promised myself that I would have a better year than the dreaded 30th year. And yet, I’ve done nothing. If my time came, what would I be leaving behind? One of my greatest fears, is simply to fade away and be forgotten. I think somehow it always has been. From very early on, finally learning how to spell and write my name, and carving my initial into every clean surface. Deep chizeled R still visible on the surface of my parent’s solid oak dining table. What am I doing to make my existence count for something? What am I doing to make a mark on the world that runs deeper than pen scratches in wood? 

How do you pick up the threads of your life you’ve let spool around your feet? How do you untangle the fear, and the loneliness, and the defeat? How do you sort out the love, and the courage, and the strength to move forward? How do you find the drive, the passion, the fire?

…One thread at a time…

Respite – Day 3

11/06/17 08:30

“She just passed.”

What do you say? What do you say to the family who just lost their 32 year old daughter, sister, mother, and wife?

For someone who works in words, I don’t know what to say. I never quite do, because I am feeling so much more than a simple, “I’m sorry,” can ever convey.

The moment I heard my name called to room 104 over the radio. I strolled in casually. “He’s gone,” the nurse informs quietly. His wife lets out a sob and falls into my arms. They had waited for me. My resident had passed, and the first thing his wife had said was, “Where’s Rose?” I didn’t know what to say. Simply stood there holding her as she sobbed.

The morning is fractured, with tears and fatigue, and eventually some confusion. Everyone says their final goodbyes then retreats to their respective beds. Perhaps they’ll sleep. Perhaps they’ll dream. Perhaps they won’t see her in their dreams.

And when they wake, we gather for dinner. “A celebration of life gathering,” I clarify, when asked what the party was for. And for the time, we reminisce, and smile, and even laugh. People brought together under unfortunate circumstances, but for the better. She brought us all together, from the far corners of the states.

I held her as she sobbed, taking comfort in my presence. I had made a difference in her husband’s life. A man who once was against females taking care of him, eventually prefering my care over anyone elses. I didn’t need to say anything in this moment. I was simply there for her, the way I’d been there for her husband, to the end.

The evening is bittersweet, with blissful laughter and emotional fatigue, and eventually some confusion. Everyone says their final goodbyes then retreats to their respective beds. Perhaps they’ll sleep. Perhaps they’ll dream. Perhaps they’ll see her smiling in their dreams.

I give the family who just celebrated the life of their 32 year old daughter, sister, mother, and wife, a hug, and I tell them, “good night.”

Respite – Day 2.5

The floor was quiet, not in an eerie way, but in a respectful way. Her room was dark and somber, we waited in the hall. They showed us the room, set aside, where it would be happening. The extent to which the staff had gone to to help see this happen. Her father tells us how the day had been going, successful surgery, but tests revealed more bad news. The worst. The cancer had begun truly showing its aggressive side, and this time… they were out of options. 

“Two things,” he quietly informs us, “she only wanted two things. For her kids and sister to get here… and to get married.”

We enter her room, and the look on her face is fairly blank at first. But she is handed her glasses and recognition dons on her. My mom goes to her for a hug and her face crumples into tears, “thank you for being here,” she whispers around her oxygen. My mom hugs her, and a slight smile comes to her face as she states, “I’m getting married today.” My mom tells her she loves her, and she tells my mom she loves her back. When she steps away, I realize I am next. She looks small and frail to me, and I’m not sure I can hug her. I do anyway. She whispers to me, “take care of my sister,” and I tell her, “of course.” And then she holds onto me. She holds onto me like a lost child looking for the way home. And all I can do is hold onto her back, until she lets go of me. I hold my breath and pour as much strength and calm towards her as I can. And then she lets go.

The staff had brought in a wedding dress and tux. They’d even found clothes for the children. They’d baked cake and provided cookies and refreshments. They were going to make sure this was as fabulous as possible. The crowd of people who showed up, was awe inspiring alone. To feel the weight of the world’s unfairness upon you, to see this room full of people who love and support you. These people who dropped everything to celebrate your life and this moment with you. The room was full of tears, tears of sadness, and tears of joy. 

The groom played, Baby I Love Your Way, as her father wheeled her down the hall. She wore an off the shoulders gown and a boho style headband. The groom took her hand as my mother officiated. Inside the room was crowded with family and friends. Outside the room were dozens of staff members. Both parents, her two children, and her sister all gave her away. And in the end, the groom took her face and kissed her gently on the mouth, then on the forehead. She was married.

She was finally married and she was surrounded by family and friends. Her parents let the cheer of the moment wash over them. It was a bittersweet moment. Their eldest daughter was finally married. A final wish granted. And now she could sleep peacefully.

“Are you ready to go back?” My mother whispers to her, after five minutes of her sitting with her eyes closed. 

“No way,” she responds. 

“Isn’t it a little weird, all of us standing around staring at you?” My mother whispers. 

“That is because, I am the queen.” And for tonight, and maybe forever, she was..

Respite – Day 2

Childhoods end…

Every year, we would pack up for the weekend. We would drive for miles Out the Road. I’m sure the road had a proper name, but to us, it was simply Out the Road. Thru the trees and along the beachy coastline. Too often, I’d fall asleep, just wanting to be there. When I’d open my eyes, we’d be pulling into the parkinglot facing the small inlet. Other families unloading their bags and packing them onto the small cart. This was it, the beginning of the long journey by foot, along the beach, around the wide corner, and to the camp site..

Respite, day 2. Or maybe not. There is no real rest to be had here. But it is not me who is the unlucky one. Perhaps I am actually fortunate, to be here, at this time…

We were a group of families that showed us kids love. We were a group of kids, all adopted. We were a group of kids who were invincible. In hindsight, my childhood was probably pretty idealic. We all grew up in a bubble of safety and ease. And maybe to some extent, I accidentally left my soul back there. Back where it was all safe and easy. Because I can’t make sense of this. These things don’t happen to us. We don’t die of drug overdoses. We don’t get rare forms of aggressive cancer. We have kids, and husbands, and lives. We are only in our 30s for Gods sake.

I woke up this morning, to a snow covered dreamy landscape. Coffee was brought to me, and all the fur babies were nestled into my covers. It wasn’t long before I realized I was actually in a horrible reality. My childhood friend, one of the crew, one of Us, was dying.. 

“We don’t know how long she has. She wants to be married tonight. Please come…”

The snow is melting and our coffee grows cold. Its easy to put on the brave face now, but I don’t know what will happen later. I’ve had my share of death before. Family members passing, patients at the hospital passing… but this is different. This is not right. And I’m a little bit scared..

This weekend we all packed our bags. We made the long drive to the ferry terminal. Along a road whos name I don’t know. Some, coming from even further. Thru the trees and to the sea. I fall asleep, not sure what we will be arriving to. When I open my eyes, we pull into the small terminal facing the sea. Other cars fill the lot as we wait. This is it, the beginning of something that will change us all forever, something cruel and unfair, but undeniable..

And when she goes, alone, we will be a group of families that show each other nothing but love..

Respite – Day 1

You’ll know you’ve fallen in love when you no longer want to sleep, because reality is finally better than your dreams…

I slept. I slept. I slept til afternoon. And I dreamt. One tiny Trazodone to help me sleep, one tiny doorway into the world of dreams. And in my dreams, my heart was breaking. A love I’ve clung onto, was falling in love with someone else. By mistake, I was late, or took a wrong turn, or some other random chance, and saw her climb out his window. And with a blush, and a sigh, I knew she was falling in love with him too…

I claw my way out of slumber, like demons climbing out of hell. It is light out and the digital clock on the nightstand taunts my unseeing eyes. I hear the sounds of cooking from somewhere downstairs, and the deep rumble of my displeased cat. I put my glasses on and am surprised to find its noon. I’d slept for 12 hrs straight. The cats both emerge from their hiding places, and follow me into the bathroom..

The day is cold, wintery, and with the leisure beholden a Saturday, we drive down into town for coffee. We drive past the other coffee shops til we reach the end, a special coffee shop. The coffee shop with a How-To juggling book on its shelf. The coffee shop that is a cross between casual and serious. (Casual cat t-shirts and flannel. Serious weigh each shot of esspresso for perfection in a cup.) The coffee shop that drew a penis in my cappuccino foam years ago for a laugh. Nothing like a Cockoccino to start your day..

I sometimes forget how much I like this perfect little dream town. Coffee shops where you can make your baristas blush. Bookstores where clerks know the exact location of the book you want. Theaters that show real movies, not just the Hollywood stuff. And the sea..

I bite into a yellow apple and can’t recall the last time I’ve just eaten an apple. Each bite, juicy and dreamy. I meet a cat with two odd back legs. Living a difficult life, but living it none the less. He pulls his back legs behind him as he crosses the store to greet us. No less life in him, no less drive, despite his handicap. An old man tells me a story about spliced apple trees and magical bites. A distant time, a mystery apple. “Happy bedding…” he says, as we depart.

We return home, only hrs later. My head is foggy and I still feel the pull of sleep. I ascend the stairs, and let slumber take me..

Respite – Day 0.5

You know you need a Snickers… when you start arguing with the GPS…

The drive is long, longer than its been before. What starts out as a lovely drive past the fields of sheep as the sun goes down, soon turns into a shouting match with the GPS woman. “Quit telling me what to do, I get it!” The night’s darkness closes me in like tunnel vision and I just drive, in hopes I reach my destination. Both cats, once adorably cuddled on my lap, now add to the growing discomfort. One tiny, bony elbow jabbing into my forearm, and the circulation slowly being cut off from my driving foot. Hashtag: Thank God for Cruise. 

I reflect on the eerie quietness of the back seat, hoping to goodness the tortoises are still alive. A flash of a memory crosses my mind. Looking into the tank of my college days pets, to find one hermit crab embracing the other. And as I drew closer, to my horror, finding it was actually eating the other, wrapped around it, one claw shoveling brain matter into its greedy maw, like movie goers shoveling popcorn into their mouths… I dare not turn around, and trust my tortoises aren’t that hungry… Oh God, must drive faster…

I occupy my brain with the qued up episodes of the podcast Lore. Lulled by the conversational, slightly monotonous tone of the host. Each short episode exciting me more. Where does one find a guy like this? Hes definitely my kind of geek. His subject matter ranging from ghost stories, to serial killers, to witches, to Irish folktales, told from the perspective of a storyteller. I love it. I get it. I’m hooked…

Until my GPS rudely interrupts his lovely, lulling words, to tell me to keep going on this route…

I feel like I’m stuck in a wormhole. Balancing between pain and pleasure. My eyes want to dip, maybe from monotony, maybe from fatigue, maybe from the steady onslaught of oncoming headlights… but my body is still alive. And there’s miles to go before I sleep…

The drive was long, longer than its been before. But in the end, I made it.