i had just gotten back to work in time to work with some of the feeder patients for supper. I had received word that the wire transfer went through and the money i needed to write a check for the rest of the cost of the nissan rogue was sitting in my account. I had to drive 3 towns over from my town to find a branch of my bank to obtain the check at and then drive the check to the nissan dealership. They were paving the entirety of the major highway running through that city when i got there and all the exits were blocked by tar trucks and orange cones. There must have been forty dump trucks full of tar just sitting and waiting for orders on the highway all lined up in a row while a construction vehicle went down the line agitating the sticky tarred gravel to keep it from becoming a solid. It smelled awful and the air was full of hot stinky smoke/steam. It took me forever but i finished my business and drove back to work. By the time i made it back all the therapists had gone home. It was just me and the night staff. When working anywhere in healthcare the night staff is always a little more blunt and rough around the edges. The niceties extended during day shift go away when management is not watching. “Could i please borrow your bariatric shower chair, my hall doesnt have one and i have a bariatric pt that gets showered today?” Becomes “hey, i need that chair. Give it.” The language includes more expletives and sometimes the staff arrive in pajama pants rather than scrub bottoms. Why not? Its night shift. So, i was aware i would have to adjust to function well in this crowd. Ignore expletives and not take bluntness personally. Also, if you want something from them, you kind of have to adjust your own speech to match their energy if that makes any sense.
They had said the prayer and the nurses and kitchen staff were beginning to serve supper in the dining room. I was working with a feeder who could hold her spoon but needed assistance to lift it to her mouth. One of our patients had four grown sons who came to sit with her every morning at breakfast and every evening at supper while she ate. I will change their last name for privacy but we’ll call them the Olen boys for the purposes of this story. The Olen boys dressed all in matching denim. They all wore white undershirts, denim button up shirts, denim jeans, and suspenders. They were very polite. They held doors and called people sir and ma’am and they always did the right thing. Their mother had cooked their breakfast, noon time meal, and supper their entire adult lives while they worked on their ranch and when it was time to eat all the brothers would show up at their momma’s kitchen and she’d make them each a big plate. When they had gone back to work she’d start on the next meal. At some point the diagnoses that can sometimes creep in with age robbed her of her safety and her balance and it became necessary for her to leave the ranch. So the boys would come to her in the nursing home rather than her kitchen. You could tell they all loved each other and doing right by their mother was not a consideration but a necessity in their minds. It was never on the table to not come twice a day every day, even on weekends. The short commute probably took some time away from what they were doing on the ranch but that woman raised them with discipline and love and cooked for them their entire lives, and none of them have forgotten her. She is a force, even in her confusion. You can tell she must have always been a spitfire and a strong woman and she remains extremely loyal to her late husband whom she looks for often. You know a woman loved you dearly when they spend their confusion years looking for you to feed you and get you home in time to do the activities that used to be important to you.
Part of the charm of the Olen boys was that they were hard working and you could see that. In the mornings they would be smelling like fabric softener and soap and their clothes would be dark blue without a stain or a wrinkle on them. And when they returned to sit with their mama for supper their clothes would be full of grass stains and mud. They’d dust themselves off outside before they came in but you could tell they’d been through some stuff since breakfast. You could imagine them processing cattle, pecans, and a whole host of other activities they were probably up to during the day. These werent spring chickens. Mrs Olen’s boys had salt and pepper hair and guts to show their age but no matter, they were still getting it all done, from ranching to raising the grandchildren. The other wonderful thing about the Olen boys was that they had made friends with their mother’s table mates. The ladies who sat with her looked forward to the arrival of her boys twice a day and felt very special and important when all four of them turned to each lady and asked them about their day and their wellbeing. These ladies were probably more excited than Mrs Olen herself to be asked how they were and get a chance to tell four young men any news they had to share. The thing the staff loved the Olen boys for was their help in serving meals. They handed out and helped fasten all the bibs and got the patients started with coffee or juice while they waited for their plates. The government eventually came down and put a stop to it due to covid regulations but before they were told not to, these young men used to line up with the nurses and aids at the serving station and deliver plates to people, patiently inquiring about whether they wanted butter or jam on their toast and how much sugar they would like mixed into their oatmeal. They learned all the patients’ dietary restrictions. They knew who needed thickened coffee and who had to have their meat cut up into very small bites to avoid choking. I am not sure why the government insists upon being the way it is. The likelihood that they give the patients covid is just the same as the likelihood a staff member serving them gives the patients covid. Therefor we should have a screening process where their temperature is taken and they are required to wash hands and report any symptoms experienced. After this they should be allowed to volunteer because in actuality, you are less likely to get sick from guys who handle cows all day than women who handle sick people all day. But, the government doesnt ask me how to do its job and regulations are regulations that must be adhered to, so the Olen boys dont serve anymore when the meals come out. However, it was very endearing to watch them care when they were allowed to. They didnt just standardize every plate, they interviewed the patients on what they would like and then they stirred coffee and cut sausage patties and spread butter on toast as if they were preparing a plate for their own family member. And they called every male pt Mr and every female patient Miss or Mrs.
So the Olen boys were there just like they were every night. They bowed their heads and removed their hats and said grace with us while the kitchen staff asked God to bless the food. A phone alarm went off. Then a few of them. It was the kind that sounds any time there’s an amber alert nearby. All of a sudden all four of her boys and a grandson jumped up and the oldest of her sons started shouting, weather’s coming! Weather’s coming!” They pushed their chairs back from the table and without another word they all ran to their trucks and got them started.
i looked over and the last of her boys was disappearing out the front door. All the kitchen staff, the aids, the nurses, most of the staff were running for the parking lot. I thought, “i had better take a peek and see whats going on out there if all these people are running after them. Something big must be happening.” I stepped outside and immediately understood that i was late to the party. The wind was something straight out of the wizard of oz and the sky was an ominous color. There were a select few parking spots in back of the facility that were shaded by a car port. They were all racing each other for those handful of spots. They were in their cars backing out and driving around back of the building as i was just setting foot on the asphalt. I didnt have my purse but i figured there wasnt time to get it.
The sky was an eerie shade of green. The clouds were churning and moving above. Hail and tornados were a possibility listed on the weather app on our phones. Most of the sky was an eerie hollow green color except for one direction which was jet black and evil. The wind was whipping leaves and debris through the air so none of use could quite hear each other. I ran to my car and jumped in. I put the key in the ignition and backed out. A car cut me off. I let them go and then continued. I hurried to get in the line of cars driving around the back of the building as the wind howled terribly outside. I got the last parking spot under the edge of the carport on the end. I was grateful for it. As i locked the car i said to the cna standing out there looking up at the black and green sky, “it would hail on the day that i paid off a new car. That is consistent with my kind of luck.” The man asked me, “this is your new car?” I nodded but i was concerned with other things, namely getting us back inside the building. We were locked out. He shouted to me over the wind as it began to rain on us, “How do we get back in the building?“. I said, “come with me, i know a door thats always open.” I dont think he heard me over the wind so i motioned for him to follow as we ran through the greenish tinted yard. I reached the door i knew was unlocked and let us both in the building. As we patted ourselves dry the man said to me, “Did you buy your car outright?” I answered that i did. From that moment on this man was very kind, enthusiastic, and interested in me. I shut that down pretty quickly with cold indifference. If there is anything i cant stand it is transactional love.
We had to throw out a few arm chairs that had been peed on, sanitized and scrubbed, and were drying in the sun. When i saw them through the window i thought i could rescue them by pulling them under the protection of the roof near the door…but it was raining sideways. The door locked behind me and when i finally gave up on saving the drenched armchairs i realized i couldnt get back in. It was pouring buckets by then so to leave for an open door around the other side of the building would have meant going swimming standing up basically. At least for that second i was glad newly romeo was paying close attention to me. Noticing i was gone, he came looking for me and found me tapping the window outside the locked door at the end of the hall. He let me in the building. The chairs could not be saved and had to be thrown.
The weather forecast called for hail and tornados. Once a tornado was radar indicated to the north of us the staff made the argument that protocol dictated the patients be brought out into the hall, away from the windows, not put to bed as usual. One very mean and stubborn patient insisted upon staying next to the window and had it open with the blinds shut so they moved every time the wind blew. Everyone else was wheeled into the hall and faced towards the wall, away from the windows. It was pouring rain outside for hours but it did not drop hail or tornados on us, thank God. Just north of us got what looked like half a foot of hail in the pictures and they got the tornado. I was glad it had missed us. I stayed a couple hours after i had finished with my work, because the weather was still raging furiously outside the windows and i had no desire to drive in it. My dogs were inside the house in their crates with water and pee pads and i just hoped any hail, tornadoes, or lightening strikes would miss the house. I hoped they were okay in there but the last time i drove in a storm that produced a tornado in poor visibility conditions i drove into a flooded access road with a concrete construction barrier acting as a dam wall, got stuck, and had to call 911 for rescue. Age and experience will teach you better as you go and i had no desire to drive in that mess outside the building. I watched tv with the patients and tried to distract them from the fact that they were in the hall and why.
When the bulk of the storm had passed i decided to make a run for home as other blips began creating themselves on the radar. It rained the whole way home. When i finally got to my town it was 10:30 pm. There were downed trees and power lines. There were branches all over the road. My mailbox bin was at the other side of my property and the lid to the big igloo cooler i kept rain water in had blown off. My neighbor said we had gotten a microburst and it might as well have been a small hurricane. It looked like **** had gone down. All 6 chickens and both dogs were alive. The air smelled dangerous like broken plant matter. The power had cut out and at some point been restored. I pulled the dogs outside for a quick potty break peppered with a backdrop of fierce lightening and then hurried them back into the house as distant thunder rumbled and rain started to fall again. The weather that visited us was a series of explosive pop up storms that no one had been expecting. They were fast and furious and nobody was prepared. When that happens you just do the best you can and pick up the pieces later.