Martha’s response to yesterday’s post about Smart Planning for Longevity reminded me that the world is full of people who enjoy caring for others’ needs and are fulfilled by it. I’m in awe of and filled with appreciation for those doctors, nurses, therapists, dentists, hygienists, surgeons, orderlies, aides, hospice workers, volunteers, and other people who are called to work in the caring professions. I am grateful every day for the work that they do. Truly, I am.
But it’s not my calling: nursing is not for me.
The Missing Gene
I freely admit that I must have been standing behind the door when the nursing gene was handed out because I do not possess it. The idea of dealing with the infirmities of others leaves me cold. That’s not to say that I don’t care about other people because I do. It’s just that my strengths lie in other areas. Don’t judge.
I read books like the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear about young women who went to serve as British Army nurses in World War I or the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon in which a young woman performs the same function in World War II.
I enjoy these books while understanding that I could never have done it. Had someone dropped me in a Forward Aid Station or MASH unit and told me to help the shattered, bleeding soldiers in it, I would have vomited in a bucket. In fact, I would have spent the entire war vomiting and being no help. To anyone. Whatsoever.
Now, had they asked me to drive an ambulance, I would have said, “Give me the keys and point me in the right direction.” Had they asked me to cook for the doctors and nurses, I would have replied, “Where’s the stove?” But nursing? No.
I can watch ER or Nurse Jackie or any other doctor show on TV with interest because I’m safely on the other side of the screen. Ditto for the forensic shows complete with grisly autopsies. This is possible because I don’t have to touch the icky stuff or smell it. And I can close my eyes if I want to. It’s all intellectual.
No Dr. Mom
I wasn’t even very good at nursing with my own kids. In our house Dr. Mom was really Dr. Dad. Oh, I could bring chicken soup and ginger ale, give a cool bath or take a temperature. In a pinch I could wash off a cut and slap on a bandage. But most of the first aid chores went to Seth, who handled them with aplomb. He could deal with vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding cuts and smashed fingers when I just wanted to go in the opposite direction.
So it’s no wonder that we turned to others when our parental units weakened and began to fail. As a working mother, I had no time or inclination to become the filling in a generational sandwich. I’m not sure what I would have done had either my father or my mother in law lacked the resources for assisted living. It doesn’t bear thinking on.
You can see why the concept of walking into a stranger’s house and giving him a foot massage or treating her to a warm bath frankly creeps me out. More likely–and more helpfully–I would be in the kitchen making soup or cleaning up the cluttered living room or cutting down the overgrown shrubs in the back yard. Those are jobs I can handle gladly and energetically. But nursing? Not so much.
So it’s no wonder that I don’t want to stay in my own home with service people coming in and out. I will go gladly into an environment where paid professionals take care of me so my children and grandchildren can enjoy visiting Grandma instead of associating me with bodily fluids, bad breath, and incontinence.
Here’s to all you health care professionals and volunteers. I salute you! The world is a better place because you are in it. Just, please, don’t ask me to do it.
NOTE: Yes, I am watching @Outlander_Starz, In fact, I have watched the entire first season twice and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night’s Season 2 premiere.