In search of story


Digital saga

I broke my finger;
it got even:
I couldn’t grip
or slip a sleeve on.

It hurt when it happened,
then mercifully dulled
’til the doctor did the splinting,
which strangled and pulled.

That night it yelled
Wake up and feel —
dreams are illusion
but I am real!
I am Pain!
Hear me roar!
I can take a little finger
and make it so much more.

Next day I called the doctor
and the robot said
Leave a message.
HELP! I pled.

The day crept along
with my phone in my pocket,
but I did not want to talk
in the middle of Target

so I waited at home.
Nothing from the phone.

Another stabbing night —
Enough already! —
I called again
my voice unsteady.

Mirabile dictu,
the nurse called back,
said fractures hurt,
give the wrap some slack.

And she assured me —
she knew for certain —
the wrap would not
cause my skin to be hurtin’.

That did it.

“Fractures hurt.”
No duh, I fumed;
the splinting’s the problem —
I had to exhume:

I unwrapped the swaddling —
that took real pluck —
lo! the skin underneath
looked a lot like ground chuck.

Eureka! I cried,
surveying my digit;
I see why my night’s spent
in whimper and fidget.

The bone on the inside,
the skin on the out
together in chorus
plaintively shout


In consult with pharmacist
and my poor frazzled finger
I have a new wrap,
a real humdinger.

I did it myself —
you may express your amazement —
peek-a-boo gauze
is my new fashion statement.

The moral is clear
from here to Helsinki:
never trust a car door
to look out for your pinkie.

And don’t be too quick
to trust the stick
they call the splint.
Heed your skin —
it’s what you’re in —
that’s my helpful hint.

1 Comment

Family knows

It is now about 7:30AM. Eighteen years ago this hour I called my mother. She was in the hospital’s oncology wing, and I was at home ready to make my list of what she wanted me to bring when I visited. We chattered as usual, but then Mom started talking about the clock. She didn’t make sense. Then we were back on track. Then her subject floated away again and I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.

I told her I’d see her later, she said ‘bye, I hung up and immediately called the nurses’ station. “Is my mom OK? Did she have a stroke?” The nurse assured me that Mom had been observed and nothing alarming had been noted. So I went on with my morning. Before long, the nurse called back to ask how soon I could be there. I was stunned by the sudden urgency.

As I learned later, Mom’s oncologist had been in the nurses’ station when I called. Within seconds, the nurse had relayed my concern to the doctor, who grabbed Mom’s chart and made a beeline for Mom’s room, saying to the nurses, “Family knows them better than we do.” She checked Mom and instantly transferred her to Intensive Care.

It was the day from hell, and Mom died that evening. My memories of it are fire and smoke: searingly bright and chokingly obscured. But the doctor’s words rose out of it: family knows.

Those words resounded through my caregiving years. Deniers who said I exaggerated and medical personnel who considered me irrelevant tried to undermine my faith in my own insights. But I clung to the doctor’s words and I pass them on to you. If you are family caregiver, believe in yourself. Family knows.