I did a not very smart thing tonight.
I had a few glasses of wine and dug out my journal from Owen's ICU stay.
I can't copy that emotional clusterfuck here. But I'm glad I wrote it all down.
One thing I had forgotten about though, fell out of the journal.
A letter I'd written to the husband of a resident of mine.
Ethel and Randall owned and operated a nursing home for most of their marriage. She the nurse and he the business man.
He brought her to us, to me, in the late stages of Alzheimer's, after having a stroke and more recently, breaking a hip.
He visited every single day, usually dressed in his Sunday best. And for months, he sobbed every day when he left her. He'd cling to me crying, telling me how much he loved her.
Randall taught me that on an Alzheimer's unit, my patient's families were as much under my care as their loved one.
We knew that he lived alone. And was well into his eighties. So if he missed a day visiting Ethel, we'd call their daughter Myrna.
He shuffled in one day with a poorly bandaged hand. He tried to hide it from us. He'd mangled a few fingers on his lawn mower. Nothing that needed stitches; we cleaned it up, rebandaged it, and sent him home insisting that he check in with his doctor and never touch his lawn mower again.
He promised to do both. And we promised to not tell his daughter about the incident.
We were on the phone to Myrna before he was out the door.
Myrna always visited, but came more often after Randall lost his driver's license. He'd hit the wrong pedal and drove into a new car lot. New truck actually. He'd totalled a few.
They were tickled to find out I was pregnant. Myrna was sure I was having a girl and knit me a beautiful heavy pink blanket, suitable for a Vermont winter. Bea has that blanket on her right this very moment.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, Ethel let us know that her time was approaching. Randall and Myrna were deeply saddened but also accepting. We were in constant contact those last few weeks.
I remember a day, toward her end. I'd had the day off, but having nothing to do, decided the best use of my time would be spent sitting with Ethel.
I sat for a few hours. I ate Cheerios. The things one recalls.
I felt Owen kick.
One hand holding Ethel's, the other on my belly.
I've said it before, and if you can ever do it, I highly recommend it;
Feeling a new life kicking into existence as you grasp the hand of a life fading out of existence is well - life.
I'm ever grateful to have had that experience, more than once. And to have the presence of mind to bathe in its enormity.
So. The letter to Randall.
I wrote it when Owen was four weeks old. His survival was very much a question mark. I sat and stared at him, helpless. He was in a place where I could not comfort him.
But I thought maybe Ethel could.
He was straddling the realms, just like I had when he was inside me and I was holding onto her.
I told Randall that I imagined Ethel comforting Owen. Making sure he was never alone while he decided where he was going to go.
She wasn't alone either. Many others were with her. Ones who I had a hand in easing the journey had come to return the favor to me.
The little ICU cubicle crowded with ghosts keeping watch over Owen.
They were waiting too. Either to say goodbye when he came to me, or to welcome him home if he went with them.
I never sent the letter.
And this Christmas, a friend sent me Randall's obituary.
I was surprised that he'd lasted so long without Ethel. And glad he'd found her again.
I wonder if she told him the story about the time she kept the sick baby company.