Part I November 19th 2008 Used Up I look over to the clock on my bed side table. The clock glows 6:21 and I hear it say, at least in my head I hear it say, “time to get up“. I close my eyes and say to the clock, ‘Screw you“. I know I should get up, but my body disagrees and refuses to stir. My brain agrees with the clock and I hear them discuss me as if I wasn’t there. The clock tells my brain…. “ I told her to get up.” My brain responds….. “I know …. I’ll make her get up”. My body joins the discussion, “give me just five more minutes… just five more”. My brain gives in…. and I relax.. Half asleep, half awake. I open my eyes and the clock now says 6:43 ----OH SHIT. Every one agrees, the clock, my brain and my body. I slowly sit up right, legs over the edge into my slippers. I break wind and chuckle to my self … That feels better. I make my way to the bath room. Click on the light, look in the mirror, and see my mother. Yes, my Mother. At 55 years of age, I have turned into my mother. I stare into the mirror for 4 -5 seconds….. Where do I start. My brain takes over. “BRUSH YOUR TEETH, WASH YOUR FACE…PEE….COMB YOUR HAIR… GET DRESS… AND FOR GOD’S SAKE, PUT ON SOME LIP STICK“. When I was younger, I though my mother was ugly. Well. Maybe not ugly, but certainly no beauty queen. My mother Esther, past away a few years ago. I miss her so much. She was an attractive women when she was in her 20 and even in her 30’s and 40’s. But then, like me now, the years started to wear on her face. You see this a lot with black yellow women. We seem to age faster. Some times when I glance in a mirror, I am shocked for I see my mother in my face. As I got older, friends and relatives would say “you look just like your mother. That is what every women wants to hear, right. But now that she’s gone… I’m glad I look like her. For when I really get lonely for her, I look in the mirror and I can see her. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When it is all said and done… I look in the mirror…. And I say …. You’re not a bad looking women Esther. PartII Some mornings are worse than other. That first look in the mirror some times takes me back to when I was 19. It takes me back, not because of the image of myself at that time but it takes me back to a specific incident that happen. An incident that I did not understand until later in life. Some mornings, I look in the mirror and I see a old white lady named Betsy. When I was 19 years old I was in nursing school. I had just entered my first year, second rotation. My first rotation was general med/surg. I completed that rotation feeling good about my decision to become a nurse. This rotation was psych. I was in for a big surprise. The first clinical day was held at the psych hospital. I stayed on campus and I did not have a car, so one of the other nursing student offered to pick me up on clinical days. It was late August and very hot. I had worn my light blue and white pin stripped nursing uniform with pride. I was a size 6 then and the uniform esenuated my narrow waist . I worn my hair pulled back in a high pony tail. White stockings with white Clinic nursing shoes. We pulled into the hospital campus ground and found the parking lot we had previously been told to use. The grounds were beautiful. There were large…. no, not large but giant Oak trees with benches under them, luscious green grass, and huge bushes that later in life I learned were Box Woods. The campus had several buildings, some brick, some concrete, and some wooden. We were to meet in the main hospital which was red brick and part concrete. The hospital was very old and scary looking from the outside. The windows had bars on them. They also had screens, and every window was opened. Once inside it was just as scary. It looked like a scene from The One Who Flew Over the Coo-Coo’s Nest. Behind locked doors, patients wandered the halls. Some were slouched in straight back chairs and Pee dripped from under them. Others rocked, while others stood in place and shifted one foot to the other. One lady had a naked doll holding it by its’ leg. Several patients drooled. One man stood next to the wall, and consistently hit his head on the wall. The odor was not good but not bad… but peculiar. The walls were plastered and were painted a pale hospital green. The ceilings were unusually high I thought. I had never seen any thing like this in my life. Not even on T.V. There were eleven students in my group. I was the youngest. The other nursing students were from 22-42 years old. They all seemed comfortable in this environment. They did not seem nervous or afraid. I felt I had to keep my cool. I had learned in the year that I had been attending TSU (Tennessee State University), I had had a very sheltered life. I was learning so much of the world good and bad. I learned quickly to talk less and listen more.. Otherwise people would recognize my naiveté . Our instructor was waiting for us at the nursing station that we had been assigned. When all eleven of us had gathered, we were lead to a small conference room. This room would be our classroom which we would use for pre and post conferences for the next 6 weeks. The room was painted the same pale green and the ceiling were at lest 12 feet high. Extra chairs had to be brought in for there were only 6 chairs and a table. The windows were open and a gentle breeze blew in. It was 7;30 in the morning and already the temperature was in the nineties expecting the high to be close to 100. The instructor reviewed the syllabus that we would be following. She entertained a few questions and then told us we would be observing a counseling session this morning. The session was with the head of Psychiatry and one of his patients. A 63 year old Caucasian women who had been committed by her family after she had became catatonic. She had been married to the same man for almost 40 years. She had four children and several grandchildren. Her family came to see her on Sundays. They were from some back woods place in Tennessee of which I cannot remember. They were considered just country folks . The patient had become increasing depressed and then one day just stopped talking. The teacher then gave each of us a choice between Acetaminophen or Aspirin. She said that all the patients were given Aspirin or Acetaminophen every day to lower their temperature because there was no air condition in the hospital. She suggested we take one like wise. I took an aspirin which I regretted later. We were escorted to yet another room…. An office … There was a desk with a chair behind it. The windows, as in the rest of the hospital, were barred. There were 6 wooden folding chairs in the room. Our instructor told us that one of the six chairs was for the patient. The other five were for us. I was one of the lucky ones that got a chair . The instructor chose to stand. The other students gathered behind those of us who were seated. After waiting for what felt like and hour, but I’m sure it was only about 15-20 minutes, a gentlemen wearing a dingy white, wrinkled lab coat, light blue shirt, (no tie) and light brown paints forced his way into the room. He looked as if he had not slept or shaven in two days. He was in bad need of a hair cut and even worse need for a shampoo. His hair was oily and graying. He introduced himself… some name I have long forgotten. He ask not of our names or even acknowledge our instructor. He said he would be conducting a session with a women who was having a difficult time getting old and was in a depressive state. He mumbled something about being delusional, catatonic, and schizophrenic. She had to be spoon fed and forced to drink. I’m sure he told us her name, but I can not remember. For the sake of the story we will call her Betsy. The patient was escorted into the crowed office and I remembered thinking, how frightening this must be for her… to have twelve people listening to her private session. She shuffle in and took her seat has if she recognized the routine. She paid us no attention. It was as if we were invisible. Nor did she acknowledge the doctor. She shared into the nothingness of the room. The doctor stood and occasionally during the secession would sit on the corner of his desk. This is what I recall him saying to her. Betsy…. The nurses say you are not co-operating -- still not eating - not drinking- not taking your medications. When will you learn - you can’t hide, Yes you are an ugly old women… This is it- That’s what happens when you get old - you wrinkle, you get fat, and then you die. You have to learn to accept it. But.NOOOOOOO … Betsy thinks she can hide and maybe the ugliness can’t find her.. Betsy is a coward… she can’t face reality so he hides with in herself. She takes the selfish way out.. She is thinking of only her self. She doesn’t care about her loving husband who is waiting for her at home. She is not thinking of her children and grandchildren… she is only thinking about poor, poor, Betsy. I don’t know why I continue to waste my time with you. The old lady just sit there… un phased by his words. Her face showed no emotion. Did she hear him? How could she sit there and not respond, if not in anger in sadness. Why didn’t she cry, spit, kick, something. I was devastated… Is this what psychiatric nursing was about?… if so… I wanted no part of it. My stomach burned- That damn aspirin - or was the anger burning a hole in me- I hated that doctor-- how could he say something like that to another human being. QUACK. The doctor watched each of us while he took pleasure in humiliating his patient. He seem more concerned with our reaction that that of his patient. I felt his eyes upon us. I would not look at him. I stared at Betsy. I felt tears flooding my eye sockets. DON’T YOU CRY…. DON’T YOU DARE LET HIM SEE YOU CRY. A small tear overflowed falling down my check.. I dare not wipe it for someone for sure will notice it if I reach up to wipe my eyes. DID HE SEE…. BE STILL… DON’T MOVE. Here comes the snot. There was a long silence. I starred at the floor. The doctor walked around his desk at the same time he pulled a tissue out of the box on his desk. Two steps toward me. YOU….. Miss Washington…. Will not make a good psychiatric nurse. HERE WIPE YOUR FACE. How did he know my name…… Oh yeah …. My name tag…. So… you see some days when I look in the mirror I see Betsy staring back at me.. She says to me…. The QUACK was wrong….. And I say to her ….. I KNOW…. I WAS NOT CRAZY. And I say, no, your were not crazy, your were used up.. I WAS NOT SELFISH No, you gave all that you had. I WAS NOT UGLY - No, you were tired, you were home sick I was home sick…not for my earthy home but for my heavenly home. God did not call so I went somewhere to wait. I didn’t understand then, but now I do. I have raised my children, I’ve been a good wife, a good friend, A good employee. I have accomplished more than many. I’ve traveled some Learned much I’ve even seen a black man become president I have ran the race, I’m all used up … I stare in the mirror and I want to shut down. With each wrinkle, with each ache, with every blood pressure and diabetic pill I take, I ask why am I still her. I lone for something… What I do not know Yet something familiar -- familiar as the face in the mirror I share. I believe it to be my heavenly home. But something speaks back from the mirror and tells me to have patience. The time is not yet. God has more for you to do before you come home. Betsy wasn’t patient…. She was convinced that she was done with this world and perhaps she was. But that angel called her not……. so she went to a place within herself to wait.