Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hearts of Courage

Recently I was feeling quite discouraged. It was time to get ready for my job at a tiny local hospital in Labor and Delivery. I've been a nurse for a long time, but sometimes night shift itself is discouraging. Sometimes you just don't feel good. For decades I've watched my mother and grandmother respond to times of stress with perfectly coiffed hair and elegant maquillage that includes base, eyeshadow, mascara, blush and that Southern red badge of courage: lipstick. "How does that look, Mammaw," I ask as I spray on the Helmet Head and blott the lipstick. I ask out loud for we lost her on a raw Winter day. She would tell me it looks beautiful no matter what.

Opening my closet I choose a black scrub top covered in brightly colored hearts. "In for a penny, in for a pound," I tell myself as I choose heart earrings and a heart necklace though it is March. I ask my daughter if she has any socks left over from February 14th and she finds a bright pink pair with pictures of candy conversation hearts on them.

Feeling marginally better I kiss her and my husband good-bye and head to my car where I listen to "Sweet Home Alabama" at maximum volume on my CD player. A little Lynyrd goes a long way towards curing discouragement.

There are no labor patients tonight. I am asked to care for a surgical patient far older than the patients I usually care for. As I pick up the chart and see the name I chuckle to myself. Then I laugh out loud. I open the door. "Ma'am," I say, "I believe I am the nurse for you!" She looks at me and laughs. "I wish I could tell this story," I tell her, " but I'm not allowed to reveal names."

"I do not mind if you tell my name, my dear," she tells me. "Go ahead and say my name."

I believe that God stretches us at times. I had been going through a lot of personal stretching in the previous weeks. So much so, that I feared I would break. But through these times He never fails to reach down with kindnesses; some large and some small and remind me that He watches me carefully and watchfully for I am the apple of His eye.

"Thank you," I tell my patient. "Thank you......Mrs. Valentine."

My Sister Su

My sister, Su., is responsible for my desire to blog in the first place. When I was 13 years old I grew tired of being an only child and began to pray for a little sister. Imagine my mother's surprise when lo and behold she discovered that she was pregnant. She and my father were convinced it would be a boy, but I knew better. Then in November of my 7th grade year Su. was born. She was never destined to be a normal child....

I got married when Su. was 6 years old. She was highly insulted that she didn't get to pick out her own dress so she refused to smile in any of the pictures. To console her, our mother told her, "When you get married, you can tell Sister what to wear." To which she replied, "When I get married, Sister will be so old she'll have to come down the aisle in a wheelchair." Su got married when I turned 40. She began her first year of marriage as I was completing my 20th. She's closer in age to my oldest child than she is to me. My husband is 20 years older than hers. But still, she's my best friend.

She remains one of the most interesting people I have ever had the priviledge to know. She lives in a renovated 1920s bungalow on the Southside of Birmingham where she can be found on her front porch gathering fodder for the Great Southern Novel of all time or on the back porch where she reads books I don't have the patience for. She watches the people go by and imagines what their lives are like. How does the young mother with the rumpled little children make ends meet? Where will that old man spend the night tonight? When things go wrong, she's the first one I want to tell. She is never judgmental. "You have a warrior spirit," she'll tell me, "I'm so proud of you! You can handle it. Keep going!" Then, refueled with the belief that I can indeed handle anything, I take one more step and keep going.