Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Little Needed Perspective

It is so damn easy for people to get tied up in their own little worlds, consumed by the daily grind that we all too easily forget that we are just a tiny part in a much larger and complicated world. The belief that our own little trials and tribulations are the summation of existence is pervasive these days making it important that something come around and knock us back into place. Call it God, Karma, or just the universe giving a much needed attitude adjustment this is how I received my most recent wake up call.

This summer has not been one for the books in a good way, from the moment the kids were out of school it has literally been one cluster frak after the other. Many times during the all too common hot and humid mornings I would arrive home with just enough time to load my kids up in the car and haul butt to whatever destination they needed to be at that morning. Even with the cool air from the air conditioner blowing at full power my work clothes often felt sticky and uncomfortable with my skin crawling underneath. The loud and conflicting voices of a teenage boy and young girl each demanding some action on my part did nothing to make my mood much better. Throw in a couple of friends, add some obnoxious music, and I would be lying if I said the thought didn't cross my mind a couple of times about dumping them out on the side of some deserted road.

Work has not helped, my nights are often placid and even lonely affairs at times but lately it's been one thing after the other and with a new parts ordering system I have been playing the diplomat to angry night time doctors and nurses upset that some surgical table or sterilizer is still not fixed. It all came to a head for me this week having to jump to day shift to cover for my two team mates who are both on vacation. Even with the kids back in school my dad taxi and errand boy duties have not decreased and with me now working strange day time hours I find myself falling further behind. Needless to say I have been pissing vinegar and manufacturing an excess of self pity this week, that is until I was leaving work Tuesday afternoon.

The crowd was doing its usual mad rush with each and every soul intent on being the first out the door. As I walked in the middle of everyone my thoughts were consumed with getting my daughter to her gymnastics practice, stopping by the grocery store, and wondering if my son would want a ride someplace the minute I finally got home. It might seem ridiculous but right as I was about to pass a set of huge sliding glass doors I noticed one of my shoes was untied and moved out of the way so I could tie it again.

The crowd I was part of passed on by leaving the hallway mostly clear for the moment, it was then that on the other side of the sliding doors I saw a seriously old van pull up. At best it was an early 80's Dodge model and had clearly saw its best days a long time ago. Even through the sliding glass doors had yet to open I could hear the troubled engine and see black smoke coming from the tailpipe. My first thought when I saw it was that I hoped the owner would not shut it off because I figured it would probably be very difficult to restart.

On the other side of the hallway and parallel to the sliding glass doors leading outside is a similar set that is one of the main entrances to the hospital I work at and just as the old van pulled up outside those doors slide apart with a nurse pushing a wheelchair with a very thin and bald teenage boy in it.

This teenage boy looked about the same age as my son but instead of the full and tan face that my son has his was pale and skeletal thin. This child's head was slumped over and while his body was a match for his face his eyes were alert and catching everything around him. A haggard and tired looking man, I will assume was his father, jumped out of the van and quickly walked through the first set of doors to his son. Something was said between the two I missed but the boy smiled and with a gentleness all too uncommon in "normal" life the father picked his son up and carried him outside to the van with the nurse following close behind to open the passenger door. After a couple of bags were loaded up the van, which was never shut off, belched some black smoke as it jerked back into motion and was drove away.

You see a lot of things working at a hospital, most I will never write about for various reasons, but I honestly appreciate those short but revealing glimpses into the lives of others that remind me how damn fortunate I have it at this moment. Needless to say my whining about having to driving my kids around will be muted for a good long while.


David Barber said...

Yes, great post, Beach. Those sort of situations certainly put things into perspective.

My wife had a client who was telling her about her husband dying of a severe asthma attack when she was three months pregnant with their second child. They had a two year old daughter at the time. We were then watching the news when a report came on of a bad accident on a road not far from us. It turned out to be my wife's client. She'd hit a car head on and died. Her children were in the car but they survived. At the ages they are, they will probably struggle to remember their parents. A very sad story.

We really don't have anything to moan about do we?

Best wishes, my friend.

Liberality said...

My first thought was that the van you described is polluting the environment and ought to be either fixed up or replaced but yeah, they are probably just making it, only just. Why don't people get together and help them at least repair the van? I don't think the pollution it spews is helping out either one of them. Maybe it could be an early x-mas present just because humans LIKE helping each other :)

TomCat said...

The Republicans have a plan for that poor boy. Let his medical care lapse.

Beach, I'm not surprised in the least that you would put your own trials in the back seat over seeing someone less fortunate.

sunshine said...

Yes, we all have those moments from time to time.
We see or hear about things that go on within other families and it's only then that we seem able to remember how fortunate we are and count our blessings.

Life, is at best, fleeting. We would all do will to be grateful for what we have. It can be gone without warning with the wind...

Great post.. :)


Tim said...

Hey beach, perspective is a gift.
As you age it looms ever brightly.
Live,love and laugh...the keys to the kingdom.. How's that for some bullshit.LOL

Marja said...

what a touching great piece of writing. You got me crying now. I am always impressed about the strength and resilence of some people in very difficult situations. that puts everything into perspective and than I think by myself "I still have so much to learn" and we indeed have to count our blessings

Beach Bum said...

David: No, and most here in America have their heads stuck up their asses and do not realize it. Yes, modern life sucks, and I would love to leave suburbia, but shit could be worse.

Liberality: I do believe those people were barely making it. I pulled back on describing the father but his clothes were threadbare and he looked racked with stress and exhaustion. Because of very strict privacy rules (HIPAA) I cannot ask anything about that family whatsoever. If by chance some charity mentions them I will help out as much as possible above the usual amount I give.

Tomcat: My problem is that while I do see a large amount of human suffering I am restricted in what I can do. Like I mentioned above privacy regulations are strict and draconian if violated.

Before I was put on nightshift I did a small amount of charity work but in truth it was tiny.

I still believe what Grayson said on the floor of congress about most republicans. Not all of them, but I honestly feel most think that if people can't afford health care they should "die quickly." That is until its someone in their family. Which a waitress admitted to in a radio interview during the screwed up health care debate. She was/is a conservative but admitted that if someone in her family needed healthcare and they could not afford it she would want teh government to step in.

Sunshine: Ain't that the truth, I know the nurse that works in the room where ladies are examined after a rape and she always has this ghostly look. I asked her about it once, in utter ignorance, and she said after the things she has seen and heard she knows life can turn in a second. She said no more and I didn't even consider asking.

Tim: Thats why I have to remember, more often now, not to sweat the small stuff.

Marja: Yes, after seeing that father and son I do count my blessings.

Jack Jodell said...

I am glad (but not in the least surprised) to see that you reached the common-sense realization you did. You are an observant, thoughtful, and sensitive man, and those are all admirable traits of strength. Hats off to you, and keep up the good work!

Pixel Peeper said...

Yeah, sometimes we just want to whine and cry and complain...and then real life kinda kicks you in the shin, shames you, and adjusts your attitude a bit.

Great post!

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

I remember an episode of "Barney Miller" where the oriental guy (Jack Soo was the actor, I don't remember the character's name) said something to the effect, "When things got really bad, my father always used to tell us, 'At least we ain't got locusts'." At least you ain't got locusts, double b.

PENolan said...

Personally, I think you already have a large dose of "perspective" or you would have complained about the fellow and his son. A lot of folks in this country would have been pissed off for some egocentric BS.

Too bad that you can't put them in touch with an organization who could help on account of privacy rules. It's good to have privacy rules - but still, it's a drag

Randal Graves said...

Perspective is for hippies and affiliated peaceniks. You do not represent your great state.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

My good friend, Beach. Thank you for sitting me down and turning my head towards the light. For putting reality back in sight with a sigh of gratitude and a breath caught towards in a prayer... for the boy, his dad and you.
please have some rest and smiles this weekend. Beach.

Teresa said...

I hear you !

Beach Bum said...

Jack: Thanks for the kind words and the check is in the mail.

Pixel: Its been several days now and my warm and fuzzy realization is coming to and end if my son doesn't cut the yard soon.

Will: No locust but I did see a water bug in the house recently.

PENolan: I still might hear about them during the holiday season when the hospital sponsors a bunch of charity work.

Randal: Yeah, down here perspective usually has to do with ranging a deer with a rifle. Nothing wrong with that, I eat venison, but the word has little meaning down here.

Gwen and Teresa: Lets hope the kid just gets better.

lime said...

the good thing is, you listened when circumstances spoke to you. we really can't imagine can we? thanks for sharing.