Redhead, nurse, sister, daughter, aunt, newly-ex-wife, sucker for lost animals, currently owned by Percy the cat and Spencer the dog. In the middle of some major changes–trying to figure out what I want so I can figure out how to get there.

Archive for October, 2011

Grandmothers are full of surprises

There truly is no way to really describe my Grandmother than as a Proper Southern Gentlewoman. (Yes, all of those words require capitals.) She wore her hair in a bun, almost always wore a dress with a slip, and rarely raised her voice. She was a portrait of grace and class. Most of the time.

I was the eldest of her grandchildren (when you are a Lady’s granddaughter, you use words like “eldest,” you see). There are thirteen of us in all. During a big summer reunion bash, she taught us how to make “watermelon teeth.” They are hideous false teeth made from the rind of a watermelon. Her children (our parents) were both horrified and entertained.

She doled out M&M’s as if they were gold coins. I am amazed at the level of cooperation she could get from rowdy children for such a small investment. She drank Busch beer out of the can when it was just the family around. She rarely cursed, but I did think “damnyankee” was one word for many years.

She raised 6 children as a single parent. Mother was the oldest, 12, when my grandfather died…the youngest had been so recently conceived that Grandmother did not know she was pregnant when he died. We are all as different as can be, but we all respect (most of) the choices the others make. I missed a family reunion this weekend, and I am sorry, indeed, that I could not be there.

The day she surprised me the most was when I was in college. She and my aunt and cousin had come to Atlanta for a visit, so I came over from Athens. We were eating at a restaurant just chatting away. Suddenly, Grandmother got a grin on her face and said she had a joke to tell us…a dirty joke. She began to tell the joke and found herself unable to say the words out loud. Purses were searched until a pen was found, and she wrote on a napkin. I wish with all my being that I had saved that napkin. It should be framed and hung on a wall. She wrote the words “Fuck You” on the napkin. The joke was of a couple in bed who said, “…frantic pointing at the napkin…” to each other back and forth a few times. The punchline was, “This oral sex is not all it’s cracked up to be.”

The joke was not so terribly funny. What I learned about my Grandmother made me see her completely differently. She knew these words? She even knew what they meant? I have since learned other things about my Grandmother that have surprised me, but the notions revealed by her telling us that not funny joke were probably the most revealing.

After all, when I am 70 (her approximate age at that time), I doubt I will have forgotten all the things I know and find amusing now. It might even be fun to surprise the next generation sometime down the line.

The bizarre interaction with the bagger kid at the grocery store

I was incredibly exhausted yesterday, and a series of events led to me being at the grocery store far past the time I was able to process thoughts and make reasonable decisions. I didn’t have too many items–they all fit in the top part where a child (if I had borrowed one) might sit. At checkout, I realized that I had forgotten my reusable bags. I am trying very, very hard to train myself to use these bags, but it doesn’t always happen. Since there weren’t too many things, I asked the cashier just to let me put them back in to the cart and I would put them in the bags when I got to the car.

The bagger kid came to help, and she told him just to put them in the cart. When he started to put them in the main portion of the cart, I asked that he use the kiddie seat because it’s easier on my back. Unfortunately, I said the second part out loud so he insisted on helping me to the car. “Oh, god, that means you have to see my car,” was my response. He said, “I have seen everything except a dead body.” I promised that I did not have a dead body, but acknowledged that I had enough stuff to hide a body if I were so inclined. We got to the car and I searched in vain for the reusable bags (musta been under the body). “Oh well, just put them in the front seat.” I was making small talk with the bagger trying to distract him from the “Hoarders” episode that is my car. The grocery store near me is starting online ordering with curbside pick-up. I mentioned that back when the “interwebs were new,” some companies tried online ordering with home delivery. He said, “Oh yeah, like Webvan.” I cocked my head a bit and said that he didn’t look old enough to remember webvan. His reply was, “I even remember VHS tapes.”

Really. Really? There are “adults” who think remembering VHS tapes is now an actual measure of one’s maturity and age? I am not uptight about how old I am. I just seem to keep forgetting how young other people are in comparison.

My biggest (and most controversial) pet peeve

Let me start off by saying that I know I don’t always think like most people. This post will be further evidence of that fact.

There is one type of news story that always aggravates me to the point of agitation–and one of those stories is making headlines in Atlanta right now. Last Sunday around 2AM there was a tragic accident. A 23 year-old man left his bachelor party and decided to walk home. There were a couple of problems with this decision. He was 30-ish miles from home. He had likely been drinking (yes, this is an assumption on my part, but given the “party” and his poor choices, I’m throwing it in there). He opted to walk home on the 75/85 Connector. For those of you unfamiliar with Atlanta’s highways, this is the stretch through downtown where I75 and I85 are merged. It has been identified as one of the 10 most congested areas of interstate in the country. It has 7 lanes going north, and it has 7 lanes going south. It is not for pedestrians. The young man was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Instead of a wedding tomorrow, the family had a funeral on Wednesday.

I am incredibly sympathetic towards the family. From all reports, this young man was kind and loving. I can hardly imagine the shock and grief and disbelief they must be suffering. What I say next is in no way meant to be disrespectful to them. The news stories have quoted them as saying, “We do not understand how someone could hit him and keep going,” and, “He wasn’t just some animal, he had family who loved him.” I understand why they have said these things.

However, the other thing that I understand is how a driver who hits a pedestrian can keep driving and not stop to help. The driver’s actions were not acceptable or legal. I do not intend to make excuses for that driver. I might be able to shed some light on why a person who is generally law-abiding and compassionate might not hang around after an accident like this. I know how a driver could leave the scene of an accident like that because about 15 years or so ago, I was one of those drivers. It was 6:30 in the morning and dark outside. I was driving to work, not speeding, and I had not had anything to drink prior to getting into the car. A woman stepped off the sidewalk into the street (there was no crosswalk). I swerved and tried unsuccessfully not to hit her. It happened so fast that I didn’t even hit my brakes. The skid marks I left on the street started past the point of impact. I doubt that I will ever forget the flood of emotions in the seconds after I came to a stop. I was in shock. I was terrified. I was anxious. If there has ever been a moment in which I wanted the earth to open and swallow me whole, that was it. I’m a nurse. I take care of people. I help strangers when I can. I did not for a second contemplate leaving the scene of the accident, but I would have given almost anything in the world to have been someplace, anyplace else at that moment in time. So yeah, I understand how a driver leaves after hitting a pedestrian. I don’t think it is okay, but I totally get it.

The hours that followed were some of the worst in my life. I remember saying at the time that it was the worst day I had ever had in my life. It seemed odd to say that, and I felt that I somehow needed to rationalize how ANY day could be worse than the day that Mother had died. I still can’t exactly explain it, but I still think it is true. Thank goodness a co-worker was driving not to far behind me and stopped. A physician who worked at a nearby hospital also stopped. The police and EMTs got there very quickly. The woman was badly injured and barely conscious. There was so much blood that the fire truck had to hose down the street after she was taken to the hospital. The police questioned me and gave me no information. Since this was before I had a cell phone, I asked if I could use the pay phone across the street. I was discouraged from doing so. The television reporters showed up. One asshole had the nerve to ask me if I would answer any questions. I didn’t answer any questions, but that didn’t stop them from filming me (without my knowledge) as I sat on the curb with my face in my hands. When my boyfriend got there (my co-worker sent him), I gave him my attorney’s phone number and he went to the pay phone. I’m sure their conversation was interesting, as “my attorney” was an ex-boyfriend–not someone with whom I had a professional/client relationship. When Scott got there, he asked the questions I had not known how to ask. He established that none of the evidence showed that events happened differently than I had described. I was asked to go to the jail to have labwork drawn as “was customary when there is a serious injury.” I was not exactly forbidden from riding with my friends, but I was not given permission to do so, either. I never really want to be in the back of a cop car again–just for the record.

When I started this post, I had no idea that I would give this much detail about what happened. I thought I would just post about that feeling of wanting to get away. The fact that the details were just waiting to be told shows how that day still affects me. I am different because of what happened that day. I had PTSD symptoms and didn’t sleep for weeks. I had a panic attack that evening when I thought about driving to work the next day. I called out and spent the weekend on my self-devised desensitization program. I had been depressed before, but that incident was the tipping point for me to start taking antidepressants–which I still take to this day.

I am incredibly paranoid about crossing the street without a crosswalk or against the light–even if there are no cars in sight. When I see people in the street when they shouldn’t be, I freak out at least a little–and sometimes a lot. I will not under any circumstances have more than a couple of drinks if I am going to drive, and that has to be over time or with a meal. My life did change that day, but not as much as it might have. If I had had ANY alcohol in my system and the exact same set of events had taken place, I would likely have gone to jail. The accident was not my fault, and a couple of drinks probably wouldn’t have made it any more my fault–except in the only way that matters–legally.

I used to hear the reports about hit-and-run drivers and think exactly what the family in the news is thinking. How could somebody do that? How could they just leave and not care? What kind of sociopath does that? I feel terrible for that family. I am sorry that a young man was killed. However, unlike most people who hear that story on the news, I also feel incredibly sorry for the driver. Had the driver been drinking? Did he not have insurance? Did he just panic and leave? I have no answers. The driver should have stopped. Unfortunately, I also know that that driver (unless he really is a sociopath) must be feeling horrible. Not the same kind of horrible as the family of the man who was killed–but horrible all the same.

**Part of me wants to hit delete because this post feels too depressing…but I’m hitting publish anyway.**