Posted 9/29/21

WOODWORKING BY DAVE WOOD An angel of mercy “HEROES WORK HERE!” I see this sign everywhere these days—on government buildings like post offices, nursing homes, hospitals. I nod as I drive by and …

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An angel of mercy


I see this sign everywhere these days—on government buildings like post offices, nursing homes, hospitals.

I nod as I drive by and wonder if an old coot like me would be up to such a task. I agree these folks, postal clerks, grocery shelf stockers, doctors and nurses, and a whole lot more deserve our heartfelt thanks for putting their lives on the line in the same way. To say nothing of those gallant Marines who gave up their lives at the Kabul Airport so other people could live.

But never so much as I did a few weeks ago when I ended up at the emergency room at the River Falls hospital. A nurse Jess met me at its registration desk after my caring and heroic wife insisted my fever meant that we should go right to the hospital.

“I'm Jess,” she said, “and I'm here to take care of you.”

“I'm Dave,” I said, “and I have just had an accident involving a bodily function.”

“Don't worry,” Jess said. “Come into the room and I'll clean you up.”

In the lavatory, she made me clean as a whistle, while her laughing and joking somehow managed to relieve my embarrassment.

Once in the examination room it was determined that I had a urinary infection and was extremely dehydrated. As Jess attached a rehydration bag to my ancient body, I asked what they were pumping into me, and she replied: liquid.

“I'd like it to be a martini,” I said.

“I could do that,” said Jess, “but I'm afraid the olive might plug up the insert tube.”

By that time, I was in no mood to argue with my angel of mercy, so my mind drifted, sans martini, to the memory of my mother, who was also a nurse. She died when I was an 8-year-old, too young to remember much about her except her flaming red hair, her occasional hot temper, and her love of fun and good food. I'm quite certain kids who lose a parent when they're young long to know more about them. My sister, who was three when Mother died, doesn't remember her, but keeps a “shrine” to her, of items given to her by Mother's friends over the years, photos, a beaded purse ala Roaring Twenties, her nurse's button. And refers to her reverentially as “Mother.”

I remember little scenes of watching her get into her starched white uniform, the conical cap that distinguished her from other mothers. I remember her painting her bare legs tan because there were no nylons during the war and her drawing a thin brown seam down the back of her thighs to mimic the line on all nylons back then. I remember her milking a feisty little Guernsey, whose hoof sent her tumbling into a calf-pen railing, spilling a pail of milk, washing off the pail, sitting down again on the milkstool, grabbing the Guernsey by the udder and saying, “SIT STILL, YOU SOB or I'll pull your teats off.”

These, of course, are indelible memories, but I have always wanted to know more. What possessed her to become a nurse? Or marry a tenant farmer? Or tell me when I was five years old that the stork was not going to bring me a baby brother or sister and how it was REALLY going to happen and how it really happened and what I said to Mrs. Olsen on shopping night when Mrs. Olsen asked me “When is the stork was coming?” Talk about angry!

When Jess came to my room to tuck me in, I told her that my mother was a nurse and that I had lots of questions about her, some of which Jess had answered in her kindnesses shown to me on that day. Jess replied that whenever I wanted my mother's spirit to shine down on me, to let her know.

And then I went to sleep. No get well cards, please. I'm feeling very well.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.