Now I don't believe I want to see the morning,
Going down the stoney end
I never wanted to go...
("Stoney End", Barbra Streisand)
Everybody's got their weaknesses, right?
But, as an RN, I try to keep a somewhat "professional" demeanor about myself when I am visiting my patients. I try to appear strong, confident, and also competent.
And most of the time, I am successful at this endeavor.
But every now and then......things happen and my personal weaknesses rear their ugly head and I....er....lose my composure.
It's been a long time since I last lost my composure in front of a patient. I think the last time was when a patient's wife caught me making smart-aleck remarks to one of their donkeys, who had been rudely staring at me.
And--- okay--- there was that time on another ranch when I got caught saying the S-word after I slipped and fell into a cow-pie.
And... well okay..... there was also that time that I said the S-Word while trying to draw blood from a patient and her little asshole wienie-dog bit me in the butt.
But most of the time I think I keep a pretty cool facade, trying with all my might to exhibit a certain degree of dignity, competence, and a helpful attitude while on duty in Podunk's rough, rural environment---a land which holds a host of unexpected natural hazards just waiting to trip up a hapless road nurse (aka flash floods, rock-dirt roads, and fleeing livestock) ----and also when in simple domestic situations within my patients' homes.
In fact, speaking of being in patients' homes, I pride myself on my ability to keep a straight face if a patient tells me some godawful story which curdles my blood or causes me the desire to snatch them bald or else run down the street screaming while tearing out all my hair from the very roots.
I mean, over the years, I've learned not to fear mean ranch dogs, I no longer give a damn if a donkey looks at me rudely, and I've gotten to the point that I am not daunted one bit if a patient tells me some nutty or crazy thing they've done. I love my patients and I truly want to do my best to help them as much as I possibly can.
Last Monday, I lost my cool.
I had to drive 47 miles away to see two patients, a husband and wife, both of whom are very ill in their own ways. The wife has a crippling case of rheumatoid arthritis which has caused so much deformity in the joints of her hands that she can barely grip anything at all. On my first visit to her, she stated that she's been reduced to using Eggo Toaster Waffles for the family's breakfast instead of making pancakes because she can no longer maneuver a spatula to flip the pancakes.
(Have I ever told you about the time when my sister and I were much younger and she and I had a pancake flipping contest? My mother wasn't home and so she and I made a huge bowl of pancake batter and began to make pancakes on the griddle---taking turns flipping them as high as we could with the spatula. The winner would be the one who could flip their pancake up the highest while still causing it to land in the proper place on the hot griddle. I don't remember who won that contest, but I do remember that I flipped a pancake so high that it stuck to the ceiling. My sister, ever the competitor, flipped one of hers so high that it landed crooked, falling behind the stove altogether. To this day I'm not sure what the furniture movers thought when they moved our furniture out of that house and found several petrified pancakes behind the stove. And, amazingly enough, my mother never noticed the pancake stuck to the ceiling. I think she just assumed it was some kind of a high-tech, flat smoke-detector.)
(You know, I'll bet that pancake is still there on the ceiling today.....)
Where was I?
Oh yes, I had gone to see a husband and wife couple, Mr. and Mrs. Dalyrimple.
Alongside his wife's handicapped state with her rheumatoid arthritis, Mr. Dalyrimple is also himself very ill and debilitated. He has end-stage emphysema which requires him to be on continuous oxygen. And because of his difficulties breathing, he cannot move very fast, even for the most minimal of activity.
But they are the nicest people you could ever know. They're cooperative, non-complaining, extremely kind, good sports---and are always ready to pour a glass of sweet tea for a parched road nurse.
So anyway, the other day I went to see them. And when I parked the Jeep, grabbed my nurse bag, and began walking up their concrete walkway to the front door of the home, I noticed that they had boatloads of Halloween decorations about. I mean, they really had a LOT of decorations up. And I found myself wondering why in the hell they had Halloween decorations up so early?---I mean, it's still September for goodness' sakes. But I simply figured that maybe they had done it to thrill their crop of lively grandchildren, who they dote on endlessly.
The decorations were pretty splendid. All along the walkway I passed by scary ghosts and goblins hanging threateningly overhead from tree limbs, large carved jack-o-lanterns, gingham-clad hay-stuffed scarecrows, and cheery banners announcing such slogans as "Trick or Treat!" or "Happy Halloween!". I thought it was all pretty cool, albeit way too early for Halloween.
Finally, as I approached the front door, I even walked through a large, thick strand of a spider web, at the top of which was a huge black spider with orange and black striped legs. How cool, I thought to myself. They've even got a realistic looking spider and web decoration to complete the Halloween theme.
As I reached the front door, I knocked and waited for someone to let me in.
But then I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a movement above my head.
It was that huge spider. And it had moved......
And it was NOT a decoration.
Because. It. Was. Real.
And it began skittering down that strand of its spider web... right ...towards ....me!!!!!
"AAAIIIYEEEE!!!!" I screamed in strangled anguish and horror. Dropping my nurse bag like a hot potato, still screaming, I threw open the Dalyrimples' front door and BURST into the house like a runaway train----- and then proceeded to perform a mad dancing configuration around their living room, trying to look over my shoulder to see if that spider had gotten on me, trying to shake it off. I was terrified beyond words that it might be on my back.
"A SPIDER! A SPIDER!" I shrieked to the completely mortified Dalyrimples, who had been, heretofore, peacefully eating their breakfast in the nearby dining room. Both of them appeared thunderstruck at my violent and loud entry---and completely shocked at my writhing, Macarena-like body contortions.
"IS THE SPIDER ON ME? IS THE SPIDER ON ME????" I repeated, hollering and dancing around in a bizarre figure-eight pattern, stomping my feet while still doing the Macarena arm movements in an effort to brush the spider off my shoulders. "OH MY GOD, I JUST KNOW IT'S ON ME!!!!! AAAIIEEEEE!!!!"
Finally, after a few moments of my screaming, Mrs. Dalywimple began to comprehend the problem. She gathered her wits about her and sort of crept, with trepidation, over to the front door. She looked up at the top area and saw the spider for herself, which was still sitting there, malignantly thinking it's spider thoughts. The spider's size was large enough that Mrs. Dalyrimple, too, became fairly nervous herself.
(But she didn't start dancing around like a deranged marionnette puppet doing the Macarena like I was....)
Mrs. Dalyrymple looked towards me and exclaimed: "No, nurse, it's not on you! Lookee lookee--it's still up there on that web!"
And I looked---and sure enough, the horrible thing WAS still up there.
And then....Mrs. Dalyrimple did a brave thing. She bent down and pulled off her house slipper. It wasn't a very sturdy house slipper. It was a typical cheap Walmart house slipper---the kind which is flimsy enough to make stomping ants a difficult deed.
"I'll get that spider, nurse!" she cried valiantly. And so she tentatively and nervously began beating the spider with her house slipper.
But I was not to be calmed and continued my contortions and "spider-evasive-maneuvers", which now resembled the Mexican Hat Dance more so than the Macarena. And I continued to scream. But, as she got braver and more confident, Mrs. Dalyrimple steadfastly continued to strike at the spider with her Walmart house slipper, trying courageously to kill the durn thing.
And I wasn't much help.
"KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT!" I involuntarily hollered at the top of my lungs. "KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT!"And then, since I was born and raised by a Southern Lady, I did the natural thing that Southern Raised Girls do--- and I looked to the nearest male for help in my distress. I mean, I know it's old fashioned, but I was raised to believe that it is the man's job to kill bugs and spiders.
And poor Mr. Dalyrimple, who still looked fairly shocked at my surprising entrance into his home, slowly began to rise out of his chair, gathering his oxygen tubing about him.
Completely forgetting his breathing disability, I screamed at him: "KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL THE SPIDER! IT'S GONNA GET ME, I JUST KNOW IT! OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY----KILL IT!"
I turned back around and saw that Mrs. Dalyrimple was really getting into the spirit of her task. She was beating that spider for all she was worth. "Don't worry, nurse!" she cried breathlessly. "I'll kill the dadgum thing for you!"
And she continued to beat at that spider. In fact, she was beating the living shit out of that spider. She beat it and beat it and beat it, until I thought for sure the stupid thing would be rendered as flat as a pancake.
(Get it? Flat as a pancake?)
But the damn thin wouldn't die! Every time Mrs. Dalyrimple hit it with her shoe, it would simply get right back up on its eight orange-and-black-striped legs and keep on moving, this time headed downwards towards the floor.
And again I shrieked. "AAAAIIIIEEEE!!!"
Because the thought of that spider getting loose on the floor caused me to have hysterics all over again.
"MY GOD, IT WON'T DIE!" I bellowed. "HIT IT! HIT IT! HIT IT! DON'T LET IT GET AWAY!"
By this time, I was frantically looking around for a sturdy piece of furniture to jump up on in case the dang spider got loose on the floor.
But Mrs. Dalyrimple, bless her soul, kept steadily beating that spider with her house slipper. And I mean she beat that thing till even her house slipper started looking a little frayed----and then she beat it some more----as the spider slowly, inch by inch, descended down the web strand and the door screen, towards the floor, a little further every time she hit it.
"I think I wounded it!" she finally cried triumphantly, gazing at the now-flattened spider, which had fallen into the crack of the doorway's threshold.
"IS IT DEAD?" I yelped hysterically from my precarious perch on a nearby footstool, thinking to myself that the sneaky spider might be 'faking' deadness.
"IS IT DEAD? IS IT REALLY DEAD?"
"I dunno for sure..." Mrs. Dalyrimple replied, gazing intently at the doomed spider. "He's still moving a little---but I don't think he's going anwhere."
"MAKE SURE IT'S DEAD!" I yelled. "MAKE DAMN SURE ITS DEAD---DEADER'N A DOORNAIL!"
And sure enough, Mrs. Dalywimple gave the spider one final blow--- and the spider was dead at last.
Truly, truly, truly dead.....deadern' a doornail.
And as she and I stood there, breathing heavy sighs of relief at last, she sweating from doing battle with the spider,and me sweating because most of our patients never turn their dang air conditioners on, I heard a slight shuffling sound behind me.
It was Mr. Dalyrimple.
And I suddenly realized that from the time I had started to scream, he had been slowly, laboriously, trying to walk from his chair to the living room to come to my aid. I realized that he had been moving very slowly due to his debilitating shortness-of-breath, and that it had taken him all that time to finally reach us two ladies in our predicament.
And, as Mr. Dalyrimple finally rounded the corner from the dining room to the living room, huffing and puffing with his limited breathing ability, carrying his portable oxygen tank under one arm......
I noticed that he had, indeed, had the chivalrous intent to help us damsels in distress.....
Because he was holding a flyswatter in his other hand.
* * * *
Well, anyway, when we realized the disaster was over, we all stood there in shock for a few minutes, all of us trying to calm down----trying to figure out how we would now segue into the every-day business of my nurse visit.
Mr. Dalyrimple stood there holding his portable oxygen tank and the flyswatter, Mrs. Dalyrimple was still holding her Walmart house slipper in her hand----and I was still towering over the both of them from on top of the footstool.
"So how've you guys been doing this week? " I asked.