I’ve decided to embrace my part-time, three days per week, floater J.O.B. It offers access to good insurance, money to live on, and a captive audience that contains many teachers.
At the end of each day, for the sake of HIPPA, I shred my patient log covered in my chicken scratch. I’ve got to figure a workaround on that, because I forget most of these Angels, before I cross my apartment’s threshold. Hell, these organic, imprisoned inhabitants of insurance company supporting outposts, are incredible character material, let alone makers of short-term memories that I’d like to retain. Recently, I allowed one of them—call him 54—to find me Not Guilty in the game of rehabilitation.
He and I were the same age and shared a love of bicycles. He hadn’t yet started his rant as I stepped into his room, but I could feel it coming. In the initial five of the allotted 30 minutes, he moved to the edge of his bed, and from sitting, leaned side to side on forearms, mirroring me and listening to my commands. I was observing what appeared to be left-sided neglect, stroke related, which I’d seen noted on my log. In thoughtfully chosen semantics, I started to educate him.
Seriously, there wasn’t time for pre-treatment intelligence gathering. Therapists are sent in blind. It’s all about the minutes. I knew that he had a feeding tube that affected the hours when he was untethered—this information would theoretically, ensure I saw him during a non-feeding hour when therapy minutes could easily be secured.
But who could argue that if he hadn’t had coffee, he should be ready to learn anything? The speech therapist had given him a trial of coffee earlier. He had signed off a release of liability to the facility for this coffee…it wasn’t even liquid. It was thickened. Having to sign a release was another sore point for him.
Now, I would argue that I would never have even entertained the notion of meeting him, if I had had the intelligence about the coffee. I would’ve run far and fast in the other direction like my PTSD dog when he hears a vacuum motor. Or, I would’ve brewed him my favorite Chiapas beans and slipped a cup to him, or even better, had him prepare some coffee in the kitchen for his therapy—but that would’ve far exceeded the minutes.
But I did see him, educated him, and listened to him vent about the worthlessness of life without real coffee and food, about wanting to follow-through on his previously laid life plans, about his theories of the cause of his left side oddities, and about random therapists coming in and tearing him down.
“It is far easier to tear someone down than to build them up,” he quipped.
“I know,” I agreed. “I need to take you home and let you tell my 17-year-old son that tidbit.”
“Oh, he’s not in any position to hear anything. He just has to experience the school of hard knocks first.”
Now, I wish I could recall his exact words. They were so much better than that.
“I know,” I replied. “But that’s a hard thing for a mother to accept.”
“Oh no mother can accept that. I’ve seen many mothers and it’s impossible for them.”
Tears welled in my eyes and I turned the conversation back to him at the next pause.
I apologized for the daily stream of new therapists offering him unsolicited critiques. I encouraged him to discuss his desires, goals and discharge plans at the time of his next progress report, several days out. As the clock ticked down, he said, testing me, “Okay. I’ll see you on the 6th for the progress thing.”
“Oh no, not me. I just float on weekends. I’m part of the problem,” I sheepishly confessed.
He held up his thumb and two fingers, almost pinched together. “You’re just a little bitty part of the problem.”
I smiled, 20 years of occupational guilt pardoned, and thanked him.
The J.O.B. offers stability and teachers, and the other part of part-time. That’s the part where I set the schedule and the names aren’t shredded. Somerset Maugham wrote only when inspiration struck. He was noted to say, “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
That’s the plan for the new year. With Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art in hand, and patient 54’s “Itty Bitty” pardon, I’m ready.