I have a bad ankle. I don’t know what I did to it, but it’s been nagging me for months. I visited the doctor. He looked like a twelve-year-old.
He frowned at me, then said—and I quote: “Sucks getting old, doesn’t it?”
I paid a lot of money to hear Junior say that.
The nurse fitted me with an ankle brace. She was elderly. Skinny. Everything she said sounded like sorghum. In the short time she helped me, we made friends.
There’s a tattoo on her hand. Two interlocking hearts. I asked about it—you don’t see many tattoos on someone who looks like Granny.
“My daughter made me get this,” she said. “We got matching ones when she graduated last year.”
I did the math. This woman seemed awfully long in the tooth to have a child so young.
She must’ve known I was confused because she laughed. “She’s actually my granddaughter.”
Well, as it happens, her granddaughter is her daughter. When the child was a one-year-old, her mother shot herself. Nobody knew who the father was.
“It was traumatic,” she said. “When we found her, she was laying on her mama’s body, asleep.”
She speaks without flinching.
She adopted her granddaughter. And since babies are expensive, her husband went back to work. But it was a struggling economy. There wasn’t much work.
They agreed she’d come out of retirement and go back to nursing.
Her certifications had expired, the medical world had advanced. They told her she’d have to complete nearly as much school as entry-level students.
“Lord,” she said. “Didn’t think I’d been gone THAT long. But things had changed. When I’s in school, we didn’t have Google.”
Her husband wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Neither was she. Hard studying, odd hours, clinical shifts.
She enrolled anyway.
As it happened, the refresher courses weren’t bad. Not for her. She had more experience than some of her professors.
“I studied eight hours a day, six days a week, just to keep up with the teeny-boppers. I kept telling myself, ‘You can do anything for that baby, she deserves your best,’ you know?”
That seems like a lifetime ago, she explains. Her granddaughter just finished college. There’s no need for this woman to work ER shifts anymore, so she claims she’s about to retire.
I asked if I could write about her.
“Me?” she says. “What for? I’m just a little old woman.”
Ma’am, you might very well be old.
You aren’t little.