The things we do for love/PROMPTuesday


By Kokopinto via Creative Commons

I recently discovered San Diego Momma and I’m glad I did. She does some great things on her blog, including PROMPTuesday. Today is my first time participating. Today’s prompt: “What’s the grossest thing you ever did for somebody because you loved him/her/it?”

After the initial phone call, the mad scramble to pull myself together and drive 30 miles to the hospital without getting into a car accident,
After the agonizing delay as we waited for the whole family to assemble in that little room pastoral care guided us to — the one with the muted lighting, the pleasant paintings and the nice chairs,
After someone figured out where my mother was and summoned her to the hospital,
After the ER doctor came in, flipped open one of those metal folders and rustled a bunch of papers, then gave it to us straight up, no bull,
After we all reacted in our own ways: hysteria, sobs, stoic sniffs, dabbed at eyes and noses with tissues and walked silently to an empty room to look at his form and say: “Yup, that’s him. There’s been no mix-up here,”
After all that, when everyone decided what they’d do next: the funeral home, the church, the suit to the cleaners, we left the hospital and I drove the 20 blocks to my parents’ house through a downpour of tears. When I got there it was empty. I set down my purse and walked to the living room, to where my father had died.

I stood over that spot and tried to process the last two hours of my life. The first thing I saw was an open medic bag left behind by a forgetful EMT. I snapped it shut and set it by the front entrance. What I wanted to do was grab that collection of plastic and metal and glass and hurl it at the wall, and watch as its useless contents shattered and scattered on the hardwood floor.
I returned to the spot, a rug of amber and burgundy patterned fabric my parents had purchased in Turkey a month earlier. The just-developed pictures of the two-week vacation were tucked in a nearby envelope. I’m sure there was a story attached to the procurement of this rug, something about a bazaar and bartering and haggling. The usual. That story was dead with my father.

That night, the rug and I wrote a new story. Because what was on that rug and the hardwood underneath was the second thing I saw when I walked in the room. I saw it and decided my mother should not come home to it.  She should not know of it, ever. So, that rug and I revised history by erasing the secrets it held. We wove the tale using a bucket of hot, soapy water and spray disinfectant and hydrogen peroxide.  We kept the secret of what’s left behind when someone dies not-so-peacefully on their own floor surrounded by helpless bystanders who don’t know what to do and those who do know what to do but cannot change the course of events unfolding.

Out of love I cleaned that mess. I straightened the askew lampshade, smoothed the afghan on the couch, restacked the logs by the fireplace that had toppled in some not-yet-explained struggle and carried the dirty bucket to the basement. I washed the secret from the bucket and rags. I scrubbed the story from my hands.

I did all that and then I went home.

Why I'm clean and not so rich

A recent report highlighted on Yahoo News*  listed dirty jobs that pay well.

Among the jobs that most likely require a hot shower afterward are:

  • Veterinarian (dog poop)
  • Waste management engineer (everything down the toilet)
  •  Trauma surgeon (blood, guts, poop)
  • Coroner (dead people, plus guts, blood, poop)
  •  Certified nurse midwife (blood, guts, placentas, poop)
  •  Podiatrist (foot fungus)
  • Oil drill worker (not sure about this one, just oily I guess)
  • Gastroenterologist (more of the same, except for the oil)
  • latex1

    Most of these jobs require a substantial amount of education, except the oil drill worker.  All of them require a cast-iron stomach and nerves of steel, which is a fancy way of saying you must control your own bodily fluids while performing your job.

    And it looks like they pay fairly well, too.  At the day’s end, you can scrub from your hands the bodily fluids, change your shoes, and head to the bank with your big, fat paycheck.

     So I was wondering if paid well enough, could I do any of these jobs?
    Could I keep track of the goings on in a waste-water treatment plant, making sure the poop and paper separated from the water?
    Could I grasp a fungus-ridden foot in my hands and scrape it for a sample?
    Could I slice open a dead body and dig out the contents, weigh and measure each organ lovingly as if they were baby birds? 
    No, no and most certainly not.

    I watched an autopsy once. As I stood by the glass window in the public viewing area, I wondered why the body of a young man with curly black hair still had a red bandana tied to its head? Wouldn’t they have had the sense to remove it? Then my ears began to ring and my knees grew weak. The Rice Krispies I had for breakfast started to churn in my stomach.
    It wasn’t a red bandana on his head. It was the underside of the skin flap pulled back to cut open his skull. Silly me.

    I put on my brave face, but inside, I couldn’t wait to get away from that cold, antiseptic place that smelled oddly like a  butcher shop.
    So you can keep your scaly feet, your severed limbs, your spurting oil wells and exploding colons. I’ll take the simple road, the one that pays in small change but smells far more like a bakery.