Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Lemon-Haired Lady Diary

      There she was, at the tip of my callouses, with a simple request.  I simply cannot recall what, of the many sites I follow, page she was on. So, moving right along, as is my wont, I've put her here.  On my page, which I'm far less likely to misplace.  Although I hadn't planned to introduce them in this fashion - The Lemon-Haired Lady Diary - I shall, as, at the end of the day, there's always a reason when 'plans' are thwarted, changed, interrupted - you get the point.  So, I give you "her".
      (Over these many years of conjugal getting-through-it-all with some degree of grace and efficiency, ours has been a very together separated family.  Mark those words.  This achievement is NOT for the weak, the tired, the lackluster or disinterested.
      Rather, the rigors of healing kept my husband from membership in the 'family vacation' set - summers, holidays, breaks - he was simply not a candidate.  To accommodate the conflicting "dad's-a-doc" v. "school's-out-we're-kids-and-wanna-play - away" conundrum, we added a small cottage on the Outer Banks to our already over-extended monthly payments. 
      It was here that the children and I would 'vacate' from June 10 or thereabouts until mid-August, whence fond adieus were bid to the sound/rhythm of the surf and we trundled back to Virginia in time for school clothing/book-shopping and that tachycardic anticipation of another 'new' academic year. 
      To be fair, the Shaman was not in a state of total separation.  He was in Virginia.  And, whenever scheduling permitted, he'd drive down for 3 or 4 day spells of togetherness, drip castles and trash fiction. Oh, and he adored - truly - repairing the west porch screens.  'Ritual' simply denies justice to this annual, focused, in-the-shade-avec-breeze undertaking.
      This arrangement continues to this day, bringing with it a new set of tiny footprints in the sand.  The Leavy 'summer experience' is simultaneously sweet, savory, and brings with it the totally unexpected - like all good things. "Her" particular chapter came at the end of the summer, the 'trundle back to 'Ginny' part.)
      So entrenched in the scheduling of schedules for each child, each child's school picture, the baby's 2 year-old - and 1.5 yr late - portrait in addition to the shopping marathon, I really didn't notice her for a day or two.  Perhaps she was on night duty or off on a rare visit home, whatever, I was taken aback by my husband's query, "You don't MIND about Katie, do you?"
      Wow, aren't those the questions that have you almost checking in to camp 'closed-ward-no-visitors'?  You know when, heart in a panic vice, you 'play it off' casually, maybe with a, "Mind? Don't be silly! WHY . . . would-I-mind?"  Then the glazed stare on the handy, dandy imitation life disguise face, plastic smile in place, HOPING for the "Well, because I just for GOT to mention. . ."
      And you're home free. As I was, because doc was only too happy to quickly prattle on about the circumstances that landed 'new resident' - in its dual meaning - Dr. Katie Lemonhair - in our daughter's bedroom.  Ending with, "I figured the girls would want to share the BIG bedroom together and, yes, they can - and should - get new beds and matching whatevers," he did one of those 'THANK-YOU-GOD-I-OWE-YA' exhales. (Irish Catholic guilt has been a huge problem-solver for me these 44 years.)
      And that was how I came to know that, due to her late acceptance into the residency program, when Katie arrived from Ohio, the only room she could find was with three frosh at Old Dominion U. who were living off campus - with an agenda. What with rushing around, getting her own books, locker, starched white lab coats, schedules and already working on her first rotation, she really wasn't bothered/hadn't noticed the menagerie into which she was ensconced.
      So, when Doc Phil came on duty in the Emergency Department one seven am, he noticed a tangled, yellow mop near the phones and attending roster.  On closer inspection, he determined the 'mop' was attached to a frail human neck which dropped into flattened shoulders belonging to a sleeping resident seated in a chair. This will never do. "Nurse!"  Nothing.  "Anybody WORKING today?" Nothing.
      Within five minutes he had gently wakened the 'poor kid', averted the potential sob session that was beginning to develop on her face and sat beside her, feigning a chart conference, while getting the sorry scoop on the kid's living-unplugged situation. 
"Katie, you'll never survive this rotation in that setting.  And this is only your first rotation of what will be a very demanding year."
"What am I going to DO, Dr. L?"
      Of course he just threw our house keys at her, trying for paternal-authority-figure as he instructed her to get her stuff from that loony bin, just dump it in the smaller of the two bedrooms facing the main street and get a good day's sleep.  The wife, kids and his father-in-law - not very helpful of late, hittin' the booze since Nana passed - won't be back from the beach for another three days.
      A dog? I'm sure he told her that would be a plus.  "We have a Brittany - gets gloomy when the kids go back to school."  "Mind?  My wife will be delighted - if only to have another grown woman around.  Those kids and Poppy and Shamus (our Brittany) - she's got her hands full.  She'll welcome the companionship." or something along those (fine) lines.  What a guy!
      'Quelle surprise!' was MY reaction when the scenario (like Katie) settled in.  And the dog! A fluffy, white toy poodle named 'Miss Lillian' already had the interior blueprint of our home etched on her white, curly-fur-covered brain, like the templates on those new computerized floor sweepers - a quiet, charged stealth weapon with paws. Shamus (well-named for this interlude in the family saga) would stalk her, skulking along at what he thought was an inconspicuous, five inch distance.
      Looking on the bright side - which was beaming in through a narrow slit in an off-kilter venetian blind slat - I thought, well, the kids will soon be busy with school/sports/dance and therefore supervised safely by mature adults for the majority of my day; Katie has that demanding schedule; Poppy will diligently attend to the grocery shopping and then read the receipt for an hour or so as though it was "Moby Dick" before a taste to go with "Hawaii-Five-O"; Phil's saving lives; Shamus has the mutt covered (I thought); and I can get to the computer and finish the long-overdue deader-than-deadlined assignments I had undertaken for a local slick magazine. What's to worry?
      Sometimes trouble, like intra-arterial plaque, has an insidious onset.  I began to wake up around three am intermittently.  Finally, deciding the cause was noise, I dragged myself out of bed to see which of the offspring was NOT sleeping.  Au contraire.  What I found was 'Katie-on-the-phone'. Executing a languid retreat, I noticed Katie had terminated her conversation, placed our receiver in our cradle and meekly explained that three am was the only time she could fit her therapy sessions in.  Her therapist, a blind psychiatrist in Ohio, had been treating her for several years and time of day was of no moment to him, dedicated mental health care provider that he was.
      Indeed. Well, that solved the middle of-the-night issue.  Soon after, I began noticing bits of a pinkish crumb-looking trail on the hardwood floors.  No stranger to Hansel and Gretel, I followed them to THEIR source.  What ho!  Seemed Miss Lillian had 'issues' as well - but no blind veterinary therapist in Ohio.  Thus her addiction to oriental rug padding went un-abated.  In fact, it had escalated to where she no longer bothered to attempt to hide the evidence - such was the square footage of gnawed rug padding I detected upon close inspection.
      With what had become alarming aplomb, Katie presented a picture of an innocent, frightened creature suffering from 'separation anxiety' which netted conciliatory, understanding, shrink-like nods from the master of the house.  The mistress, on the other hand, suggested crating the little (fluffy) bitch until she came to understand that Miss Lillian, if not cured of her addiction, would NOT be relying on the kindness of strangers but on the Greyhound Terminal cargo bus headed to Ohio.
      Thus we muddled through until some time in May.  Totally enjoying my 'rapture' time - now whittled down to two precious hours a day to think and write in silence, I wafted into my study, alighted on my special Swedish Maternity bentwood typing chair with the air of Isadora Duncan, ignoring the gait of Agnes Gooch, and, still entranced, gazed questioningly at a white business envelope taped to my computer screen and labeled, "Lorraine". 
      Mother's Day offering? Ya think? No.  My husband and fam know how my first name is spelled.  Suddenly on 'rampart alert', I tore the envelope open, ripped out the single piece of paper and read:
"I hope you don't mind.  For obvious reasons, when I realized I had run out of my Herpes medication, I wrote a scrip for YOU and called it in to the pharmacy number on your pre-natal vitamin bottle."  Thanks. You'll never know how grateful I am to you for doing this. Katie."
      Mind?  Obvious? HERPES!? For me?  Oh, but I DO know how grateful - and more - you are/should be.  Geez!  MY pharmacy?  MY pre-natal. . . .  That's it.  Time for some tough love. Enough is enough.  And I got RIGHT into my car before I ran out of 'rapture time' and lead-footed it over to . . . the damned pharmacy, praying it would be a down time over there. 
      It seemed an eternity that I loitered around the Father's Day display waiting for a clear, empty shot at the pharmacist.  Finally, coast clear, I waddled over to "Pick-UP" and quietly said, "Leavy".  I looked up into the eyes of a stranger.  My pharmacist was out sick.  "Ma'am?" fell out, loudly, of the stranger's mouth.  On tip toes, waking my now irritated, uncomfy fetus, I spat, "L-E-A-V-Y"  Another head-scratching hiatus.  Then, "I got it. Take this stuff DAILY for that Herpes, hear?"  Dropping the name of the 'condition' loud enough they probably heard it back in Brooklyn, I could only nod.  I didn't have to TRY to look ill.  Running SO low on 'fight-or-flight' juice, I was about to turn, barf and run, when he  - perhaps noticing - busied himself with packaging and cash register activities aborting my flight.
      My ire, however, was very much intact.  Oddly enough, it was disorientingly intact because all of a sudden I was NOT in our driveway.  I was at the hospital.  I was walking in and approaching the receptionist (lovely little elderly candy-striper) and asking her to page Dr. Lemonhair overhead.  Her "Herpes scrip is waiting for pick-up at Main Reception." 
      And there was "one less set of footsteps on our floor.  In the mornin."  Some days you bite the bear and some days the bear bites you.  Doctor Lemonhair suffered a bad bear bite that day.  Hasn't been any Christmas card exchanging since she left.  I guess she realized just "how grateful" I was - for obvious reasons.
                                       Later, Lorane. . . .
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