Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sweet Billie Brown

I haven't been so happy with my posts lately. Not worthwhile or something. Not that funny. The best reading I do combines the everyday with the eternal, and throws in some yuks for good measure. Life is really funny, after all.

The title of my blog is a quote from Christina Rossetti, who is one of my favorite poets. I love it because it means that I can find Eternity in any moment, good or bad, or boring even! (Yes! I know it's hard to believe!) That's what I intended to emphasize in this mess of a blog. The moments you pay attention to and find that by doing so, your life, mind or soul is growing somehow.

I have a few nursing stories that I have written out. Moments that mattered alot to me. Most of them are not nearly as dramatic as the prisoner story was, but I'd like to start posting them so I will run out and be forced to write some of the present ones. If I feel I have some to fall back on, then I won't. I'll still post what I call the "fluff", but if you will bear with me, I'd like to get some of these out of my compy. I hope they are worth reading. They are rough stories, not fine tuned, so please excuse any rugged areas!

(BTW-the scrapping stuff? Not fluff. Just in case some were confused on that point! ;)

Thanks. S.

She sits on an old worn chair, old and worn herself with a slight tremor to her arms. She has a vacant look about her, not quite absent, but profoundly unable to stir up interest. She has a worn out dress on and very dirty fingernails. Responding correctly to answers put to her, yet obviously not at top form, she is pleasant, yet remote. I am scrambling for ways to communicate something, anything to help her and am stuck.
In walks an old, but robust man, saying “This here’s my Mama.” For most, that implicates a mother/son relationship, but in this case, he is stating that she is his wife. I am put off. He is clothed in denim neck to ankle, with dirty boots, and a green and yellow John Deere hat to top it all.
At his entrance the communication issue disappears. This man is a talker. Within seven minutes, I find out they’ve been married for 59 years, he worked for the school district for 8 months short of 50 years, and worked two jobs while she was pregnant, she never had to work a day in her life, and he has darkened the door of sears and roebuck only once in the past 48 years because a neighbor needed a deep freeze. If he weren’t such a good neighbor, he would never patronize the store, and as he told the clerk “We came in here 48 years ago to buy a refrigerator, and were told that we didn’t make enough money and we should just leave.” He married his wife when she was 18 and he was 21. You see, she had “low blood” and he said “We should just get married” and she said “OK” and they’ve been together for 59 years. They’ve known each other since he was 5 and she was 3 out there in Blooming Grove, Texas. And the world is coming to an end. They’s people out there killing each other in Dallas, and its true what the Bible says about wars and rumors of wars means all this killing right now, and we should just kill those murderers and stop talking about it. He told the ladies he worked with that they needed to stop being so cheap, and take their money out of their shoes and buy him a soda water, and the day he retired, all them colored women came out to hug his neck because he always brightened their day. And I believe him. He also expounds at great length regarding his garden.
After I squeeze in a word or two about safety and the side effects of a certain blood pressure medicine, I gather up all the stereo types I have accumulated in these 7 minutes, and follow him out to the garden, wondering how I am going to manage to compliment him on all the hard work he puts in out there while his dangerously confused wife is alone inside with knives and a gas stove.
It is a gorgeous day, and this is my last patient. He says “Come-on. I want to show you the garden.” I stand, he stands, and says to his wife “Come on Sweet Billie Brown, lets go.” No change of expression. He pulls her up and hooks his arm through hers. She shuffles next to him and I notice, looking at her back, that her dress is so worn, I can tell how many hook-and-eyes are on her bra. (Four)
I feel a little as Dorothy must have felt opening the door into Munchkin Land as we step into the brilliant October day. The sky is shimmering blue, cut by the gnarled outline of a fig tree. Past the fig tree are rows of blackberries, onions, “sweet taters” more blackberries, mustard greens, turnip greens, more onions and “sweet taters” again. I am struck. This man has created a functional, productive world. It could be a multi-million dollar business, it could be a city, could be an airplane, but it’s a garden. It is his great American novel, his Nobel peace prize. And here he stands, lady on his arm, displaying the wonder of it all to the admiring masses (me). And this lady on his arm has not changed expression.
I suddenly have the truth of her. She is The Beloved. She makes his work worthwhile. All the great stories are suddenly wrapped up in this moment. The feat accomplished, the obstacles overcome and the glory of love obtained. Here. In this bed of turnip greens.
This woman has made no perceptible change of body position or expression. I have been watching. Though she has become Eve, Cleopatra, Juliet and Aphrodite in the last minute, she is still my patient I ask a few directed questions about how long she is left alone in the house, and if she ever comes out with him. “Was the door open when you come up?” He shakes his head at my affirmative. “I’s only out there for a minute.” He hooks my arm through hers, and says “Here. Walk her up the way there.” He goes to lock the door. We walk a way. She says nothing. She stops. I say to her husband. “She stopped.” “Yeah, she’ll take a rest ever now and again.”
She shuffles along to the constant verbal cues he scatters in among the history he’s giving of the place. “This used to be a dirt road barely wide enough for a cow to walk through, and our land went all the way to where that beer truck and convenience store are now. And see that big tree? There was a feller there I saved his life onced. He had a prize bull. Cost 35,000 dollars, and they flew him out. Flew him out. And that bull got to snortin’ and I went over and hit that feller right crost the head with a pipe bout that big around. Saved his life, and then they puttim in the deep freeze and ate offen that bull for a long time.”
The woman has given nothing away about all of this. She is as changeless as the Mona Lisa. “Are you cold, Baby?” He stands there, arms around her rubbing her to keep her warm, and notices me watching. She has a big yellow dried crust of mucus the length of her cheek. He is on the other side of her and notices that she has some powder on her neck. “I got her cleaned up this morning, all nice and purty and smelling good. Aren’t you Sweet Billie?” No change in expression. He pulls her tighter and kisses her cheek. “All I do is take care of her now. She fixed me three meals a day, but never had to work a day in her life.” I make some very modern comment about how that’s better than I could do, and turn-about is fair play. He doesn’t hear me, or ignores me, and is watching her. He strokes her neck again to get a bit more powder off. She turns to him. “I am ready to go inside.” She says. “We’ll go, honey, we’ll go.” I make arrangements for the next visit, and say good bye.
I am moved. I have traded in an armload of generalizations for a sack of “sweet taters” and two baskets of onions.


Jada's Gigi said...

What a beautiful story Sarah...what an opportunity to see Eternity.

I, like you, feel that the best communication involves the everyday and the eternal...all at once and maybe all the same sometimes....with large doses of humor. :) After all, this is our life...mundane and eternal all at once. Keep at it.

Colleen said...

wow. you are an excellent writer. my mom is a nurse...i'm pointing her in the direction of your blog.

Virginia said...

I can't help but see myself in Sweet Billie Brown... as the pitiful, the dirty, the non-communicative... and the princess.

I am amazed at how we are loved, when we are not necessarily loveable.

Not sure if that's where you were going with the retelling of this story, but that's what stuck out at me at the moment.

Can't wait to read more of these!

Goody said...

I am moved beyond words. Amazed at your ability to remember what he said without taking notes! I can just see both of them, and what a picture of the Lord and his bride. Thank you, dearie, for being Christ to the people you visit. (When I was thirsty you gave me to drink....hungry....lonely.....dirty.....needy....hurting.

Gina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gina said...

You have an amazing gift ~ beautiful.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing that. It was a beautiful story.