Run, Nicky, Run! Part #3. Fine, Red Thread of Evidence

“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…

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Run, Nicky, Run

Run, Nicky, Run

Chapter 1

I close my eyes, and settle in to bed, feeling the burden of my body’s weight slip away. I am grateful the day requires no more effort on my part. I no longer have to control each muscle, to fight fatigue and pain with every moment. It’s over- for now. I sigh deeply, and smile from the pleasure that a good night’s sleep will bring. Tomorrow will be better. The doctor says I am only months away from being able to take a walk around the lake again, or to swim. Sure, I’ll have to start slowly at first. I see myself, a new runner and only 44 years old. I thought I was past my prime, close to over- the- hill. Looking back on it, that was my prime. I had plenty of strength and mobility, and the best part was at that age, I had learned the value of hard work and perseverance. Nothing could stop me, or so I thought. Over the next two years, I continued to progress. two miles became three, then four. The first day I completed five miles, I was ecstatic. I was not the fastest, by any means. My game was endurance, and I was winning.

The races came, and while I never finished at the top, or even in the top five, I kept going. I was fit, my husband and I had something in common, now. I was happy that we had a new bond. He was happy he had inspired me to run.

People sometimes asked me if I’d been injured, and how long it took to recover. They’d notice the scar on my knee and assume I’d torn it up running. Not even close. I simply fell off my bike because I had been drinking beer and showing off. It wasn’t even that bad, I just scar easily. I’d never been injured running, even though I never ran before the age of 44.  Now, the beer was behind me, and every step I ran, I ran from the past. I ran away from pain, from fear and worry, from feeling I was a failure, and never measured up. I’d see a still snapshot in my mind of one of my daughters, and smile with pride. They were my inspiration.

The treadmill was punishment, but it is what laid the foundation of my learning to pace myself, to judge my timing and know when to push at the last mile or two of my runs. Still, I yearned for the outdoors.

Finally, spring came, and my outdoor runs began. I loved the park. It had a gorgeous lake running through the middle of it, all the way around the 3.5 miles. I was enjoying my time at the park more and more. It was my escape, and my redemption.

One splendid late spring day at the lake, the run seemed especially easy to me. I felt I’d reached a new plateau. It was time to begin to push myself for more speed. At the end of my second lap, I decided I would really put the heat on, and see what I could do.

Pride goeth before the fall. Many times I had already learned this lesson the hard way, but I foolishly wanted to have something to brag about to my husband that night. I wanted him to be proud of me, and I decided in a blink that I wanted to start finishing races in the top five. I knew I had another lap in me, even though I’d already run seven miles.

I slowed when I got to where my car was parked, and grabbed my Zero cal. Berry Energized drink bottle off the top, and guzzled the last of it. It was lukewarm, which I am not too fond of, preferring instead to walk a bit to the vending machine and buy a cold bottle. But not today. Today I couldn’t take that time. I had to keep running.

Security is not something I generally considered when it came to water or drink bottles. I never considered locking down my beverages. My car, yes. My purse and cell phone, naturally. Nothing felt odd or wrong to me when I put that bottle to my lips. It was hydration, and I needed it, and was grateful to have it. After downing it, I put the lid back on as to not litter, and turned the bottle sideways between the slots on my roof rack so it wouldn’t blow away, and I began to pick up my pace. I had just enough of a respite  to really add some speed now.  Within fifty yards, something felt wrong. My stomach felt like it was being stretched and pulled.  A strange burning sensation began creeping up from my stomach and down from my throat simultaneously.  I was still running, but slowing. In fact, everything felt like it was going in slow motion.  The pain increased throughout my entire body, now. Fire, and gnawing, and then I couldn’t breathe very well. I remember looking up at the leaves on trees. The sun was so beautiful, streaming through them. I remember wondering if my head hit very hard. I couldn’t feel it.  I couldn’t feel anything but  fire, and the burning increased to the point where I could feel my eyes protruding and tongue  clogging my throat and I became instantly petrified. I was dying. I saw a face above mine, and I don’t remember this part, but I was told later, in the hospital that the guy who tried to help me and who called 911 was still having nightmares about that day. I guess my purple face, bulged- out eyes and blood drizzling from my nose and mouth kinda spooked the poor soul.

The paramedics had no idea of what was happening to my body.  They briefly suspected a hemorrhagic virus, but it was highly unlikely. The bleeding didn’t continue, anyway. During the ambulance ride, the main concern became keeping me breathing.  A tracheotomy tube was inserted. My heart had to be de-fibbed. Luckily, the guy who found me had seen me go to my car. My key was found safety pinned to my short’s waistband. Other personnel opened my car and grabbed my purse, and found my phone.  I had been dutiful to put my husband’s name in my contact list followed by “ICE” , so he was the first one called.  I am glad there is a hospital right by the park. At first they thought they might need to life flight me away to a bigger facility, but they decided to work on stabilizing me first. Transferring me might be the best option at any moment, though, so staff was ready to move me immediately, if word came. Honestly, they didn’t expect me to live. My poor husband showed up, but I wasn’t there to see his face. I imagine it, though ; all his color drained, his eyes wild with fear, frantically pumping the doctors and nurses for information.

I am glad he didn’t call my mom. The shock would be too much. I lost my sister a couple of years ago, to a long- standing illness. I was amazed that my mom survived it , with her COPD as bad as it is, and only worse now.

The reason I lay there, looking like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, was a complete mystery. At some point, a toxicology report was run. That’s when the real fun began.

Somehow, the nicotine levels in my blood were ridiculously high. The whole thing was nearly missed, being the least likely of the drugs abused and  associated with the area where I live. But, after my drooling and convulsions, someone got a clue.

I was absent during my possession, really. I hope I dreamed good dreams, but somehow I doubt it. Dialysis came next. The suction device for my profuse drooling disturbs me to think about more than some of the other aspects of it all, strangely.

What really saved me, I found out later, was the fact that I had been an avid nicotine gum chewer for years. My tolerance of the shit was so high already, that I was able to survive it better than most. Meanwhile, the whole thing suddenly became an investigation when it was determined that I didn’t choose to drink a large amount of nicotine. My car was searched. The bottle was still on top of the car. Bingo! Loaded with traces of the stuff.

Better news was that there were prints on the bottle that didn’t match mine…

More of Run, Nicky Run coming soon. Hope you enjoyed…