I’ve told you before…and I tell you again. And probably again and again.
When tragedy strikes you develop deep and profound relationships with a chosen few.
And that happens pretty fast.
People who were once perfect strangers step into your life and hold you up. Allow you to lean on them. Not physically so much, but supernaturally. They see you for who you are and what you are going through and will infuse their normalcy and power right into your bones. Offer up their strength and resources just by their very being.
Some will say it’s part of their job. Something they do every day.
Those with the most power will say nothing because it’s simply who they are.
But I can tell you…when your adrenaline is running at lightening speed and you’re constantly on guard and your senses are honed and tuned in like a high beamed radar…you almost immediately see who is on your side.
See crystal clear who is right there with and beside you.
One early morning (I’m not remembering which day…possibly two or three), I found two nurses discussing my son and his condition. This was nothing extraordinary, as this happened every morning. It was just before shift change and the night nurse was filling in the day nurse.
I strained to hear the medical-ese of CC’s and MG’s and dosing UP’s/DOWN’s of this or that. What this number is and what that number should be. Procedures done and procedures to come. What was tolerated and what was not.
As they huddled in front of the computer, they discussed my son in technical detail. With hushed tones (and I wanted to hear…why couldn’t I hear?), they pulled up vital information, studied it, pointed at it, nodded their heads. Other images…whisper, whisper.
At some point in that conversation, they turned to me and the night nurse introduced me to our day nurse.
During these writings, I haven’t changed names. At least of those I can remember. Names mean so very much to me. To me they are much more than the letters that spell them out and the blended sounds those letters make.
A name to me means most everything about a person. It’s sacred.
So, I am going to type his name now.
Before I do I want to say that I know it might not be the right thing to do. I didn’t ask his permission. I’ve thought about this long and hard and I cannot leave it out. Some day, if this should be read by the people who are named and they ask me to change things, I will. But for now…it is a name that is way, way too priceless to me. To keep him anonymous would be an injustice for me. No pseudonym will do. None at all. Soon, you will see why.
This is Rob.
He will be your nurse for the day.
Rob smiled broadly. And when I say broadly, I mean like in beautiful face broad with great abandon and with crinkles around his eyes that tell the truth and a healing vibration that lit the entire room.
A vibration that I felt from head to toe.
His smile immediately put me at ease and gave me a life saving dose of oxygen…right then and there.
All that first day he worked so diligently and efficiently. I was so impressed by his thoroughness and detail. As he worked, he would tell me what he was doing. What it meant to do what he was doing, and always, always, he would stop before he left the room. Do you have any questions? Can I clarify anything?
If I had any questions, he would answer. Never in minimizing or hurried words. Always respectful, but most notably, cautious. There was a carefulness about him that I came to deeply admire. If I had a question that was above his authorization he would tell me he was unable to answer, and advise me to ask someone specific who could.
I don’t remember seeing him sit down. He worked his patient rooms rhythmically. Skillfully.
When his twelve hour shift was over, he made sure I was aware of his leaving. Again…did I have any questions? Did I need anything?
No, Sir Rob (which I came to call him over the days). None. You have been so very thorough. I so deeply appreciate that. And I appreciate you. Thank you, thank you.
I did not think any further…I did not think to ask if I’d see him again. I had no idea how the nurses rounded or how they were scheduled. I was still pretty much in that initial fog.
Smiling, he told me he would be back tomorrow…before we knew it, it would be day shift again.
And the next day, as sure as the sun rose, he was there.
How grateful I was. He was there.
It turned out that he was scheduled a long succession of days with us. Over those days we would get to know each other. Things like the where are you from’s and the what do you like to do when your not here and hobbies and simple things like hiking stories and tennis shoes.
Hours upon hours of it. Not in one sitting, no. All done throughout the coming in and out and during times of lull. He would stand on the opposite side of my son’s bed and place his hands on the railing. Taking a bit of a rest. Taking time to make a little investment in the humanness of it all.
He told me he was once an Army Soldier. Oh! I don’t know if I can tell you how that crystallized things for me! Connected some kind of sacred dots in the air of synchronicity. How it gathered it all together and wrapped it all up and tied it with a much needed bow.
He wasn’t impatient or uncomfortable when I stood beside or near him when he did this or that (not too close and aware when to keep my distance). He didn’t mind that I asked the same question over again or made known an observation or asked for yet another washcloth so I could wash my son’s precious face. Or request lotion to soften my son’s rough and dry hands…balm to soothe his parched lips.
And when things seemed to get overwhelming and I felt myself spinning (I must not have been able to hide it all as well as I thought, sometimes), he would tell me to take it slowly. That’s all we could do.
One hour at a time.
Yes, yes. Thank you. I can do that.
I know that he may not have felt this same way…but I felt like we were somewhat of a team.
I needed to feel that way, anyhow.
And I suppose he knew that.
Now, I cannot put into words how being in that room all the day long and sifting through visitors and technicians and specialists and soldiers and people…I mean people that I had no idea made a hospital go round…how that kept me on my toes. As if I needed anything to keep me on my toes.
To the best of my ability I was a most gracious hostess.
I welcomed each and every person in. If they did not know my son, I’d introduce them. Every time, telling my son who was there to visit…what they were there to do.
Michael, son, this is so and so…he/she is here to say hello. He/she is here to take your temperature or your blood pressure or to take a picture of your lungs. Son, so and so is here to see you! Isn’t that so wonderful? They have come to visit awhile. To wish you well.
Now I look back and wonder who that hostess was.
Not in any kind of negative or even positive way. I watch it over in my mind’s eye and see someone who should have been broken down. Into tiny little pieces. Knees buckling under her and forever wiping the tears away.
But I didn’t let myself do that. Oh, I had my private moments but mostly I felt the strength of a lioness. I swear I did.
This was my son and I know if things were reversed, he’d do that for me.
Be only strong and very courageous.
My son led a pretty full life. Filled with love. And relationships. Lots of relationships. Many of those relationships were pretty complicated and dramatic.
Well, listen…MOST of those relationships carried drama with them.
There’s no reason to lie about that or make it sound lovely or admirable in any way.
And if we’d only admit it…we could all look back on our lives and see our own dramatic sagas. Wince if they could all play out in front of us.
Even worse if we were fast asleep and it wasn’t a dream. If we couldn’t wake up and tell the story the way we feel it should be told. We’d have no defense. No chance to explain.
From day one I began filtering it all. Those who crossed the threshold of my son’s room with any kind of unfinished business would not be allowed to act it out. Not once. Any kind of family strife or animosity or bickering over this or that…
Simply was not allowed.
Oh, some would try.
Especially in those early days. There were times when two or more would come and the pain would rise up and they would show their true colors. Try to pick fights. Try to argue and make waves and hash things out.
And I would not have it. I would not.
There was more than once that I laid it all out…made it perfectly clear.
Don’t bring your drama here.
I would give a few real sweet tongue lashings. As classy and as clear as I could.
Stop it. Stop.
It came to be that when anyone would walk into the room, Rob was often soon to follow. He’d stand at the computer. Check the tubes, the machines, the lines. Stand there for awhile doing his job. Lots of times looking like he was doing his job.
Sometimes he would simply show up at the door.
Do you need anything? Are you all right? Can I get you anything?
I could see he was watching. Listening.
Most often with the stance of a Knight and his hands on his hips. Sometimes coming right over to me. Looking me directly in the eyes (How I admired how he mixed it all up yet kept it all separate…the care with the professionalism. The distance with the empathy). Checking on me.
Closing in on the end…when there would be so many people in the room…far more than allowed…Rob would search my face, speak directly to me. Are you doing OK? Do you need anything? I am just around the corner.
And do you know what I wanted to say?
I’m sure you can guess.
No, Rob. I AM NOT OK. I can smile and be polite and try to be as kind and as encouraging as I can. I can love on these people and comfort them and make them feel as if they are the most important people in my son’s life. I can do that because I know that is exactly what he wants me to do. I have no doubt about that.
There are all of these people and all of this heartbreak. All of this shock and fear and struggling to make sense of it all.
I need to do this. I need to be the strong and capable one. I don’t know how I’m doing it, I don’t. But this is what I am here to do.
Somewhere in there, my son knows. He hears and he sees and he trusts me.
Deep inside my being I know he called me here. He knew I’d be the one to do this for him. Stand beside him. Be his voice. Bring all of this together.
Finish it up for him.
I won’t let him down. I won’t.
Rob asked me once…when we were alone in that room and it was quiet for a while.
Truly, are you doing OK? You continue to remain so positive, so encouraging.
Yes, I am OK. (If I said otherwise out loud I might have crumbled).
I will have my breakdown later.
Nearing the end of those hospital days, I was standing with two or three, telling them how much I appreciated and adored Sir Rob.
One of them told me, and I don’t remember who, that they heard nurses talking at the station. They heard the banter and the laughter and in the midst of it all they heard it.
Do you know what his name actually is?
No…I do not. Tell me, what is his name?
I am remembering that moment lucidly as I type. The deliberate slow motion of it and the taking in of it and the allowing it to settle in letter by letter before it really registered.
What were the odds that I would ever, ever have known that? Ever have thought to know his actual name?
It was as if a secret messenger wrote that name on precious parchment and sealed it with royal wax. Placed it in the beak of a dove…and sent it straight to me.
Of course, my mind went straight to the legend of Robin Hood. I have always loved the tale…the story of a man somewhere between Knight and Commoner who stood up for the underdog…fought for those who were thought to be the least.
I don’t care about anything more of the story. I simply do not care that he might have been thought a criminal or a made up character or that he walked around wearing silly green tights with a feather in his cap. I don’t care.
What I do know is that my active imagination set wheels in motion that put all of these pieces together for me.
And if you’ve followed me this far, you can no doubt see that I can assign meaning to most everything. I always do that. I have forever, I guess.
It’s the one and only way for me to make sense of things in this crazy, out of control world.
I have to believe that nothing is ordinary…not much is trivial. Very few things to me are surface level and shallow. I want to see more. I choose to.
Because life means that much to me. It has to be what I make it.
During those days and weeks…I needed a hero. An entire team of them, really.
And I found them. In ordinary, everyday people. Just like you and just like me.
It’s how I got through. It’s how I made it.
Secretly forming my own personal band of Merry Men. Selecting a chosen few. Assigning each a role. Handing over to them those precious and sacred days.
Sir Rob was at the very top of them all. Leading the way.
And trust me, I follow so very few.