Category Archives: side benefits

Laughing together

 

Sunflower May

In compliance with HIPAA, all names and identifying details have been altered or removed to protect patient privacy.
It’s funny that we call the oncoming shift our “relief”. Funny and yet oh-so appropriate. Right now I am so relieved that I hug the poor woman as soon as I spot her on the hall.
“Oh, crap,” she gasps. “Let me go clock out if it’s that bad!”
“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice,” I tell her. “Clearly, they’ve never been to a nursing home or they would know it’s going to end in shit.”
We just look at each other and burst into laughter. It’s not quiet either, a soft chuckle and back work. It’s the kind of laughter that has us both leaning against the wall for support.
Just our luck, the strictest of the management team happens to walk down just then. She raises her eyebrows at our “lounging” posture and we push off the wall so fast I get a bit dizzy.
“What has you both so tickled?” she asks drily.
I glance over to my relief for some moral support, then grudgingly repeat the joke.
Our hard-ass, straight-laced management person doesn’t laugh. She doesn’t even smile, she just says in the same dry tone: “Clearly. What did they feed these people last night?”
“Corn,” I say promptly. “I felt a bit like a gold panner today.”
“Gross!” exclaim both the other CNA and office person.
“Not as gross as what else was in there,” I counter.
Then, all three of us are laughing, leaning against the wall for support.
<oOo>

Sometimes it easy to get lost in the trenches. We line up on opposite sides, slap labels over the other’s face.
Housekeeper.
Cook.
Administrator.
Supervisor.
First shift CNA.
Second shift CNA.
Third shift CNA.
New CNA.
Student.
Resident.
“Those” residents.
Labels are nifty little things, handles by which grab on to something. The trouble comes when we forget to look beyond the handle to see what it is we’ve actually picked up.
Another human being. A person who laughs and cries, the same as us. A person who laughs at your exhausted attempt at humor.
At its best, laughter is the best medicine. Laughter can connect us, transcend the labels and jump the lines.
It’s really hard to give good care all by yourself in this system. Having allies by your side, someone to lighten the load, relieve you and sometimes just not punish you for a moment’s breather…those things really go a long way. Those things are what allow me to survive long enough to have those personal moments with my residents that renew my passion for this field.

Just a Perfect Day

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Alice

Ah, the Family Guy. I love that show. I can put it on after a long shift and all is right with the world. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, though, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard the opening tune through the door in the bathroom as I was getting my client dressed. Well, this should be interesting. My client’s fourteen year old granddaughter was over for the day. I couldn’t be happier about that. It’s something that I had been pushing for behind the scenes for a while now. I thought it would be good for them both. 

    One of the benefits of being an independent caregiver in a family’s home is that I have much more influence than I did in a facility. This comes with a lot of stressors and frustrations that I will save for another post, but it also puts me in a unique position to do some good. So it was GIRL’S DAY! And the kid was watching old episodes of the family guy. How this would gel with my client’s ultra-conservative views, I could not say, but hey, at least we were all together. 

     I pushed my client to the living room and positioned her in her lounge chair. We had plans to go to the movies, but her level of pain and the weather did not cooperate so we had to come up with a new game plan. In the meantime, Stewie was beating up Brian. 

      “Why is that baby beating up a dog?” she asked.

       “He owes him money!” her granddaughter replied. I knew this episode well. Time to redirect a little. My client’s social morays may not be able to handle the family guy for very long. 

    A self-described “emo kid”, the granddaughter was absolutely beautiful, though she didn’t realize it. Her hair was so rock and roll, that if I could pull it off at forty, I totally would. She’s a creative, sensitive, interesting kid trapped in that unforgiving age of fourteen. I hated fourteen and after knowing her for ten minutes, I felt a real kinship.

     As the day went on, I realized that this was not only about my client. Her granddaughter was enjoying it every bit as much as she was. So was I, for that matter! All of our plans fell through, so we rented a movie on TV and ordered a pizza. Because it was just the three of us, both granddaughter and grandma opened up to each other in ways that they may not have been able to otherwise. I reached into my bag of things that I don’t know about and listened enthusiastically as they both eagerly shared make-up tips that I would most likely never use. We had fun. In this field, it was as close to a perfect day as we can get. 

     I grew up with that bond with my Grandma. It is one of the richest and most meaningful connections in my life. So much of who I am is because of her so to see that bond begin in others…I can’t put into words how incredibly important to me that moment was. It was beautiful.

     By the end of the day, we all made a plan for her to come over every Tuesday she has free this summer. We brainstormed ideas for outings and the joy was contagious. This. THIS is why I do what I do. As caregivers, we get to be a part of these moments and we know that they are far from inconsequential. There is a lot of shit, both literally and metaphorically, that comes with this gig. Ah but the moments when I get to know that I had a hand in directly impacting another’s day for the better? So worth it! We get to lift people up. We get to fight for something bigger than ourselves. We get to have our lives impacted by others…what’s BETTER than that? It really is a hell of a job perk.

The Life Coach

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Alice

“I wish I could run around with my grandkids,” my client said wistfully, “I feel like half a Grandma.” I sighed to myself. It isn’t the first time she’s mentioned such things. I wish I could help my husband clean out the store. I wish I wasn’t such an ordeal to everyone. I wish…I wish.  It made me so sad! What could I say to any of that? Sure, I could be a supportive listener. People say that’s helpful. I get that. I do!…but I’m wired to try and solve problems and I couldn’t shake the idea that I wasn’t quite as powerless to help as I thought I was.x

       So I went home and obsessed about it, as I am prone to do. After about an hour of over complicating a fairly simple problem, I had a EUREKA! moment. HAIR! I know absolutely nothing about hair. I’m lucky if mine meets a hairbrush every other day. I know nothing about a LOT of things! Fashion! Apparently my Blossom hat is no longer en vogue. Who knew?! I’ll tell you who knew! My client! She taught cosmetology! She raised two daughters and has an eye for fashion! My limited cooking abilities give me ample opportunity to ask for recipes! She loves to read and could quote Shakespeare. THIS was what I need to be focusing on! Instead of feeling sad for her, I needed to remind her of all the things she could still do, not with words but with action! 

     The next day, I pulled up a chair as she ate breakfast. I looked her straight in the eyes and said with complete honesty, “My life has gone nuts! I’m going to New Orleans for a once in a life time opportunity, I’m on a big writing kick, I’m learning water colors, my paintings are hanging in a coffee shop, I drove back and forth to Long Island twice this year, walls that I spent years building have melted in a matter of days by the person who motivated me to build them in the first place, and I don’t know how to cook a steak. Most of that is amazing but it’s all overwhelming. You are now officially my life coach.”

       She recognized the honesty and knew immediately that I wasn’t being condescending. I could see her eyes light up as we looked at pictures of dresses and discussed what would be appropriate for public speaking. I asked her for recipes. I sought her guidance. I watched and listened and learned. It was mutually beneficial. That shift, she wasn’t my client. She wasn’t her diagnosis. She was the teacher and I was the student. By stepping out of my comfort zone, embracing my own vulnerabilities, and expressing my flaws and fears, I gave her the opportunity to be genuinely helpful and I gave myself the opportunity to gain some clarity. Such a simple solution. Living with purpose and feeling useful are basic human needs. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are here for a reason.

Footnotes in history

Sunflower

May

Lots of people get Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day confused.
I confess, I’m one of them.
“Morning, Mr. V!” I say in a bright, cheery and sleepy voice. “It’s your day! Happy Memorial Day!”
“No,” says Mr. V, his voice quiet, sad. “It’s not my day–that would be Veteran’s Day later in the year. Today is my buddy ____’s day. He’s the one who never came home from Germany.”
“Oh,” I say.
“He’d have liked you,” Mr. V continues thoughtfully.
“Really?”
“Yeah, you’re pretty. He never met a pretty woman he didn’t flirt with.”
“Sounds like you two had a lot in common,” I grumble.
“Oh,” Mr. V laughs in response, “he was better at it than me. I only think I’m smooth…he actually was. Used to hate going out with him, he’d charm all the girls and none of them would even look at the rest us!”
As I get him ready for the day, Mr. V continues to regal me with stories of his friend and the war. I linger in his room longer than maybe I should, listening to him, letting his words paint a vivid picture of a time that is quickly becoming ancient history.

It occurs to me, quite suddenly, that after my generation, there very well might be no more caregivers for those who fought in World War 2. There are fewer and fewer of those veterans left; more and more pass away every year. I know that time period has been documented extensively and there is no shortage of movies, books and other stories based around the events of the Second World War. The war will likely never be forgotten.
My residents, with their personal stories and their personal losses might be.
That’s just the way history works: not every name will be remembered, not every story will be passed on. Not every soldier gets a movie made about his life; most become footnotes in the history books. In twenty more years, Mr. V’s friend might only be a name on a wall, a faded clipping of an old newspaper. And if his story is recorded in some format, it won’t be the same. It won’t be the same experience as sitting on the bed next to his buddy, hearing him stumble his way through memories gone fuzzy with time, but still raw with the pain.

I know that there will be other caregivers sitting next to other soldiers of other wars, listening to their stories. But they won’t be from World War 2, such a massive turning point in the history of our world. They won’t be about my friend’s friend.
That can’t be helped. You can’t stop time or slow it down. But while the stories and faces will change, I hope this tradition won’t; this simple, powerful act of sitting down and listening with all your focus. Honoring those lost in war by taking the time to listen to their friends who lived.

Happy Memorial Day, a bittersweet holiday if ever there was one.

Embracing the Moment

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Alice

When I was green and just starting in this field, a resident informed me that youth was wasted on the young. At the time I dismissed it as just something that elderly people say. It took a while before I realized how wrong I was.

      I did notice how little it took for my residents to be truly grateful. With short staffing and terrible patient ratios, it sometimes feels like all we hear are complaints. On the days where the routine on the floor is disrupted, it can feel impossible to please anyone, but that’s as a collective. Individually, their requests were perfectly reasonable.

       On the floor, a request for a cup of coffee is trumped by a resident who is a fall risk’s urgent need to use the restroom. A request for an extra pillow will have to come after taking vitals. We are constantly prioritizing the needs that have to be met and something always falls by the wayside.

       In such a setting, forgetting a cup of coffee seems a forgivable offense, but then again you would be hard pressed to get me going in the morning without my coffee. I had a freak out just the other day because I didn’t realize I had run out. Coffee is a vital part of my daily routine and my whole day is thrown off without it. Is a day without coffee a “forgivable offense” to me? Not so much. Furthermore, the sheer joy and gratitude I’ve seen a simple cup of coffee with two creams delivered in a timely manner bring a resident is downright humbling. I don’t even notice my coffee until I run out.

      The ability to be fully in the moment is a gift that comes in the beginning and end of our days. It’s true that I have countless stories of residents who flew off the handle over some innocent mistake but I have just as many stories of residents who were deeply moved by moments that I take completely for granted. They don’t just drink their coffee on automatic pilot. They SAVOR it.

      I waste so much time worrying and fretting over imaginary scenarios in my head. I have wished away shifts and boring dates. I have missed opportunities right in front of my face because I wasn’t paying attention; countless moments wasted. It is through working with those who have a lifetime of experience that I learned this.

     What would they give to have the moments that I so carelessly wish away? To have the ability and freedom to come and go as they choose? I am still not great at being in the moment, but I am learning. It takes practice. Now every morning I make it a point to stop and savor my coffee. It’s a good start.

Through the Looking Glass

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ALICE

Faded photographs mixed in with Kohl’s receipts from 2006, coupons entangled in an endless knot of wires from God only knows what appliances, empty denture cups, incense cones, wedding favors older than I am and dust everywhere; it is a journey through the house that time forgot, where the decade I am in is determined by the direction I turn my head. I am accustomed to unusual experiences and strange twists in my life, but never have I felt more like Alice in Wonderland than I have these last few weeks.
When I was caring for my client, the condition of her house and environment in which she was living was mentioned in passing. I knew about the hoarding and the state of mind of her son. It was how she ended up in NC and in my care. I knew. But I DIDN’T know. As a caregiver, I have always been of the belief that not having memories of our residents from the time “before” makes us more effective. We are able to love them where they are now, without all the scars and emotional strain that can come from a lifetime of memories. It makes it easier to meet them where they are at. Yet here I am, walking in the footsteps of her life as I inventory, catalog and pack a world of memories that are not my own.
Fifty years of living in the same house accumulates quite a lot of stuff…and dust. There she is in her cap and gown, in her wedding dress, as a child. There she is with her own children and grandchild. Love letters from WWII, mink stoles. worn and faded from days gone by, yellowed photographs and old records. I could almost hear Frank Sinatra playing in the background as I sift through the remnants of her entire life, her imprint on this Earth.
In this strange environment in an unfamiliar town doing a different kind of job, I’m walking through this house with a ghost; not the angry spectres we see in movies, but the wisps of the spirit that tie the delightful octogenarian who was in my care to the young vivacious woman in these photographs. I don’t know how many caregivers are given this opportunity. God knows it’s a new one for me. At first, I was in shock and blindly accepted it, then I was overwhelmed and wanted to run from it. Now, I am seeing beneath the wreckage to the treasure underneath.
My client was beautiful. She lived a full life and in sorting through hers, I am learning about my own. My life has been on pause as I see this journey through and as I inventory the house, I find that I am also inventorying myself. Where do I want to go? What have I learned from where I’ve been? What matters most to me? It has been a time of reflection mixed with threads of uncertainty. In getting to know the woman my client was through this experience, I am better getting to know the woman I want to be. In this detour from my life, I am forced to focus on finding a new direction. And in the face of this seemingly unending phase of constant transitions, I have no choice but to trust putting one foot in front of the other.
This whole surreal situation has also reminded me that we are so much bigger than the roles we fill. We are more than the sum total of what others see. She was my client. But now I see her as so much more than just a person for whom I cared. I see who she was when she started to who she was when she came into my life. It’s like reading a book backwards. I don’t know where this path will lead. I don’t know what I will do with the knowledge that I gain. I only know that this trip through the looking glass is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. That in and of itself makes it worthwhile.

The voice of an angel

May

The voice of an angel

The problem with the Internet is that it’s very easy to access information.
For example, if you type “stress relief on the job”, your browser will be filled with tips and techniques of varying helpfulness.
One such tip I found was that singing aloud for ten minutes a day reduces stress. I decide to try it now…since strangling the people around you is generally frowned upon behavior.
I choose a rock anthem and sing it quietly between gritted teeth as I rush around, trying to get everything done. It’s not as if there’s any other staff on the hall to hear me–which is a large part of my current stress.
I zip into a room and grab the ice pitcher, dump out the old water and carry it to the ice cart for a refill. As I come back in the room, I hear a quiet voice from behind the privacy curtain.
“Are you singing to me, dear?”
I peak around the curtain to see Mrs. Z, wide awake and alert, looking back at me with a smile on her face I haven’t seen in…too long.
“Um,” I say. “Just singing in general…yeah, I guess I was.”
“It’s beautiful,” Mrs. Z tells me. I laugh, because that is a word that has never been used to describe my singing voice. I’m not terrible; just the usual kind of bad.
“It is,” Mrs. Z insists. “If you’re singing for me, than yours is the voice of an angel. Nobody has sang to me in years. Will you sing some more for me?”

And just like that, my day wasn’t so bad anymore…because hers was better, thanks to my experiment in stress relief.
That day is still a favorite memory of mine, and a constant reminder that my residents don’t need grand gestures. The simple things are special too.

What we do right

May

It’s an odd time for a good conversation, but we make do with what we’ve got. Anyway, who says two people can’t talk philosophy while one is changing the other’s brief?
“So, I’m guessing you have cleaned up a lot of dead people?” Mrs. G remarks conversationally.
“It’s called postmortem care,” I reply.
Mrs. G rolls her eyes. “My dear, sometimes it’s more offensive to try to sweeten the ugly things. Postmortem means after death, correct? So it’s just saying you’ve cleaned up a dead person in Latin.”
I laugh as I pull out another wipe. Her body might be going downhill these last few months, but her mind is still sharp. I enjoy talking to her and hearing her perspective on things; she is a very intelligent person with a gift for articulation. And plain speaking. She hates to sugarcoat anything.
“Okay,” I say. “Yes, I’ve cleaned up quite a few of my residents who have passed.”
“Died.”
“Died,” I sigh. “Maybe it is sugarcoating, Mrs. G, but that sure is a blunt way to phrase it. Not everybody is as comfortable with the blunt truth as you.”
She continues as if she hasn’t heard me. “So everyone who dies here, you’ll do postmortem? Does it bother you?”
“Not me personally, no,” I reply. “Despite appearances, I don’t work here 24/7. But if it’s on my shift, yeah, I’ll do it, so no, I guess I don’t mind. It’s a good way to say goodbye. Oh, and not everyone passes here, Mrs. G. Some people have full code status, so they’ll get sent out if things start looking bad.”
“So Full codes, they do their dying in the hospital?” Mrs. G asks.
“I guess that’s one way to put it,” I reply.
Mrs. G is quiet for a long moment…I can almost hear her thinking as I finish changing her. I arrange the blankets around her, Mrs. G reaches out and grabs my hand.
“I’m a full code, aren’t I?” It feel more like a statement than a question, but I answer it anyway with a nod. Despite the previous question, her next one catches me completely off-balance.
“How do you change that?”
“How do you change your status from full code to DNR?” I ask.
“Obviously,” she says drily, shooting me a chastising look. “And quit looking so anguished, would you? I have a perfect right to discuss my own mortality. Don’t be squeamish.”
She says “squeamish” like most people say curse words. I chuckle. It’s more a nervous exhalation than a humorous outburst and I can tell she’s not fooled.
“I think most people are squeamish about death and mortality, Mrs. G,” I say. “Especially that of a friend’s. But to answer your question, I think that requires a meeting with management and your family.”
“Well, how do you get that set up?” she demands.
“I guess you talk to the nurse…”
“Go get her.”
“Right now?”
“I don’t know. That depends on how good your memory is today. Are you going to forget to do it before you go home, like you forgot my soda the other day?”
“Trust me,” I say fervently, “this conversation is a lot more memorable than a drink request. What’s going on, Mrs. G? Why…why is this such a rush?”
“Because I’ve just had an epiphany listening to you talk,” she says gently. “I only signed the full code paper because it’s what my daughter wanted. Always had trouble letting go, my daughter. But I’m dying now, whatever she thinks, and I think it ought to be my decision where I die, don’t you? And I don’t want to die in a hospital surrounded by strangers. I want to die at home.”

Mrs. G was a prickly-pear sort of person: one blunt, tough costumer, a bull in a china shop. It was hard for her to get to know people–harder still for her to let others in. Most people, it seemed, were driven off by her prickly demeanor. When her body began failing her, it only reinforced those stand-off-ish habits.
I thought, when I first met her, that she was going to be one of “those” residents.
She wasn’t. She decided that the nursing home was her home and that most of the staff were her friends. We didn’t have a choice in the matter after that! When she died, a few months after our conversation, it was surrounded by good friends…even though she’d only found us there at the end.

And we did this. Overwhelmed in a broken system though we are, we still made Mrs. G feel safe and valued enough to trust us with her at her most vulnerable.

A life spent caring for others can never truly be called wasted. I certainly could have done something different with my life–something that brought me a bigger paycheck–but I could never do anything “better” with myself.
Not better, but different. Important in a different way.
But I didn’t. I chose this career, this important job, this path. It’s far from perfect and the system is stacked against us…all this is true, but I try not to lose sight of what we do right.
We did right by Mrs. G.

The Magic Wand

May

We received a lot of feedback from my last post, Do The Right Thing. Comments are always welcomed and appreciated and I thank everyone who did so.
One in particular stood out, requiring more thought and response than I could give in a comment and so I will break my tradition of telling stories to answer Laura’s very excellent questions.

May, thanks for your great posts. I’m not a CNA but I work private duty with several of them and serve as helper on a care team. I’ve spent a lot of time in nursing homes (with my Mom and with other elderly friends). Hearing your stories, and Alice’s and Yang’s, is really illuminating and so helpful. I have always understood that the CNAs in care facilities were overworked and doing their best. Yet watching the elder suffer both physically and the indignity of waiting or wetting/soiling themselves was so hard. From your perspective, is there a fix? Is this is a system that can work? Is something like the Greenhouse Project the way to go? If you could wave a magic wand and create a system that really works, what would it look like? (Thanks for your patience with all my questions. I’m so thrilled to find your blog!)

The problem, as I see it, is that the current long term care system build around the idea of disposable resources.
Aides are a dime a dozen. Policies and procedures call for changing gloves four times during peri-care. We’re supposed to bag everything, linens and trash, and not carry bags between rooms. Food is wasted due to “cross-contamination” concerns.
It’s all built around the assumption that these resources–plastic bags, briefs, juice boxes, individually wrapped Danishes, and, yes, CNAs–are readily available, cheap and easy to replace.

One of the most damaging consequences of this “disposable resources” mindset is, I think, when it applies to the direct care workers. CNAs are typically paid very little, work long hours and have incredibly heavy work-loads–and when we burn out from the stress of handling it all, we are replaced. The cycle repeats, leaving exhausted and often injured people in its wake. There’s this idea, this mindset, that those who burn out simply weren’t tough enough.

I say, expect perfection under inadequate conditions and receive reality. In eight hours (hopefully) I can’t do everything that needs to be done…not for 10+ residents. It’s just not possible, trust me I’ve tried. It’s not a question of me not being smart enough or efficient enough, or not being motivated enough–it’s about me not having enough time. Staffing and resident-to-aide ratios play a huge role in the burn-out cycle, both as why people don’t want to start a career as a CNA and why current CNAs quit.

I think many of the symptoms of our broken system can be dealt with by decreasing resident-to-aide ratios. I think it should be capped at eight residents to one aide, and the norm should be even lower…say 6:1. High quality care could realistically and consistently be given.
And let me be clear, by “high quality” I mean that every resident could be changed every two hours or more. Every resident could receive thorough oral care every shift. Every bed-bound resident could be turned every hour. Nail care could given daily, faces washed after every meal, rooms could be kept tidy, drawers kept neat. Supplies could be distributed before you’re in the middle of cleaning up an XXL BM and realize you don’t have any wipes.
By “realistically and consistently”, I really mean “can be done in a calm, orderly fashion without rushing around, without sacrificing personal time with the residents or rest breaks for the CNA.” I mean “can be done thoroughly and properly without causing undue stress to the CNA or the residents,” and possibly “can be done with the attitude of encouraging resident and aide relationships and interactions.”
I, personally, would love to work in this long term care system, this system that seeks to foster opportunities for me to engage my residents in lengthy interactions; where direct care means personable care. I would love to be able to take my group of residents outside on a sunny day and just be with them for half-an-hour or so. I would love the chance to sit at their bedside every day and chat, without having to shut the door so I can’t hear the other five call lights going off.
I would love to be able to do all this because it is my job, not in spite of my job.

Fixing the caregiver-resident ratios won’t solve all the problems with long term care; there’s still that operating mindset of “disposable resources”. Considering that we just passed Earth Overflow Day, I think it’s pretty clear that this mindset is not an accurate reflection of our world. But that, unfortunately, is a problem for another day. The long term care system isn’t going to improve overnight. It’s going to be a long, slow path of baby-steps and, hopefully, emerging common-sense among policy makers.

So, if I were given a magic wand, I would use it to cap the resident to aide ratios. Then I would hold on to it, pass it to Yang and Alice, see what they would do.

Fireworks for freedom

May

There’s a big boom and I rush to the window…I’ve always loved a good firework. Even if I am “stuck at work” for this Independence Day, that doesn’t mean I have to miss the show. In the neighborhood across from the facility, people are setting off firecrackers and fireworks: as I go from room to room doing my rounds, I stop for a second to watch. God, I do love fireworks!

As a CNA, you almost get a sixth sense for when something’s wrong with a resident…at least, that’s how I’ve come to describe that odd feeling of just knowing something. I get that feeling now, and turn away from the window and the fireworks to look at the resident in her bed. She’s asleep–but it isn’t peaceful. She’s jerking and mumbling, but mostly it’s the look on her face that stops me cold.
Terror.

The picture falls into place quickly in my head: this is someone who was in a war zone back in the days of World War Two. The fireworks which to me mean freedom and celebration probably remind her of the horrors of war and the worst part of her life.
Suddenly I don’t feel so fond of pyrotechnics. I move to the bedside and gently shake her awake; I know I’ve done the right thing when the terror fades to confusion. Slowly, her eyes focus on me and confusion gives way to sadness.
“You okay?” I say. It’s a stupid question…I know she’s not “okay”, I’ve just woken her from a nightmare, but you’ve got to start an awkward conversation somewhere.
“I was dreaming of…something awful,” she replies. “Am I…am I…”
“Safe,” I say. “It’s just fireworks, honey. Fireworks for freedom, yeah?”
“Freedom,” she repeats. The sadness is still there, but it’s now bittersweet, diluted, maybe, by time. “Thank you. May I go back to sleep now? Will you stay here until I fall asleep?”
“No more bad dreams,” I say, as I tuck her in again. She repeats these words like a prayer and, as I watch, falls asleep again. While her face is no longer pinched with terror, the sadness still lingers. This isn’t a happy night for her, like it is for the people setting off the fireworks and was, just a moment ago, for me. Truth be told, I don’t think there’s anything I could say or do to make her happy right now. That’s not really my job; my job is to be here with her. To be here for her, for whatever she needs, whether that’s chasing away nightmares or changing her brief.