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ACM, My Other ManIn Love With Two Men At The Same Time
By Sue Fone
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Sue Fone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBEFORE ACM
To become a nurse was first a dream, then a passionate goal and finally a reality. After what seemed like forever of balancing classes, studies and practicum, and in between full days of also being a wife and mom, finally ... I was a nurse.
* * *
It was my first night at the hospital; I was in awe of my surroundings. It felt wonderful ... exactly like I always knew it would.
As I stood taking it all in, my mind drifted. I thought back to the nights of tucking in my girls—my four biggest reasons for why I'd make it through the classes, the studying and all the unknowns that would fall in between. They were my strength. They knew their mom was in school and going to be a nurse, and they were proud. Once I began the journey, no matter how difficult, I knew I'd see it through. There'd be no quitting; that wasn't the lesson I wanted to teach.
I never stopped being a mom, just took on the role of being a student as well. I still took turns in the carpool that drove Julie to school, chaperoned Amy's field trips, and continued being a room-mom for Melissa and Kris. Still, somehow I managed to find time for studying.
The blue plastic Fisher Price tape recorder belonged to Amy. She was happy to share, and it became my best friend and faithful companion. It sat on the kitchen counter repeating class lectures and I listened intently night after night while my hands were busy with dinner. I memorized body parts, diseases and drugs while I tossed salad, mashed potatoes and poured milk.
Another constant during my student years was the big red nursing textbook. Like a "blankie" or a "binkie" goes everywhere with its owner, the very large, very heavy, red book went with me. It was within reaching distance at all times during waking hours and not too far from me as I slept. I could slip in chapters of reading while waiting for orthodontic appointments, sitting on the bleachers at softball games, riding in the car on short weekend trips or soaking in the tub. Any place where there was time, the big red book was open, and I pulled words from the pages and planted them into my brain.
ALFRED CLAY MOORE
The elevator doors opened and Al Moore stepped out onto 3-East, the medical-surgical wing of Riverside Osteopathic Hospital. It was a small community hospital located in Trenton, Michigan, just a few miles down the river from Detroit. It was 3:00 a.m. and his dinner break.
The hallways were dimly lit and quiet. The only sounds heard were that of his footsteps and his crisp uniform pants as they rustled and swished in harmony with each step. He headed toward the nurses' station as he'd done nightly for the past 10 years saying nothing but carefully observing, looking for anything or anyone new. His pattern never changed; first dinner, next a smoke and then a stroll through the halls before returning to his post in the Emergency Department where he worked as a nurses' aide. He rounded the corner and immediately noticed an unfamiliar face. My new nurse status was obvious from the tip of my white starched cap down to the brand new, unscuffed shoes. His footsteps were near. I looked up. Our eyes met. I smiled; he just stared. I was immediately overwhelmed with a comfortable warmth, and in that moment I wondered, Did I know him?
There was nothing striking or outstanding about him, yet there was a pull. His presence caught my attention. My eyes followed him as he continued to walk. He was neatly dressed in white uniform pants and a blue hospital scrub top. He was neither tall nor short, fat nor thin. He blended with average. The rounded top of his head was empty of hair but a thick row of short neatly cropped whiteness circled the back from ear to ear. His beard, also white, was clipped close to his face, and the short salt and pepper mustache matched his thick eyebrows. His skin was pink, but it was his expressive brown eyes that governed his entire face. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn't think who. There was a twinkle in his eyes and a devilish expression on his face. If guessing his age were a contest, I'd say somewhere around 45. He was attractive to me, but there was something more. There was a feeling of recognition and familiarity. It left me puzzled.
He broke our stare, looked forward and walked through with an air that felt almost teasing. As he walked past the desk without a word, I became aware of a warmth I was feeling inside.
"Who was that?" I asked, looking up toward the nurses' station. The midnight nurses were busy scanning patient charts and putting together their plan of care for the next eight hours. There were drugs to be administered, IV's to be pulled and re-started and a night full of unknowns.
"Oh don't pay any attention to him," came a voice from the utility room. It was Miriam.
Earlier during the change of shift patient report, when the charge nurse had introduced me to the midnight crew it was Miriam who was first to smile and extend her hand in warm welcome. We were easily and quickly acquainted, asking questions and volunteering information and somehow we knew we'd be friends.
She was a tiny woman with a deep raspy voice, maybe early forties. She spoke at a rapid-fire pace that required concentration to follow. Her face wore only a hint of make-up, with short brown hair that gave the illusion of a pixie. Dark circles surrounded her tired looking eyes which told the story of a hard-working woman. Later in our friendship she told me her life was full of disappointment and pain. She told me stories of a husband who drank too much, was a womanizer, and unfaithful to their marriage whenever he chose. But she always beamed with pride when she spoke of her six kids. They were the core of her existence. She'd been an aide at Riverside for 15 years. She knew something about everyone who worked there and was more than happy to share. She whispered the same way she spoke ... very quickly. It was that kind of hospital, that kind of town—small, with lots of secret stories that most everyone knew.
The hospital originated from an old, three-story red brick mansion built in the 1800's. Henry Ford purchased the home and in 1944, it was turned into a hospital. It sat on a large parcel of green grass with beautiful Weeping Willows scattered about and overlooked the Detroit River. It had been added to and renovated enough times to boast a 200-bed facility.
On warm summer days, healing patients with visitors and hospital employees having lunch would sit at the river's edge. Sailboats passed by swaying with the songs of the wind. It was a calming atmosphere for patients, visitors and workers alike. But sadly, the old red brick mansion was being swallowed up by time and change.
My mind was still on my mystery man. I watched him fade down the hall and disappear into the darkness. I heard the stairway door open, then close.
"Why shouldn't I pay attention to him?" I asked.
Miriam walked toward my medication cart. She came close and lowered her voice to a hush, "That's crazy Al Moore," she rapidly whispered. "He works down in the ER and walks the halls every night. He's just an old weirdo, made his own casket."
"WHAT?" I blurted a bit too loud.
"You heard me. He made his own casket. Says he'll use it for a coffee table 'til he needs it for himself. Tell me that's not crazy."
"Nope, I saw the blueprints with my own eyes."
"I swear. Couldn't make that one up."
"Wow! That is weird."
That was it for me. I was hooked; my curiosity was piqued. Who was this man, and why did I feel such a strange, strong pull toward him? For a moment my mind wandered, but the sound of a patient's buzzer at the nurses' station brought me back. It was time to be a nurse.
My very first eight hours were over in a heartbeat. I was on top of the world and hurried home to tell my four "ladies" all I'd seen and done.
My drive from the hospital to home was close, easy and almost automatic which allowed my thoughts the ability to wander, and they did. They went back there; back down that hallway of vulnerable people I'd so carefully watched over and cared for during the night.
I thought of Mr. Andrus. He was my patient who couldn't sleep but didn't want medication. I sat on the edge of his bed while he talked. I heard a man who was lonely and scared. He had much to say if only someone would listen.
Mr. Burston, my angry patient, was hostile to everyone. His room was semi-private but the other bed remained unoccupied and would stay that way. As long as he was in that room, he was alone. He lied helpless in his bed while the cancer ate holes into his body. He knew everyone hated coming near him, looking at him, touching him and smelling the stench the air fresheners couldn't hide.
The young woman at the end of the hall had cried all night. Her newborn baby had died shortly after the emergency delivery. There were no words for me to even try to console her so I sat beside her and quietly held her hand. I thought to myself how horrid it would be not to have all of my girls. A few of my own tears escaped from wherever it is that tears are kept until they're released.
These were cases of the heart, the things that nursing school could only caution about. There were no cures, and the textbooks had no answers ... no right words.
Deep in thought, not really aware of my surroundings, I drove myself home. Inside, my girls were into the groove of morning. Journey music was blaring from one bedroom and hair blow dryers from another.
It was my girls who were my cheering section and my strength when I felt like quitting. Posters and words of pride and encouragement had been taped to the wall in the corner of the bedroom—the corner where the old card table sat and served as a makeshift desk for six years. It's where I spent hours reading, writing, studying and sometimes feeling a bit guilty when I could hear them downstairs and wondered, Should I be down there with them?
Days when I questioned what I was doing and why, I looked up at a gift from Amy, a drawing that I'd taped to the wall. It was a modified stick-figure lady in a white dress and a smiling face. She had short yellow hair under a white nurses' cap and below the picture was written, "Mom." It was all I needed. My answers and my reasons were all about that taped picture on the wall.
It was my dream but a complete family-of-six decision. My girls gave 100% cooperation, and a trip to Disneyland in California after graduation was the reward. We shared a forever-to-remember celebration.
Working the midnight shift was the solution to avoid leaving my girls home alone. Their dad was with them at night and I was home each morning before they left for school. Responsibility for getting up each morning and beginning the day belonged to each girl.
I told a few stories of my first night to my captive audience as they sat at the kitchen snack bar and crunched their cereal. I promised more hospital tales after school. I kissed them each goodbye and watched as they were on their way.
I was tired and ready for sleep. I slipped under the covers and closed my eyes. His face appeared, and he escorted me into the warm darkness of sleep. He felt so comfortable, so familiar. Who was he? I wondered.
11:00 p.m. I pulled my car into the almost vacant lot. No visitors, free cafeteria sandwiches and plenty of parking ... all benefits of working the midnight shift. I stopped briefly and smiled at the full moon reflecting off the river, but the cool, crisp autumn air convinced me to walk swiftly toward the building. I entered through the side door, then up the elevator and still, none of it felt real.
* * *
The afternoon crew of nurses dragged across the hall for patient report looking beaten, whipped, totally exhausted and, for sure, wanting to go home. The charge nurse announced one of our nurses had called in sick for midnights, and so far the supervisor had been unsuccessful in finding a replacement. It looked as if we were going to have to work a nurse short and share the extra load. The ER was using the nursing pool for help and still they were swamped. To sum the evening up ... the moon was full, the patients were restless, there weren't enough workers and not an empty bed in the house. And did anyone from the afternoon shift want to stay over and work a double? Not a chance!
There was no time that night to sit and talk with Mr. Andrus. Mr. Burston was just one of the many awake and unhappy patients. The young woman who had lost her baby had been transferred and in her place was another young woman, fresh from surgery.
Miriam had been assigned to work the middle hall with me. She was a hard worker and except for an occasional cigarette break, never stopped; no one stopped working that night. It was overwhelming and exhausting, with much that needed to be done, and not enough aides, nurses or time to do it.
* * *
I blinked, and it was daybreak. The shift was over, but the crew remained. The metal patient charts clanked against the carousels as tired-and-wanna-go-home nurses forced themselves to quickly record the events of the night. We took our information from scraps of paper with all kinds of abbreviated words, numbers and symbols scrawled everywhere possible. Karen mumbled with impatience at herself. She was having trouble reading the vital signs she'd hastily recorded on the palm of her hand. The nursing notes were important; they'd help the morning doctors and nurses plan their course of treatment for the day. They'd read the notes and decide if their patients were the same, better or worse and what to do about it.
The midnight aides had been to each room. They emptied trash, gathered laundry and delivered fresh water. They also re-stocked the linen and lined the laundry carts along the hallway walls. Everything was ready for a new day.
Miriam and Esther were in the utility room. A grievance filed by a nursing assistant on 2-East had the Local 89 members buzzing. Whenever the volume of the conversations dropped to an obvious low, it was union talk going on. We could hear Miriam's muffled voice and Esther's hearty laugh. The two of them were funny together. Miriam's humor was dry with a touch of sarcasm and just plain funny. Esther, well she was always ready for a laugh. Their turn was over, and the day shift was off and running.
* * *
The midnight workers stepped outside and greeted the morning. A few deep breaths of the crisp, cool air felt delicious and were enough to keep us awake for our journeys home.
Miriam and I were headed in the same direction of the parking lot and soon were walking side by side.
"Weird Al asked about you tonight," she told me.
"WHAT? Wha'd he want?" My eyes were locked on Miriam waiting for her response.
"He cornered me in the cafeteria and was askin' all about ya."
"Like what?" I listened wide-eyed with interest and amusement.
"He wanted to know who the new blonde was. He always watches for new nurses. You know how men are, they're all the same ... always checkin' it out."
I felt a mischievous smile take over my face and catch Miriam's attention.
"Hey, what's goin' on?" she asked.
I looked at her and hesitated for only a moment before I spoke, "If he asks about me again, tell him I'm a hooker and that's all you know. Okay?"
"Okay crazy lady," and she laughed.
We wished each other a good sleep and waved goodbye.
I smiled all the way home and wondered, Who was this character that captivated my attention?
The first month passed quickly. The hospital and routine felt comfortable, like second nature. The midnight workers were a small, friendly group and before long all of the faces had names. It's where I'd always wanted to be, and it felt like a perfect fit.
I didn't see him every night. Sometimes the elevator didn't stop on 3-East at 3:00 a.m. and sometimes I was just too busy to notice. But more often than not, the doors would open, and I'd watch as he stepped out into the hallway and began his routine.
We hadn't spoken yet, but if I happened to catch his eye, he nodded his head in a non-verbal hello which always made me smile. I nodded back and now and then threw in a little wink for him to wonder about.
My attraction to him was curious. I had nothing to compare it to. It wasn't on a level of anything I'd ever experienced. I didn't understand it, but I knew I'd pursue until the strange man and I were friends. I had a need to know him, although in a way I couldn't explain, I felt like I already did. It was more like a reconnection. I was devoted and in love with my husband and family. It wasn't that kind of thing. He wasn't an intrusion in my life. It felt more like he belonged, a good addition. It was comfortable. He didn't make my heart pound. He made my soul smile, but what I didn't know was WHY?
It was an unusually quiet night. The medication carts had rolled swiftly down the halls shortly after the shift began. Nighttime medications had been administered and back rubs given. Patients had snacked on graham crackers and juice before falling into sleep. Those were the nights that everything flowed. The work was done early, and there was time left to just talk.
Excerpted from ACM, My Other Man by Sue Fone Copyright © 2012 by Sue Fone. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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