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.”