Anna's Story so far!
Will probably still change this b4 friday so feel free to comment. Remember I'm a poor sensitive soul though!
For the first time in months I feel calm, almost happy as I walk into work, feeling like I could enjoy the day, that I should enjoy my day without worrying about Nikki. I take my time getting ready, checking the little details of my uniform, enjoying the precise image itís my job to project whilst Iím inside the home. Hair pulled back into a neat bun, name tag clipped to my pocket, all these things I do every day almost mindlessly but appreciate today. I pause by the office as usual, listening in on the phone call someone is always making, whether it be to another floor, a friend or relative, or last weeks entertainer angry because he hasnít been sent the cheque he was promised. No-one communicates properly here, thatís the problem. Today itís Kris, one of the nurses dialling, and I slow down almost absent-mindedly as I go past the desk, half interested in what sheís going to say, half delaying the moment when I actually have to start working.
ĎÖand you heard about the heart failure in room eight did you?
Yeah, seven this morning, found her when they went in to get her dressed. Who what, found her? Oh, Claire, I know poor thing, thatís her second in two weeks; itíll be putting her off the early shift at this rate!
Iím just about to phone them, weíll need her stuff shifting by the end of the week, thereís an assessment at St James could do with the bedí
It takes me a minute to realise its Annie their talking about. Christ, the poor bugger. Only seventy five and chirpy as a sparrow, when thereís some weíve got at the moment that have been lying in bed for months, hardly able to talk and yet they just keep on going. I like Annie Ė suppose thatís liked now, funny how often we have to start using past tense around here so suddenly, and just accept it as routine. They say these things get easier the more often you go through them, well Iíve been working here three years now and I canít feel it changing. I manage to leave most of it behind at the end of the day but thatís about as far as any sign of it getting easier goes. Problem is, no matter how upset you are it doesnít do to show it; there are other residents to consider, and itís not good for them to worry. I suppose it must be quite a concern really, to see people your age going so regularly. If it was me I know Iíd be wondering when it was going to be my turn, after all by the time you get to that age youíve got to be half expecting it havenít you? Not like when itís someone young, not like Nikki. Not that sheís going to die, I know sheís going to be fine, but just suppose. That would be a whole different story, a tragedy. I donít know how Iíd cope. Unlike here, now, when we donít have any choice other than to get on with the day, but ready to be understanding and sympathetic should any grieving relatives come to visit.
I take a last look in Annieís room as I go past, and bump into Catherine who seems to have had the same idea. I suppose itís our way of saying a little good bye so we can move on and care for whoever comes along to take their place. And there will be a new lady in her bed by next week, especially if Kris is on the case already, but then, I suppose thatís business. Empty beds just donít pay.
ĎSad, isnít it? It always seems to be the sweet ones that go first.í
I smile in reply, an understanding between us of how little we can let ourselves feel sad. Thereís always that urge to turn the mood round, find a memory that will somehow justify the death, one thatís somehow always cute or funny, the funny oneís are the best.
ĎDo you remember that time whení Ė see what I mean? Ė Ďshe threatened to ring the police because she thought poor little Dorothy had stolen her best nightie?í
We laugh, and carry on down the corridor; time to get on with the day, and with everybody elseís lives.
The day moves relatively quickly, as it always does when you work mornings, thereís just so much stuff to get done Ė breakfasts to give out, beds to make, baths to give, tea to pour, lunch to serve, always something else to keep you busy. Thereís a strange mood in the air all day, a respectful quiet in the staff room overcompensated for by loud, bubbly exchanges with the residents. Annieís family do come in after lunch, and we offer our condolences, noting as we do that the family doesnít actually seem in much need of consolation.
ĎOf course, weíd been expecting it for a while now, it makes it easier.í Yeah right, try telling that too Nikkiís mum and dad Ė they heard the news three months ago but they still wonít accept their baby girl could be dying. Not that she can be of course, not my best friend. Sheís too strong to give up.
The fact that the last time anyone saw Annieís niece in the building was last Christmas Eve doesnít really prompt the highest level of sympathy anyway. She always said it was us that made her smile each morning, not them. They didnít mean anything to her by the end, and I donít think she meant much to them either. Except that on their way out Catherine hears them talking about the will. Thatís always the thing their interested in. It makes you sick.
I do feel relieved to be leaving work today, funny that I felt so bright about it this morning, but I suppose thatís part and parcel of the job; you never know what youíll have to deal with in any one day. Anyway, at least I can push it out of my head as I walk own the road, forget about it until tomorrow. For now Iím thinking about me, and only me. And Nikki of course, but that does go without saying, sheís my best friend, I donít know what Iíd do without her. Itís early enough for the sky to still be blue though thereís a crisp autumnal chill that clears my head, and I enjoy breathing. Until youíve worked in the heat of a nursing home Iím sure you can never appreciate the shiver of stepping outside into the cold air.
I pause at the playground where I used to stop sometimes on my way home from school, and sit down on the swings. The gentle rocking has a soothing effect on me, I find itís a good way to clear my head after a hard day at the home; a good way to empty it of all the work thoughts and refill it with me. I remember playing on these swings with Nikki when we were little, talking about all the exciting adventures we were going to go on when we grew up, what exotic holidays weíd take, how weíd make the world a better place, and, of course, who could swing the highest. One time I fell off and cut my leg and it was Nikki that took me back home to my mum, Nikki who told me not to cry, that Iíd be alright. How come I find it so hard to say that to her, now that she needs the comforting and not me? Why do I long for her to reassure me, to tell me everythingís going to be O.K when itís her thatís going through all this, when I know how scared she is? I look for the words every day, but they never come. I remember the day she told me about the cancer, she looked so scared, and I just thought, why my friend? It just didnít seem fair. I didnít want to lose my best friend when I was only twenty, it just didnít seem fair. I cry, and am soothed by the steady motion of the swing until I feel like I can cope again, until life seems manageable once more.
Walking home I smile again, thinking about plans for the night. I know Johnís cooked for us, and then weíre all going out. Its ages since Iíve been out with all my housemates, thatís the problem with shift work. Sometimes it feels like every time they all go out for a good time, Iím stuck at work caring for old, sick people, half of whom canít even remember my name. Not that I mind, really, its just I donít want to feel old before my time. We should make the most of being young, you never know whatís round the corner; Nikkiís proved that. So Iím going to have a really good night tonight, Iíve decided, nothings going to get in my way.
Going in through the door, I know at once that Iím wrong. One look at Johnís face is enough to tell me what I somehow already knew. And yet as I hear the words I canít believe they could be true, canít see Johnís expression anymore through the stream of tears running down his face, down my face. Itís not fair. Young people donít die, my friends donít die, Nikki canít die. I never said goodbye
2 comments by 1 or more people
That's a fantastic story, Anna. You should be really proud of it. Only thing I can say about it is that you slipped into past tense in the last paragraph when you wrote knew instead of know. But maybe that's deliberate. Good luck with the fine tuning. Hopefully mine will be on the blog this evening if it's good enough to be seen!
16 Nov 2005, 11:42
Really good Anna, and there's definately room for more in there if you decide to make it longer.
16 Nov 2005, 20:22
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