“No, Nicky. That’s bullshit. The problem is not that you don’t know what you want, The problem is that you don’t think you need to choose. You want it all, and you don’t appreciate anybody telling you that you can’t have it.
But I am a particular person, Nicky, and I am asking you to. You see nothing wrong with doing what you’re doing. I do. So, since we’ve had this discussion so many times in the past, and you know how I feel, let’s just cut to the chase. You can choose, or I will choose for you. We’re not playing this game anymore. ”
Those were pretty much the last words he said to me. Ever. Turns out I chose to stay in school, work full-time at the nursing home, and spend time with my mother. She’s been ill for quite a long time, and I’d rather help her with what she needs than to have her spending money on a nurse to come in, or to- God forbid- be in a nursing home. She gets lonely. Her other daughters live far away. They do what they can and keep in touch, but I am the only one nearby to go get the groceries and keep up with some light housekeeping. This was just too much for Hugh. I understand, I was gone a lot. I guess he couldn’t understand that I still loved him very much, even if I needed to have a life outside the home. He looked at it differently. He said things to me like , “Love? Love is spelled T-I-M-E, Nicky”. And every time I would stifle my urge to say, “Yeah? And insecurity is spelled H-U-G-H.”
In the end, though, he was right. No matter how valid my reasons were for being away, it’s hard to make a marriage work when you’re absent from it so much. Our marriage needed to be the priority, not just another nice thing in life. He had to be number one. No, we had to be number one. I blew it.
I remember sitting at the dining room table one early morning, sipping darjeeling tea and poring over medication dosage formulas. He just walked over to me, kissed my cheek, picked up the cap he’d left on the table, and slowly walked to the door.
“I’ll have all my stuff out of here by the end of the week. I’ll send you my new address in case I get mail, or if you have an emergency. I’ll be filing, so expect to be served. I’m really, truly sorry. ”
He shut the door soundly. I spent the rest of morning sobbing. Every photograph of us together mocked me. Our wedding mementos- worthless. Memories of how we met and fell in love cascaded over me and I simply collapsed and wailed.
We were both so young. We thought things would stay the same forever, just lazy summer days sipping cold root beer out of brown bottles and soaking up the sun on the roof of his duplex. We grew-up, the duplex was remodeled. He got his job, and wanted to support us both. I still wanted to chase my dreams. The happiness started to fade, and like a photograph, after a while you couldn’t even make out who those two young kids were, or who they had become.
I sold the place once Lawson and I got serious. He asked me to move in, and I really couldn’t wait to be out of that house, with all its sad memories and shit-canned dreams.
Hugh got married a year later to a beautiful lady, five years younger than me, and eager to start a family. Hugh and I weren’t ever ready to take that leap, but the new happy couple was expecting six months later. I had finished up my nursing studies by then and got hired by Canterbury Place as a nurse’s aid. I had become interested in nutritional studies and had decided to go back to school to become a licensed nutritionist, so the busy pace of full-time work and school was still making me ragged.
One afternoon and incredibly kind , tall man with the most delicious smile I’d ever seen walked up to me in the hallway. He explained he was there to see his granddad and wanted me to help him find him.
We sauntered down the hall slowly, just hitting it off from the beginning. I learned more about him and his amazing family in those five minutes than I knew about friend’s families I’d known forever. I liked everything about him. We began a whirlwind romance, he became my everything. We had a simple but wonderful wedding and were married two years later. Meanwhile, though, I was putting in my time at the nursing home, and studying nutrition.
There were deaths fairly often at the facility. It was a fact of working there. It was the final retirement home .It was never easy to deal with , though. When you take care of people, you begin to care for them. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong line of work.
One particularly sad case happened during the end of my first year there. It was more than sad. It almost shut the nursing home down. Allegations of negligence arose because Rose Aarons, a lovely sweetheart of a ninety-three year old, was found deceased in her room at 6:17 a.m. on June 8. The last time someone signed off on reports was at 12:10 in the morning. Rose was supposed to be checked on every two hours, but somehow she got missed during the two-o’clock rotation, and the four-o’clock. While she had no medications scheduled for overnight, and rarely needed help with toileting, someone got lazy and decided she wasn’t a priority case that needed to be tended to. It was wrong, against all policy, and may have cost Rose her life. Nevertheless, that’s what happened. The guilty nurse’s aid was held accountable, and her case was taken to court. Meanwhile, the place was crawling with ombudsmen, concerned families, and the media. It was horrible, the entire thing. I fielded angry questions from family members and residents alike, and I was not allowed to say anything about the situation. One afternoon, a news crew swarmed me and put cameras and mics in my face as I headed to my car. I felt like a guilty dodger, but I couldn’t say anything. I was a person of slight interest because Rose was on my current rotation. I had last taken care of her that afternoon, at around 4:00, and did all the required charting. More than that, I had loved Rose, and my heart was broken, too. I was disgusted that my co-worker had just completely skipped over the basic two-hour checks and reporting for her. Rose had a couple of grandson’s, and one granddaughter, but her daughter and husband had died in a car crash ten years ago. It took everything out of Rose, especially since her husband passed not a year later. She was a tiny lady, always very neatly dressed, in color-coordinated pants suits, and she always had on knee high hose and tasteful, black flats. I told her those knee highs weren’t good for her circulation, but she just laughed and pulled up her pant’s leg to show me how her knee- highs were simply bagged in nylon pools near her ankles.
She has sparkling blue eyes and lots of photos in old frames all over her room. She loved roses, cats, kids, and Golden Retrievers. Once upon a time, she was an avid runner, school principal, and in her early days, a “Rosie the Riveter” in the WW2 effort. She would tell me the stories whenever I came to her room, and told them well. I would end up spending more time with her than I could afford to, but she would sweep me away in her stories. I could just picture this white-haired little lady as a young, gorgeous blonde, just smiling coyly at the boys and getting her job done. I was going to miss her like crazy, and I wasn’t the only one.
Rose’s stepson Miles kept coming to the home, and I’d met him before. As he was related to Rosie, I gave him the utmost respect and courtesy. It didn’t help him warm up to me, though. He was tall, but loosely built, as if he might be a contortionist in his spare time. He had dishwater blond hair, a bit too long and too greasy. Not that I cared about that. It was his personality, or presence, that made the greasy hair and slinky build bother me. He was intense, and creepy. Grief I understand, anger I get. But this guy had something else entirely going on in his mind. He kept asking me over and over for the names of everyone who took care of his grandma. I told him he needed to contact the Nursing Director to get all the details. This all had to go through proper channels. He got upset and accused me of trying to “protect the murderers”, and then pointed at my chest and said “You, included”. Then he practically snarled, his emotions leaking out with some spittle and revealing a very venomous persona. His stare practically bore a hole through my face. I was shaking worse than he was when he walked out. I called the Nursing Director, who basically told me not to worry so much- that this was a normal stage of grief. That was right before he banged on her door and she had to hang-up. Now she was going to get an earful, no doubt. I hoped he didn’t scare her like he had me. I didn’t hear back from her that afternoon, because I was out the door by five- o’ nine. Norma, our nursing director, never came back to work. She was found beside her car- at home- keys in hand, her head bleeding out all over the concrete. Foul play was suspected but they didn’t have any leads or evidence.
I think I had a clue…