A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not so far from here….
No, wait, that is not quite right. Well, anyway, after I had departed Da City’s EMS, and started working as an RN, my father took ill. Years previously, he and my mother had moved back to The Megalopolis, and resided in The Maternal State, nearly half way across the country from me. My brother the contractor did not seem well suited to the demands of helping care for a sick elderly man, so I volunteered.
As it happened, while I was helping Mom take care of my Dad, I was working 12 hour night shifts in various EDs around The Maternal State, receiving my assignments from this or that temporary staffing agency. The money was OK, and I was able to keep up with my house payment, my car payments, and all that stuff.
Things progressed. My father was dying, and there was no stopping it. I was glad that I could take some of the burden off of my mother, who was nearly overwhelmed in any event by the looming demise of her husband of decades. You do that which you can do, correct? Around this point in the process, my father had been admitted to hospice, and his care needs had escalated to the point where Hospice supplied a nurse to care for my dad around the clock.
So one morning around 0900, I arrived home from work, and went to bed. I was awakened for a phone call around 11 am, to find that the agency was informing me that my shift that night had been canceled. I mumbled affirmation, and stumbled back to bed.
Around 1400, I was again awakened to learn from the Hospice case manager that they were unable to find a nurse to care for my dad overnight that night. “I don’t know what we are going to do!” she apologized.
I wasn’t all that wound up over it. “So, it looks as if you have a nurse, then.”
“No, I don’t. I have called, and called, and I cannot find a nurse to care for your father tonight!”
“Yeah, you did. Me.”
“You cannot care for your father overnight!”
“How come? You need a nurse. I’m a nurse. You need somebody who will be reliable. I flatter myself, that I am reliable. You need somebody here. I’m gonna be here, nurse or no nurse. Looks like I know what I’m gonna be doing, instead of watching late night TV!”
“Are you going to be able to do this? Can you handle that responsibility?”
“Do you have a better idea?”
She admitted that no, she did not.
“Well, then, it certainly looks as if I have to do it, and have no alternative to handling it, doesn’t it?”
We agreed, and I returned to bed.
This time, around 1500, I was awakened for another phone call (this appeared to be developing into A Thing!, and I was not liking it!). My agency was calling, and the staffing coordinator perkily informed me that she had found me an assignment for that very night! “Gosh, thanks, but, after you called me to cancel me, I made other plans.”
She was aghast. “What? Are you refusing an assignment?”
“Nope. I had an assignment as of 0730 this morning, when I left duty. I was sleeping, in preparation for reporting for that assignment, when you called me, to cancel it. Once you had canceled me, I had no obligations to anyone, and I have made other arrangements since then. Now, you are calling me and asking, at the eleventh hour, may I remind you, if I can take a last minute assignment. No, I cannot. I am busy tonight, with obligations that I cannot ignore. I’m not refusing an assignment, I am simply not able to accommodate your last minute brainstorms.”
We ended the call at that point, and I resigned myself to my (sleep deprived) fate.
Mom and I had supper, I made some calls, and wrote checks for some of my bills. Once 2300 arrived, the afternoon nurse gave me report, and oriented me to the overnight routine.
We changed my father’s bedding, and bathed him. As we turned him to his left, I held him for her part of the cleaning and linen change, and he sighed once, long and loud. I looked into his eyes, and watched them dilate. I felt for a carotid pulse, and found none. “I think he’s gone”, I told the nurse. She and I tidied up the bed, tucked him in, and she went for my mother.
The next couple of hours were not etched in my memory. Eventually, Mom and I were alone in the house. We cried, we hugged, and we went to our beds.
Monday I had an assignment. I showed up, happy, in a sort of left handed way, to be doing SOMETHING that did not involve constant reminders of my dad’s death. The charge nurse for St. Elsewhere greeted me with, “We heard about your dad. We’re sorry to hear it. How are you doing?”
I was surprised. She was a lovely soul, cute, smart, professional, and capable (all things that I admire in a woman). She was friendly, and I was very open to that. However, I hadn’t told anyone about my dad’s demise. I was touched that she would make the effort to offer consolation to me, a relative stranger. I had been hoping that I could immerse myself in ED nursing, and not think about my dad for a while.
I offered my response, thanked her for her concern, and asked what pod was mine for the night.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. I received another call from the agency, and another assignment offer. I had made plans to take my mother out for dinner, and therefore I declined the assignment. (Yeah, THIS one I straight up declined.). The coordinator took me to task. “I’m getting really tired of covering for you all the time!”
What the fuck? My query was edited before being spoken. “Huh?”
“I said I’m getting tired of covering for you!”
“Uh, what are you talking about? Covering for me? When?”
“Remember two weeks ago? That Friday night, when you had made other plans? That’s what I’m talking about!”
I was almost speechless. Fortunately, this was a telephone conversation, not one taken across a desk. That fact alone kept me from big trouble. I put as much ice into my voice as I could, and clarified: “Oh, wait! Do you mean the night my father died? Do you mean to tell me that you are irritated that I could not work on the night my father died, in my arms, and you are really, no shit, taking me to task for not working that night? Did you really, actually, just say that to me, not two weeks after he died? It sure sounds as if you did, and I cannot think, off hand, of any other way to take that. What did your supervisor say when you told her you were inconvenienced by my not working that night? Say, how about I call her, right fucking now, and ask her? Gimme her goddamned phone number, please. I feel the need for a heartfelt chat!”
For some reason, she was, well, “reluctant” probably does not fully capture her lack of enthusiasm for me chatting with the manager of the office on a Saturday night.
I continue to be surprised. By humanity in general. And, in particular, that she was such a jackwagon, and that she did not provide me that number.
Although, not giving me the number might have been a good thing.