Friday, April 21, 2017


The brain is a marvel, and a terror.

When I was a CNA, I loved working with Wayne. He'd had a stroke, then another, and his dreams of rehab and returning home were replaced by dreams of goosing the next CNA. He was funny and sweet and kind of a stinker in the best way.

I was helping him eat one day, as we gazed out the dining room window. With his one good hand, he grabbed my arm, yelling "Get back!" I stepped back, seeing nothing. "The crows! They're after you!" I tried to calm him, reassure him that the crows outside had no interest in us. He stared into my face intently, trembling and sweating, "They'll come after your eyes! They want different things from different people, but with you," he whispered, "it's the eyes." I turned my eyes away from the window in spite of myself.

The dining room fell silent. I heard one old lady whisper, "She has beautiful eyes."

When someone is set in a delusion, telling them it's not true only makes them more insistent, more panicked. I'd learned it was best to steer into the curve, agree and try to move on from the trouble. He wouldn't believe the crows were innocent, amusing birds. Nor would he even consider that he may have had a bad dream or watched bad TV. No, the crows were organized and angry, and someone had sent them.

I steered into it. The cops were taking care of it, I said, Nope, the crows got all the cops. I told him the FBI set up a sting operation and took out all the leaders. He considered a long moment, sipping the juice I'd given him in the off chance blood sugar was the culprit. He made me repeat my embellishment, and made me swear to wear sunglasses outside, especially near birds.

He passed away about a year ago, after recovering from whatever it was that made him so frightened. It's funny what sticks with me, though. I still wear sunglasses, and I'm always exceedingly polite to crows.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When I grow up

When I was six, I wanted to be an astronaut. I also had passing notions of being a priest, until our parish priest informed me women couldn't do that. He told me I could be a nun. I told him that was stupid because nuns didn't get to do anything fun.

When I was 16, I wanted to be an astronaut and a biologist, maybe cure diabetes from space or something--I hadn't thought it through. But I had excuses upon excuses not to follow through--bad knees, bad eyes, women couldn't be pilots.

When I was 26, I'd changed my major five times, long ago abandoning stars and cells for ink. In that preceding decade, I'd had my moments, sliding down the halls of a convent in my stocking feet at midnight. They didn't encourage me to stick around. I made other plans. Coming out of a failed marriage and burning out in the classroom, I took a job writing for money. Women could do that.

When I was 36, I was still in the same career, moving up and settling in, almost happy with my work but never fulfilled, never feeling like I was saving the world. I'd had my moments, danced with politics (on live TV--my mother has the tape). After that birthday, I made my way back toward family, always wondering what I wanted to do next.

When I was 46, I'd found my calling, quit my job, and was waiting for a school to let me learn about cells and organs, people and drugs, insurance and regulations. The first year I applied to PA school, I was a little surprised to hear nothing. The second year, I started to steel myself for rejection and wondered if that dream was just another passing notion. It was a bigger shock when a school invited me to learn with them.

You know what would be cool? To be an astronaut PA at 56.