Saturday, October 18, 2008

Letter to Steve

I went to your grave today.
It wasn't as hard as I thought it would's the first time in about a month that I had visited, and it was easier. I'm finding it easier to laugh about things you did that made me so mad when you did them. Remember the time you and Jimmy Martin took my Boston album?? I never did find that, but if you enjoyed it, it's ok with me. Remember the time you stopped the truck on the railroad track with me in it - and the TRAIN was coming? It's a wonder, little brother, that Dad didn't have a big brown stain in the seat I was sitting in - you honestly scared the hell out of me that time. Never did understand why you did it. Now, I'm not laughing about that one, just shaking my head. Which brings to mind the time you took me out on the Gator - how long ago was it? Maybe a year ago...and that cliff, just before we reached the sandpits - you stopped on the very edge of it. I was afraid to move for fear we'd topple on over, but you laughed...Apparently, you liked living on the edge more than I do. You got a rush from things like that. You said so, yourself. I'm not like that...I prefer a little safety and a lot of sanity!
Remember when you took me one Thanksgiving to the tree stand you used for deer hunting. We climbed up in that thing, and you told me how much you liked the peace of it all, even when there were no deer around. You watched the birds, racoons...whatever happened along. I remember how nice it was to be there, to connect with nature.

I remember the birdfeeders you bought, and filled, and enjoyed. I remember the trees and flowers you planted. The twisted filbert is still living, just up the driveway. Your bearded irises have bloomed, and now a hundred others that I don't know the names of are springing up and out and decorating the back yard.

I was afraid I would forget the sound of your voice and the things you did, but you know what? I won't. I thought I would need this journal to maintain a connection with you, but I don't need this, either. It still isn't easy, but it's a tremendous sight better than the initial shock of your death, and the deep pain that ensued after the numbness of it wore off and reality and finality set in. I'll only see your face in photographs and videos. I know we'll never sit across a table from each other and laugh again, and you'll never take me around your yard and show me everything that's growing or tell me how beautiful you think it all is. But you did those things already, and I remember and will never forget. And when the wisteria blooms and its fragrance fills the air, I'll think of you. You'll always be a part of us, you just won't be here, physically.
I'm not deserting you, and don't love you a bit less than I did when you were here, but I don't think I need to write letters to you.

This was just a bookmark, a place to put all that love that some think has no place to go after the loss of someone important in their lives. Steve, I know where that love goes - right where it always was, and higher and deeper, and a universe wide.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September 1

I used to kid Steve about his birthday being a holiday (sometimes it was) and we all kidded him for being born on Mom and Dad's anniversary. 

Well, today would have been his 43rd birthday.  He is very much on mind, and this day is another hurdle to overcome.  I have learned a few things since April - one is that love goes very, very deep, and two, grieving and healing is a long process.

Raising my coffee cup in salute to the life that was.  I wish he could be here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Laying Low

After Steve died, I started smoking like the proverbial freight train.  And when Daddy was diagnosed, I started smoking more.  And so, Saturday I began taking Chantix again.  Wasn't looking forward to starting it, but even I know when too much is more than enough.  ...and a strange thing happened after 3 days on Chantix...

I felt good.  I felt happy.  It's having an antidepressant effect on me, and I didn't know how bad I really needed that until I began feeling better.

Work went so well today, even with the 52 incoming shippers.  Mom came off of hospice because, in her words, she had too much time in.  Hospice is for those who have 6 months or less left to live...Mom has fooled the doctors yet again. 

I'll never forget when she was on life support several years ago.  Dad and I had gone to the hospital to sit with her, and the doctor had just done an examination on her.  He was dictating at the nurse's station, and even though I heard every word, the ones that stand out glaringly in my memory are "the patient will need rehabilitation...if she lives."  She stayed on life support longer than she was supposed to.  It was more than two weeks she was on a vent and was on the roller pumps for more than a week.  She was kept medicated in a state of "conscious unconsiousness" for what seemed forever.  She was not lucid, confused reality with her dreams and sometimes thought we were there to kill her. 

After a month, I had pretty much accepted my mother would remain in the same condition.  She was moved to a step-down unit after all that time in intensive care, and the medication she had been given took a good while to wear off.  Often upon entering her room, we would find she had moved from the bed to the chair, but she still wasn't speaking.  And then one day, I called her room from work to talk with whoever was sitting with her that day, and she answered the phone.  I cannot tell you what that felt like.  I said, "Mama??"  and she knew me.  When I hung up the phone, I cried.

She still had a long way to go.  Once when visited, she saw her reflection in the glass of a painting that hung on the wall.  She was mesmerized and a bit baffled.  "Look!" she said, "there's a portrait of me!  How did they do it?"

After she was discharged, she went to a nursing facility for two months.  She had a ball with the other ladies there.

Yes, she has fooled the doctors before, and she has fooled them once again.  I know that one day, when she's ready, she'll stop fighting. After all she's been through, not one of us could begrudge her that.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Because I feel like it...

Not a bad week.  I've been around the internet a little more this week than usual.  Lately, my daughter-in-law is online in my stead.  Where to start emptying the week...

We got Mom and Dad moved to the smaller house this week.  Mom was so excited - it was like Christmas, something new to her in every room.  That made us feel good.  I can only imagine the peace and quiet will be another package to open and revel in.  She has a spring in her step, now, and has actually been shopping.  Dad isn't as enthusiastic as she is, though.  He misses his own house.  The smaller house will probably never really be home to him, but he'll get used to it, and there again, the peace of it all should do him good.

I decided not to move into the big house (no pun intended, I go to the big house every day).  I'm not quite ready to move all my junk, only to have to move it again, later, when it becomes necessary.  I have 23 years worth of stuff here...

I joined a couple of groups on a community started by a local television station.  Posted up piece I did on Lacy, and someone commented "You should do this professionally, if you don't already."  That made me feel good.  At the same time, I don't know that I have it in me to write anything worthy.

Talking to Wilkins on the ramp outside of South Unit while on a smoke break...rather, Wilkins was talking to me.  He has found in me a captive audience - again, no pun intended.  The man can talk for hours and say nothing.  I might give up smoking.  He's a nice man, it's just hard to escape from him.

Dad goes on hospice next week. 



Wednesday, June 18, 2008


..that transfer coordinator doesn't come her rear back to work, I'm going to Winston-Salem, putting her in my backseat and driving her to prison myself so she can take her job back.


abunchofstuffthatdidn'tquiteregisterinmyfoggybrain, but we got through it, anyway.  Spoke to the DA's office, a sheriff's department, a clerk of court, 200 DOC employees (seemed like it), put the release packets together, called inmates in to sign the release forms, and did the shippers list.  Around 2:00, the system went down.  The shippers list doesn't close until 3:30.  So at 3:30, I was on the phone with another unit asking them to please let me come over and run the final list and the trip tickets for bus day.  And they said yes!  So off to the hospital I went, ID in hand, and to the sergeant's office to do what I could.  Only problem is, the rpm's on my computer wouldn't print the list on my printer at our unit because the system was down and the printer in that office didn't have rpm's.  Shoot.  However, Medical Records welcomed me with open arms, let me log in and do my thing.  By 4:15, I was on the way back, list and tickets in hand.  And when I arrived there...

the most amazing thing was happening.  My supervisor, one of the case managers and the records room lady were pulling the field jackets from the partial list I had run earlier in the day.  I was floored.  NOBODY has ever done that for me before - not medical, not medical records...

I ran 14 copies of the list and the dental hygienist stapled them.  I only had to stay 20 minutes overtime...

and tomorrow, Deborah wants me to sit in on the disciplinary hearings so I can see how they're done.."Just in case you have to do it one day."  Aha.  I feel a position upgrade coming on.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some things never change

I told a friend last night I just don't feel like journaling anymore...that usually unlocks a boatload of entries, because tonight, if I don't get this down and out, someone will be scraping me off of the walls and ceilings tomorrow morning.  I guess this really is my safety valve.

It was a rough day.  The last few weeks have been rough, in fact, but I'm not feeling so much sorry for myself as feeling powerless.  So God, if you're trying to drive the point home, you've done it...I am defeated - for now.  But somehow, you always allow me to get back up again.  Truth known, I don't know if I want to get back up this time.  Seems easier to stay down where there isn't so far to fall.

This is the first time I've had to drag out the relaxation music, but tonight it's Canon - Variations on, and a version someone who was once dear to my heart sent over the internet, and Steven Cravis...First Light, Dancing Spirits...acoustic piano solos, and the daughter-in-law, angel that she is, has gone off in search of Blackberry merlot.

It was a helluva day at work.  I've been filling in for the transfer coordinator, had all of 3 days - half days, at that, training.  My little minor mistakes popped up today, all of them at once.  My mistakes are mine..and I own them; they came at a bad time, though, on top of a weekend that was far from easy and a Monday I wasn't sure I would make it through. 

It's just all so overwhelming.  Steve, Daddy, job. My daughter on bedrest because of her high risk pregnancy.  Too many losses this year.  There were gains, yet they don't seem to measure up to those losses at the moment.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself, and if I were, just a little bit, that wouldnt be such a bad thing.  The fact is, though, I'm not.  I'm just...feeling.  Whether I want to, or not.  I wish I could go back to uncomfortably numb.  It wasn't the best place to be, but there, it didn't matter if everything was crashing and burning.  I didn't feel it.

I wish I could go back to a time when everyone was well and happy, and if our situations weren't quite ideal, they were liveable.  I would give anything for a Saturday night when Dad, Jack Daniels or Jim Beam, sang along with Fats Domino, Dad's leg propped up on the table, and just one more chorus, boys, and I'll be done for the night.  God, I'm so much like him.  He had Fats, I have whatever soothes me.  Pachelbel, Winston, Janis Joplin..Blackberry Merlot.

I don't know what to do, anymore.  It's all too heavy.  And sometimes I let myself sink and wallow in everything that has happened or is about to happen, and I feel bad about doing that because...I'm not the only one going through this.  And it isn't happening TO me, it's happening around me.  My job right now is to watch what I don't want to see.  And then there are people who are going through worse.

I don't know anymore what I'm supposed to do.  Maybe tomorrow I'll wake to brand new strength and will be able to shrug off the mistakes and will find it easier to accept the losses that were and the ones that are coming.  And like the friend who wrote to me last night, maybe I'll be able to reach pass my own pain and offer a hand to someone else who needs one to hold.  I hope so.


Friday, June 13, 2008


Busy day today...filling in for the transfer coordinator and getting the first taste of what it's like to be directly involved with paroling inmates.  Contacting the officers who are to pick them up, getting an ETA to pass on to operations.  The first arrives for one inmate, turns out he's a friend of my brother's.  We chat until our CO brings the (ex) inmate in to sign his papers and get his transition folder.  I witness the signatures and get some of my own, turn over the transition folder to the newly free man.  He gives me the willies, staring hard at me with no particular expression on his face.  And they set this man free.  Hard to imagine.

James, the maintenance guy, stops me in the hall.  He's a friend of Mike's, too, and he has made it his business to check up on sis every time he comes to the facility.  Always has a kind word and a weird little grin on his face.  Today he asks me about Daddy.  I tell him Dad is in pain.  He makes a sorrowful face.  I quickly ask him how he's doing, he says fine, and walks away, taking the inmate helper in green clothes with him. 

The second PPO arrives for the second inmate. He isn't as thorough as the first PPO...they and the inmate are out of there in less than 10 minutes.  On my way back to the office, Dr. E from the hospital comes through the lobby.  We chat for a minute.  It's only the second time I've seen one of the doctors since leaving the hospital.  It was good to see him.

Working on the releases for the weekend...I have to break the news to this rotation that the one who is being released Sunday will have to be driven 70 miles to a shelter.  He doesn't want to go there, but that's where he's going because none of his family want him to live with them.  He insists on a bus ticket and to be let off at the court house in his home county, but it's too late, since he agreed days before to the shelter.

The system is back up, finally, and I backlog the 47 who transferred in on regular and special buses.  Chilly calls, asking about records and extending an invitation for Vinnie's Famous Nurse's Station Cinnamon Coffee.  No time.  There's work to do.  And the work is good...and the people are good, and I'm where I want to be.

Busy.  I like it.  It's a different world than the one I go home to.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Let It Be.

In three days, it will have been one month since Steve passed away.  It seems like it was just a few minutes ago...odd, how time stands so still and flies by so fast at the same time.

I had to step away from everybody for a couple of nights this week, to try and come to grips with the loss.  It's kind of hard to do that when you keep finding out things that make it seem as senseless as it was unreal.  Like he wouldn't let anyone call the rescue squad for him, saying he was just tired.  That he was taking Oxycontin and other drugs because he was in pain and wouldn't (couldn't) see a doctor about his health problems because he had no insurance.

Damn it all.  If he had let us, we would have helped him.

And then there are the unexplained things that kept happening after he passed.  The front door at his house opening by itself - it scrubbed on the carpet.  Patience and I saw that.  The garage door opening by itself.  His phone number on a sticky note jumping off of the refrigerator at Dad's house.  A message from beyond?  A spirit caught between earth and the Universe?  I don't logical self tells me we're human and look for signs after a loved one has passed on, anything that would reassure us that death is not the absolute end.  And my emotional self tells me, he's still here...

Everyone was talking about how Steve had "visited" them.  With Dad, it was a dream that Steve came to him and said, I can breathe now.  With Patience, it was the candles blowing sideways and the doors opening.  With Mike, it was a warm hand on his shoulder as he was driving.

I can't for sure say that Steve has come to me, except for the song that popped into my head as I was going over and over all that had happened and questioning why.  Out of nowhere the lyrics came...Let It Be.  I remember nodding, as if to say, Okay, I understand.  But I didn't.  And then last Saturday I visited Patience, and she and I were talking.  She was having a really good day, but still, I broke down and cried.  And from the radio came the music...Paul McCartney singing Let It Be.

Is that what I wanted?  To let it be, to just accept it and to stop torturing myself with all the why's and what ifs?  Or was it a message, for me.  Was it my visit.

The middle of last week, I went to Steve's grave for the first time since the day after the funeral.  I had no idea why I was compelled to go there, but I had to.  For a while, I just stood there and stared down at that long rectangle of bare earth.  And then I started talking.  I told him I didn't understand why he refused help, why he didn't come to any of us.  Why he wouldn't let anyone call an ambulance - three people had tried.  I told him that maybe he didn't have to die, that if he had let somebody - anybody - help, maybe he might still be with us. And I told him I was so MAD at him, but that was because I do love him..not because I didn't.  That little monologue ended with my hope for him that wherever he might be that he was free from pain and that he didn't need anything of this world anymore.  And I left.

Driving down the road...with the radio on...still somewhere off in the distance, not really paying attention to anything except how I was feeling...the music came over the radio.  Paul McCartney singing Let It Be.  Maybe I really had had a visit from Steve.  Perhaps not.  But if letting it be is what has to be done, then that's what I'll do.


Friday, April 11, 2008


When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This morning

I have to take a little time for myself, to be alone and remember Steve in my own way.  I wish there were a way to make people really know him, because he was such a presence, and one that a person could not help but like or love.

Last night, a small group of my immediate family gathered in the back yard at Mom's and Dad's.  That was Steve's domain - he was the gardener, the king of the grill at cookouts, the one who filled the birdfeeders and prepared nectar for the hummingbirds.  He loved nature.

One memory very personal to me is the night Steve and I went spotlighting for deer.  We climbed into the pickp truck and he took me to the peach orchard.  We parked on a lane and he pulled out the spotlight from behind the seat.  "Now watch this," he told me, and the light he shone glinted off of eyes all over the place.  In a few minutes, the deer began running.  One leaped over the bed of the pickup truck and Steve just laughed...Would you look at that! 

Another is the night he called me from Atlanta.  It was 11:00, the phone rang, the operator asked me to accept the collect charges, and I - thinking the worst, of course - accepted.  GIRL!  He told me.  You won't believe what I just did!  He had been jamming with Bad Company.  That was one of the highlights of his life.

He was a musician who played with local rock bands.  I remember how he used to drive me crazy, playing those drums every single night and every single day..but after a while, I didn't even hear them anymore.  He was an incredible talent - taught himself to play guitar, drums - he had a voice that would stop me still in my tracks, so rich and beautiful.
His last big gig was with Roy Roberts, a blues musician.  He traveled up and down the East Coast with them, and the highlight of that gig was playing his drums on stage with Eddie Floyd, of Knock on Wood fame.

He was the only person my dog, Buddy, ever bit.  When he made his way home from being on the road once, he came to my house, came straight to my kitchen and hugged me.  That didn't set well with Buddy, who immediately went to Steve's ankle.  But Steve won Buddy over, too, just like every person he ever touched.

He was the primary care giver for Mom and Dad.  His days of CNA work with group homes prepared him well for giving shots and taking care of feeding tubes during my father's cancer treatment.  And Steve never complained.  All his life, he wanted a place in Mom's and Dad's lives - an important spot.  He had no idea that spot was already his because he was Steve.  Stevie Poo. 

He had a personality that would not quit.  He could make you laugh, want to smack him and want to kiss him all in the same instant.  And if you dared lock in a battle of wit with him, you could count yourself out before the first words left your mouth.  He was quick and creative.  A bubble of laughter waiting to burst.

A few years ago, he met a lady - a real lady - from Canada, via the internet.  Their friendship grew and somehow turned into love.  He proposed to her first on the internet - and when Patience laughed at him and said it wasn't a real proposal, he told her - if you want the real one, get down here.  She did, and he proposed.  They were one of the happiest couples I have ever seen.  They loved each other immensely.

I take a lot of comfort in knowing that she was with him at the end.  He had not felt well for a few days and had come home from work early.  He asked her to take a nap with him.  She did, had her arm across his chest.  She kept a check on him because she was worried...and then fell asleep with him.  She told us she was not sure what woke her.  The first thing she noticed was that his chest was not rising and falling.  She couldn't wake him.  He died with her arms around him, peacefully, in his sleep. 

Oh, my baby brother...if it had to happen so soon, too soon, I'm glad it was this way, with your love beside you and with peace. 

I will never, ever forget your caring, your heart, your love for so many.

The house has been full of people since Monday night, and I know the church will be overflowing.  The aisle between the family pews and the friends pews might as well be erased, because everyone you touched considered you their family.  Rest well, brother.  I love you.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

coming down to earth

It seems longer than five years ago that I accepted a position at another unit.  I loathed leaving the hospital and the warmth of the people there.  It was almost a family atmosphere with the folks who had been there under human resources before it became a prison hospital.  But leave, I must, if I wanted a permanent position complete with benefits and retirement.  So I went...

to a place that was gray and concrete.  It had clanging doors that custody had to open for you - everything was locked - and on the mental health side, Christ roamed the halls and Satan was locked up in seg, my boss despised me and made no bones about it.  But I was trapped - it was stay or quit, and I couldn't afford to quit, with a sick husband at home who was depending on my health coverage to pay his hospital and physician's bills.

So I sucked it up.  I was a nervous wreck that first year.  The job itself was as huge a responsibility as the sick husband who became psychotic on his medications. I stayed - and worked damned hard because I had something to prove and a reason to be there.  But, oh, how I missed my former workplace and the atmosphere there, and vowed to go back if I could.

And then something happened.  I met an old man at the prison - a psychologist - who was very kind to me.  We became fast friends, and when things became overwhelming, I'd trip down the hall to his office to borrow a cup of his calm.  And then something else happened.  Somewhere between south unit and central, I made friends with the custody staff.  They gave me something that I whole-heartedly returned - respect.  I looked out for them the best my job would allow, and they did the same for me.  I was one of them.

And then other things happened - my boss decided I was a pretty-good-okay secretary after all, and our relationship became one of mutual respect.  I met a nurse from Trinidad - "the islands", as she put it.  And she was my charge nurse who depended on me and called me elephant brain because I knew the patients and their ailments as well as she did and she depended on me to know.

Then came the opportunity I had prayed for the first year of my employement - a position at my old unit.  I took it, though I loathed to leave my other team.  But I was tired and had taken an emotional beating over the past few years.  For a while, my time was split betweenboth locations - mornings were spent at the hospital and afternoons were spent as secretary to the nurses.  I didnt mind, actually.  And when that ended, I was full-time hospital medical records girl.

The place had changed.  All who had been there under human resources had left.  There was no responsibility, none of the adrenaline I had become used to - and addicted to.  Our office had become a gathering place for gripefests and the discontent among the employees under a new regime was loud and battering.  And there was no respect.  None.  There were loud arguments between my boss and the social worker, and on more than one occasion, I had to "testify" in an investigation.  Oh, how I longed for the place I had left and the old man's cup of calm.  For the respect.  For the team I had left behind.

And I vowed that one day, I would go back there.  I vowed it every time one of the officers from that unit came over and asked if I was ready to come back to them yet.  Every time they jokingly called me a traitor.  I would block out the sights that had driven me away and made me cringe every time someone mentioned the word "shower." 

And on occasion, I would see the old man in town and he would say - We miss you.  It feels like something is missing.  And I didn't tell him that there was something missing in my days, too, but I thought it, and hoped that the old man would still be there when I made my way back.

It was more than two years before the chance presented itself.  I pulled up the OSP jobs website one Tuesday morning an audibly gasped.  An opening there!  How very rare.  I spent the morning typing out my application and faxed it in that very day.  For  two weeks, I held my breath, wondering if they would even consider me for an interview after I left them.

And then they called me.  I had the interview.  I was so nervous I botched it - I wasn't professional at all, I was simply me, earnest with my answers to people who had once been my team.  I shook their hands as I prepared to leave and told them it was good to see them again.

And I heard nothing for two more weeks.  I had given up - if you have the job, usually, you know within a few days, and I knew nothing.  Then one night while I was laying in bed between sleep and waking, the small voice spoke to me from nowhere.  It said - You got the job. And I said - Aww, get outta here, dismissed it and fell asleep.

Two days later, my boss was reading her email and said - Did you know about this?  When were you going to tell me?  I was puzzled.  Know about what, I asked her.  She read the email aloud.  It said - We have just received approval for Ms. Broadaway to assume the position and would like for her to start as soon as possible.  Is March 17th all right with you?

I almost fainted.  I rose from my chair with the phone in my hand and told the person on the other end - I GOT THE JOB!!!!

In a building just down the road from the hospital, there is a lieutenant who will undoubtedly grin and say - what did i tell you? Now don't leave us again.  And there is a new supervisor and section head who have a faith in me that amazes me.  They chose me for a position they plan to expand.  They told me the job is a good place to start with their department, and that tells me they have plans for my future.  More importantly, there is an old man in that building who is waiting for me to come back to share a cup of calm, some laughs and a little philosophical conversation. 

I'm coming, Dr. H.  I'll be there soon.

Monday, March 3, 2008