The most important thing I've ever done, is plunk my ass down and just sit.
I learned the importance of sitting early on in my nursing life. On a busy floor, with twenty something residents to take care of, my guilt had issue with the fact that I didn't have much time to spend with each person.
Instead of standing over them, looking impatiently down while I ticked off in my brain, the gazillion tasks that awaited me; I'd pull up a chair, meet them at eye level, and take a load off.
Win for my lazy ass. Win for old person feeling I'd made special time for them.
I know. Sitting is my favorite.
Marian has been sitting across from our nurse's station for eight years, I've been sitting across from her for three and a half of those.
She wasn't sure of me at first. After we'd become friends, and she'd declared me a; "Hot Shit", she told me;
"You know what Tulp? I thought you were a total bitch when I first met you."
"That is because you are very perceptive. And a total bitch yourself."
"HA!! You're a hot shit you know that?"
Marian was never like the other residents. Alert and oriented and in love with Elvis, she would sit and complain about everyone;
"This one is so loud"
"That one stinks to high heaven!"
"Please get this one away from me! How can you stand these people?"
Depending on who was working with me, and if a look around proved the coast to be clear, I'd tell her just how it is;
"I can't fucking stand half of them either. But the money supports my wine habit, so here I am."
"You're a hot shit you know that?"
It was always so easy to get a laugh out of her, and what a big hearty joyful laugh. Her laughter became one of my goals each shift.
"All these kids smoking. Tsk tsk tsk. You don't smoke do you Tulp?"
"Only Crack Marian. Cigarettes are for pussies."
Her big shoulders shuddering, hands over her mouth spitting laughter; "Anyone ever tell you you're a hot shit?"
Marian had a not so easy life. Thanks to a 'rotten bastard' of a husband, and a diagnosis that caused her to behave inappropriately at times; a diagnosis that was challenging to be the child of, difficult to be a friend to, misunderstood by many.
Her daughter Sandy spoke of a childhood of uncertainty, scary moments, embarassment, shame even. Sandy also knew her job. To take care of her sick mother. She kicked ass at it. Visiting often. Bringing Marian her favorite treats. Keeping her red purse stocked with red lipstick.
In the warm weather months, aside from meal times and dialysis appointments, you'd find Marian sitting outside, in front of the facility, watching the comings and goings of patients, visitors, workers.
When I had time, I'd sit with her. She loved hearing about my childhood, my family. Maybe because she knew she wasn't an easy mother to be a child of, she asked about my mother a lot; What was she like? Strict? Loving? Happy? What did she do for fun?
"Fun? My mother wouldn't know fun if it fucked her in the ass."
"Bah!!! Oh Tulp. You and me. We would have been great friends. We would have raised some hell you and me."
"Oh Marian. I could get fired for just about every conversation we've ever had."
I so could have. For using my favorite colorful words, for telling her many dirty little secrets. For sitting in her room and chatting like girlfriends do when I should have been out at the desk doing paperwork. For tucking her into bed, and pulling her Elvis blanket over her, and making sure his face was positioned just so;
*Snicker* "You like Elvis Tulp?"
"This bedazzled jump suit Vegas Elvis? No. 'Jailhouse Rock' Elvis on the other hand..."
"You wouldn't kick him out of bed eh?"
"Bed, floor, kitchen counter, wherever!"
We all knew it was coming. I knew a month ago.
A week ago it was official. Time to stop dialysis.
Last Saturday, after I got the news, I went down to her room to check on her. She was surrounded by family, biggest grin on her face;
"Tulp! This is my friend Tulp!" I grimmaced at the shortened version of my name that I let only Marian get away with, nobody else ever calls me Tulp,
"So you heard the news? I'm going to be leaving soon."
"Yeah. I heard."
Walking out, I could hear her telling the room;
"That Tulp, she's a hot shit."
I ignored as many duties as I could get away with for the next four days. Spending as much time as I could sitting with Marian.
By Monday, though she couldn't get out of bed, she was alert enough to enjoy our administrator's Elvis impersonation; he'd gone out, rented a costume and made a fool of himself to put a smile on Marian's face.
By Tuesday, she wasn't waking up. The bottle of morphine never left my pocket that night.
My relief had the forethought to be an hour late that night, giving me another hour of sitting I wouldn't otherwise have had. Sitting and waiting for the end. Wanting to be there for it. To witness it. To be the one to open the window and let her out.
Wednesday morning a text from a fellow nurse;
"She's still here."
Checking in all day.
Coworker Sally whom I normally babysit for on Wednesday evenings tells me she doesn't need me sit for her;
"Oh good. Gonna put the kids to bed and come and sit with Marian."
A few minutes later, a text from Sally;
"Marian just passed. Sandy with her. Elvis 'I can't help falling in love' playing. Just perfect."
If I'd been sitting with her too.