The Waiting Room

This is a short fictional story based on the writing prompt “two strangers meet in a waiting room, what happens?” this story is available in audio, on my YouTube channel. You can find it here:

https://youtu.be/4llStyMjgcw

The sirens were deafening, and the flashing lights were blinding. I was having a horrible time running in my heels. I followed the paramedics as quickly as I could through the hospital doors. The tears blurred my vision. My throat hurt, but I didn’t really know what I was yelling. I didn’t know what the staff was yelling at me either. All I knew was my Stephen was headed into the hospital with tubes and machines making him live when we were supposed to be having dessert.

“Mrs. Cunningham? Could you come with me, please? We need some information.” A young blond nurse guided my elbow away from the scene but brought me to an area where I could still see. She was petite, Pretty. Her blond hair was perfectly secured in a low ponytail, and her eyes perfectly lined. Mine just looks a mess. The nurses’ name tag indicated her name was Tracy, and she was an RN in the emergency department.

“Mrs. Cunningham, can you tell me what happened, please?”

“Please, dear, call me Phoebe,” I requested.

“Okay, Phoebe, what was going on when your husband collapsed.”

“We were having dinner. It’s our anniversary. Ten years today, we have been married. We were having a perfectly normal conversation when he grabbed his chest and collapsed. I screamed. Luckily there was a doctor at the next table who did CPR, and the restaurant manager called 911.”

“I see. Phoebe, does your husband have any allergies?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, he’s allergic to shellfish. I made sure the waiter knew, and he assured me the chef had everything separate.”

“Is he on any medication?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, He is on 40 mg of Lisinopril for his blood pressure. That’s it”

“So he has high blood pressure?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, he’s a lawyer; they all do.” II was true; all of his closest law friends were all on blood pressure medication. The girls and I exchanged healthy versions of their favorite junk foods to serve for rotating poker nights. We knew they threw them out and ate what they wanted, but we tried.

“Tracy?” My eyes filled with tears. “Is he going to be alright?”

Just then, the glass door to his ER room opened. “OR is ready. He’s heading up!” The doctor shouted.

I ran over with Tracy at my heels. She urged me not to get in the way. I watched the Staff wheel Stephen’s bed through the double doors to the Operating Room. The emergency doctor stayed behind.

“Mrs. Cunningham?” He addressed me

“Yes, doctor? How is he?”

“Your husband has a pretty serious blockage causing him to have a heart attack. He is headed to emergency surgery to clear the blockage. He should be fine once the blockage is cleared, but there is a chance part of the blockage could break off and cause problems.”

“What kind of problems?” I inquired.

Dr. Phillips gave me that look.

“Oh.” My eyes welled up again.

Tracy retook my arm. “Come on, Phoebe, let me bring you to the family waiting room.”

I nodded and went with her.

The room was stark. The fluorescent lights made the white walls whiter. Someone had tried to put up some cheer with a colorful flower border at the top. The pink padded chairs matched the pink in the roses on the border. There was a vending machine in the corner advertising overpriced, almost expired snacks. Next to it was a brochure wall about all the different hospital departments and underneath that was a table of magazines and local ad and coupon books. A TV was mounted in the corner. It was playing a documentary about horses.

There was a man already in the waiting room. He was likely late 50’s. His salt and pepper hair was thinning on top. The loose strands combed across his scalp. He wore an oversized sport coat and his gold-rimmed round glasses perched on the end of his nose, which was in a book. I noticed it was Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I sat down a few chairs from the man and rested my head back against the wall. I let out a big sigh, trying to keep my composure. I could feel my eyes welling up again. The man offered me his pocket square.

“Oh, thank you, but I don’t want to ruin it.”

“It’s fine,” He said, giving me a sweet smile. “I have at least 50.”

I smiled back as I took the fabric from him. “Thank you,” I said, dabbing my eyes.

“My wife is in there,” he said. “Having heart surgery.”

I nodded. “My husband too. Today is our anniversary. He collapsed in the restaurant at dinner.”

“Ah, anniversaries. My Elizabeth and I celebrated our 25th last week.” He looked wistfully in the air as if recalling their wedding day. “Amazing how time flies.”

“Yes, it certainly is,” I noted his book. “What a classic,” I remarked.

“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then,” he quoted. “Seemed fitting for today.“

“You speak the truth,” I agreed.

“Have you been married long?” He asked.

“10 years today. They say he had a heart attack.”

“That’s young,” he commented. “You two must be in your 30’s.”

“I’m 39, and he’s 42.”

“Yep, young. Do you have kids?” He asked.

“No, children were not in the cards for either of us. Stephen is a lawyer. He’s always swamped. I have a condition that leaves me unable to have children. So I keep busy with my online craft store, and I do what Stephen needs. It’s a full-time job keeping track of him.” I studied the older man. “What about you?”

“Elizabeth has blessed me with two beautiful daughters. April is 22. She is finishing college, and Amber is 20. She chose a trade and is an apprentice to an electrician.”

“Wow, Impressive,” I commented. “It sounds like you two raised them well.”

“Well, we certainly tried. Elizabeth and I were raised in the city. We have known each other our whole lives! We’ve always gone to school together. We used to sneak onto the highway bridge and spit on cars” he chuckled at the memory. “I asked her to marry me right out of high school. She said no.” he chuckled again. “She went to college. I went to the service. When I came home, she had a degree. I tried again, and this time she said yes.” He leaned close to me and looked me in the face like he was telling me a secret. “We eloped to Vegas,” he winked at me.

“Ooooh,” I admired. “Saucy”

“Yes,” he chuckled. “Our parents were so mad. They didn’t forgive us until April was born. We moved out to the country. Horse farms everywhere. Our girls played in the dirt. All I can hope now is that my girls find the loves of their lives as we did.”

I smiled. The older man just warmed my heart talking about his beloved.

“Where did you meet your young man?” He asked.

“College. I’m the first female in my family to go. I grew up a country girl. Barefoot in the dirt and tire swings were my normal. I graduated with my BA, Stephen went to law school. He asked me to marry him on graduation night. We had a huge wedding. I felt like a princess. He’s treated me like one ever since. I adjusted well to the city. Made friends with his friend’s wives. We have a book club on Thursdays. The boys play poker on Friday. We rotate houses for both. It works.” I leaned back against the wall again.

“Are you a religious person?” He asked.

“I was raised in the church, but I haven’t been active as an adult.”

He held out his hand. “Would you like to pray with me now?”

I moved closer and took his hand. We said the “Our Father” together.

Just as we finished, a woman appeared in the doorway. “Don!” She yelled at the old man, “What are you doing?”

Don looked like a deer in the headlights. He gripped his chair. I think he was debating making a break for it. “Don’t you dare,” the woman warned. “Dr. Harper, Guys, He’s in here!” she called down the hall.

Soon there was a small gathering of hospital employees headed by a doctor in a white coat taking hold of Don. The doctor studied him. “Don, that’s my Jacket; where did you find those pants? Those are the nurse’s glasses. Oh, Don” The orderlies walked him away.

I stood up to the doctor. “I suppose then this is your pocket square?” I held it out but was still wringing it in my nervous hands.

Dr. Harper eyed it and my nervous stance. “Keep it,” he said. “I’ve got 50.”

I glanced around the room. The coupon book advertised a Spaghetti dinner at St. Elizabeth’s church, followed by Vegas night. The calendar was set in April, and the picture was “amber waves of grain” with America the beautiful set on it. The copy of Alice’s adventures in wonderland had fallen to the floor. I picked it up Quoting Don Quoting the book. “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

“I understand you must be very confused.” The woman who had come to get Don began. “My brother is a regular patient here. He suffers from a type of dissociative disorder, and they believe schizophrenia. He just randomly makes up who he is based on his surroundings.”

“So nothing he said was real? He doesn’t have a wife having surgery? No daughters?” I asked.

“Sadly no, our parents passed away a few years ago. They managed him his whole life. I have been trying in their absence with the help of Dr. Harper, but clearly, I’m not doing well enough.” She sighed.

“I’m sorry.” I offered. “that must be such a difficult thing to deal with.”

“Well, I will leave you be,” she said. “I have to go deal with the consequences of his escape. I hope whoever you are here for is okay.” With that, she was gone.

I picked up the book and sat back down. I didn’t know how even to begin to process today.

“Mrs. Cunningham?” A doctor in surgical scrubs entered the waiting room.

“Yes?” I got up and approached him eagerly.

“We were able to clear the blockage, and your husband is doing well. He was fortunate! We’re going to be keeping him a few days to keep an eye on him and run some more tests, and then he’ll be ready to come home with you.”

“Oh, thank you, doctor, that’s fantastic news! I’m so relieved. May I see him?”

“Sure, the nurse will come to get you when he’s awake enough for visitors.”

I sat back down and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked up at the TV and saw the horses running around on the documentary. “Horse farms everywhere,” I thought of Don. I shook my head and laughed.

“Mrs. Cunningham, you may see your husband now.”

I followed the nurse into Stephen’s room. He looked so frail, laying on the bed in a hospital gown. He had tubes and monitors everywhere. He was still my handsome man, though. I walked up and kissed his forehead.

He opened his eyes. “Hey baby,” he said, taking my hand and bringing it to his lips, “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”

“I could say the same for you! How are you feeling.”

“High,” he answered. “I’m sorry I ruined our anniversary.”

“Not at all, my love. If anything, almost losing you made me realize how much I love you and how much I cherish our life together.”

“It was the strangest thing.” He said, “I blacked out, but then I woke up, and I was in… Wonderland? Nothing made sense.”

I put the book on his lap. I guess this was meant to come to us today.

Stephen studied me quizzically “where did you find this?”

“In the waiting room.”

“What a strange day.” He observed.

“Stephen, you have no idea.”

The End

Milestones

Random Facebook meme

Today is significant to me. It’s the last day of my 30’s. Sunday celebrates the big 4-0. I don’t write this with expectations of happy birthday hoopla, quite the opposite actually.

I never wanted to turn 30. In fact up until recently (about 10 minutes ago) if you asked me how old I am, I would tell you I’ve been 29 for quite some time now. I spent a decade of telling people it was not my birthday, it was my anniversary. I’d answer their puzzled looks by explaining it was another anniversary of my 29th birthday. After all, if my grandfather could be 29 for 40 some years, why can’t I?

There won’t be a celebration. My family is far away, we couldn’t get together anyway. Stupid Covid. I will spend the day in quiet self reflection. There’s a lot on my mind.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer in December of 1993. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation. I came home from school all excited for the magic of Christmas and found everyone crying. “Don’t worry” she told me. She assured me she’d beat it. I don’t think she said that for my benefit. I believe she thought she could. She passed away the following June. She had just turned 40 in May.

To say I feel there is a significance of turning the same age my mom was when she died would be an understatement, particularly now. I have been struggling for the last eight months for saying the words “I’m disabled.” The last several years I did my best to pretend everything was okay. I had to, people needed me. In January I wound up in the hospital and a long diagnosis list was discovered. There was no pretending anymore.

I often compare myself to my mom. She’s always been my hero. Mom always had a full plate balancing a demanding career and running a house with a chronically ill husband and daughter. She also did a lot of community involvement with agencies such as Wisconsin women entrepreneurs, Catholic junior league, being active in our church, regularly seeing her girlfriends and keeping everything organized with our extended families. I also think about how mom always strived to be better, to do good, to be an amazing wife, mother, daughter, friend and career woman. She had a teaching degree but went to a much different career in the insurance field.

Mom kept everything together. Everyone got where they needed to go. She always knew what was happening with everyone. Meals were on time, snacks were on time, she attended games, dance recitals, piano lessons and recitals, work parties all with a smile on her face. I never got the impression she was stressed. I only remember seeing her cry once and I don’t remember my parents ever fighting.

I always thought of my mom as an adult. I still consider myself a child. When I compare myself to my mom I never seem to measure up. I always thought one day I’d be an adult and I’d do everything she did. Now I’m her age. I’m turning the age she made it to. I’m as old as she was when I considered her to be an adult and I wonder if she ever felt like I do now. Did she know she had everything figured out as I saw it? Or perhaps she was as lost as I am now and trying to make it.

Failed relationships and a joke of a marriage under my belt I don’t have a partner. I was advised at a young age to not attempt to bring children into the world due to the severity of my illness. No family of my own was ever to be had. I had a career that I had to leave due to the progression of my illness. I’ve had limited community and church involvement but none of it recently due to Covid and my poor compromised immune system not to mention my constant movement limiting pain.

8 months I’ve been preparing for this time. 8 months I’ve thought constantly about turning 40 in my debilitated condition. 8 months I’ve gone to and come back from some pretty dark places but that’s just it, I’ve come back.

There’s one thing I have on my side: I am my mother’s daughter. I think of her everyday and ask what she would do or what she would advise me to do. The answer is always the same. I hear her in my head saying “keep going.”

I’ve spent my life trying to live up to my mom but I’m not her, I’m me. I need to learn to take my own path, make my own mistakes and gain my own accomplishments. That’s what Mom would want for me. Life is a constant battle of figuring stuff out. Figuring out what makes you happy and what doesn’t should be a daily question as is how do I change the Doesn’t into does?

Most recently I’ve asked myself what do I do with the rest of my life? I won’t be at a 9-5, I can’t manage that anymore. The answer so far has been writing. In the last 3 months I’ve started this blog, published several articles/stories on platforms such as Wattpad, medium and vocal, written two books and self published one. (Spoiler alert: a new book will be out in September). I often questioned whether mom would approve of my books as some material is for those of the adult age but she spent enough time with her nose in a book with a cover featuring Fabio so I think it’s okay. I’m also continuing my Etsy shop with not only creating but using my writing to promote. I’d like to one day be able to promote myself as writer for hire assisting others with the same services.

Turning 40, I have no idea how much time is left. It may be a month as mom had or it may be 100 years. meanwhile I’ll spend every day keeping on and collecting feathers.

I can be found here:

Wattpad: mandacat80

Counting Feathers

Taken from Pinterest

We are now up to 2 feathers. Initially, I had a dream in which a feather appeared. It came alongside a meal with my deceased parents where we had a conversation about life changes. That’s when I decided to write a book.

Since taking on the writing task, I assumed what I suppose many do and that’s I write things, people read them, they like them they want to read more and so on. I wrote, I published, I wrote more and believe it or not I’m not famous.

I started job searching. Obviously this writing business isn’t a get rich quick deal and my savings will only last so long. I couldn’t do any of the jobs listed. They all want committed schedules and time in front of a desk, even if it is at home. My body doesn’t function like that anymore. I can stand up long enough to brew a cup of coffee and perhaps make myself a sandwich. After that my entire lower body is trembling in pain and spasms. I have to sit down. On the way to the chair my left knee gives a shooting pain and won’t hold weight. I grab the furniture and eventually sit down. The feeling of relief I get sitting down is better than org—- never mind.

I can sit down for a couple hours. First my back locks up. Then my hips throb eventually the pain shoots down and my feet are on fire. When I look down they’re swollen and my slippers don’t fit anymore. Time to lay down. I hobble to my bedroom and stretch out on my bed. I feel like I’m laying on a cloud. I run through my physical therapy home exercise program to stretch out my joints and then prop my swollen piggies on the wedge cushion at the end of my bed. I can lay here about an hour or so before restless leg kicks in and I have to get up. This is my cycle. This is my all day every day 24/7. I don’t sleep, I can’t get things done and most importantly I can’t make a living.

What I can do is write. I write on my phone, I write on my laptop and since they’re both Apple products they talk to each other and save all my stuff.

Here’s where the feather appears: a couple of weeks ago is when my freak out started, I needed to know where more money was coming from. My anxiety hit an all time high and I couldn’t even see through my own fear to problem solve a solution. I woke up one morning, sat up in bed, stretched and ran my hands threw my long hair. I felt something funny and went instant ninja flailing to get the offender off of my head. A fluffy white feather floated to the floor. I left it there and later that day forgot and swept my floor. I have mastered the art of chair sweeping. It’s not at all as effective as standing and sweeping but it’s what I can do.

After the garbage went out I thought about that feather. Where did it come from? I had swam the afternoon before. I then took a shower and spent a good 15 minutes conditioning and detangling my hair with a wide tooth comb. Then I went to bed. None of my bedding is down, so how’d I get a feather in my hair?

According to the diagram above, an angel came to see me and let me know they were here. They let me know to remember my Savior and trust in the powers above and I will see my path, just as the first feather did.

Since that time, I’ve been in touch with a law firm about filing for social security disability. I don’t want to do this. I hate the thought of saying I’m disabled at 39 years old when for the last 18 years I said I’m a social worker. I don’t have a choice.

After the shenanigans my long term disability insurance pulled, this is my only shot at income, at least until I become the next Danielle Steele.

Living in an anxious mind

Courtesy of Pinterest


Mental health is a topic that has come to light more than ever in the last few years. While the resources potentially needed may not yet be in place, acknowledgement that mental illness exists is a big leap.

One of the most common mental illnesses is anxiety and is something that plagues me daily.

Anxiety is defined by the Mayo Clinic as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. This definition may sound like stress which is a normal reaction to many situations. The difference is anxiety interferes with everyday life.

Anxiety is something that has plagued me my entire life. I’ve always had poor self esteem and often interacting with other people was a terrifying situation due to fear of rejection. Most often I’d rather keep solitary than be with friends because I’m not good enough and if I try to make friends I’ll be rejected and that’s embarrassing.

I do know that isn’t true and I do have a few friends but that’s what it’s like to be in my head: you’re not good enough and they won’t like you.

Fast forward into career mode. I can’t write my own resume. I sat down with a professional resume writer who asked me what I was skilled in. I stared at him blankly. I’m not “skilled” in anything I thought. He had to pick apart questions from what are my skills? Which was overwhelming to what am I good at? To which I answered nothing. Finally we moved on to what do I know how to do. Hooray! A question I could answer. Listing my “skills” to me felt like bragging and what if someone says I’m not good at something? Then I’m a liar. Again, not at all the case, I do have talents but my brain tells me I don’t.

Over my 18 years in social work I’ve had several bosses. I have switched jobs a few times as have bosses I have worked for. In my experience there have been two types of bosses: ones that thank you and praise the work you do making you want to do more and those that no matter how hard you work it’s not enough making you work to try to please them. There were times that I was highly complimented and I could do no wrong and there were times where I could do no right. I underwent public humiliation, had my peers come to me informing me my superior complained to them about my job performance, I’ve had write ups for not doing things I’m not legally able to do and I’ve had witnesses to these acts tell me I should sue. I’m not singling out any employer as it’s happened on more than one occasion. I’m also not saying I had bad bosses as each boss was an excellent leader, their style just was not effective for me. I would skip meal breaks to work, let my insulin pump run empty because now wasn’t a convenient time to change it, stayed overnight at work to accomplish huge tasks I’d been given with minimal deadlines. I worked myself until I was physically unable to work anymore and on more than one occasion wound up in the hospital because everyone else was more important than my own health. Even then I answered messages from my hospital bed because the show must go on. My brain tells me everyone else is more important than me, they matter more than I do. Truth is, I matter too. I know that I matter yet my brain tells me I don’t.

Dating with anxiety is an adventure. Many I have chased away when they have confessed feelings yet I thought they were joking. Some actually became angry at me. My track record of relationships has been those who have struggled in life. A list of men with substance abuse problems, inability to hold a job, co-dependent on me for survival and unfortunately a couple of times abusive. Money went missing, other girls appeared, there was trouble with law enforcement all because my anxious brain says latch on to who shows me interest even though that interest is in what I can offer rather than who I am. This concept I am still working on. Stable people are friend zoned because I feel they will reject me otherwise while if I dare to proceed elsewhere I quickly sabotage it. I’m told confidence is sexy however I live in awkward.

At one time joining a convent was a serious consideration so I could avoid the whole topic all together.

Now comes the biggest cause of my anxiety. I was diagnosed a type 1 diabetic right before I turned 4. Over 30 years of self neglect from anyone with a debilitating chronic illness and bad things will happen. My lab levels are a mess, my kidneys are working at just 38% capacity making it difficult to flush my system, my arteries are narrowed so I cannot effectively pump blood through my system. These two things mean I’m carrying an extraordinary amount of fluid. My legs swell and sometimes leak. My left lower leg is quite painful always from a bad bout of cellulitis while neuropathy has taken over my right thigh. I have severe obstructive sleep apnea but good luck finding a mask for my C-Pap that doesnt cause a panic attack. I’m told I have asthmatic bronchitis along with the fluid overload so I become winded very easy. I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease in my spine hips and knees. Something in my lower back is out of place and suspicion of some significant nerve compression means I hurt. I hurt a lot and it’s constant. I can’t walk any form of distance and I require frequent position changes through the day. I go from standing a very short while to needing to sit to relieve pressure on my joints to having to lay down and stretch because my joints lock up and my muscles seize. That’s what it’s like to live in my physical body, now my brain has to compute all that. I must fight for improvement while accepting reality this may be it and that’s terrifying.

Each of these aspects have been enough to greatly contribute to my anxiety but fact of the matter is it was there to begin with. I have irrational fears of odd things. I don’t leave my dogs outside in the fenced yard for long because bad things could happen if I’m not watching and I prepare for the apocalypse every time I leave my house. I don’t leave if it looks like rain and most often I just make excuses to not leave anyway.

I have horrible insomnia for the strangest reasons. Example: my cat catching a mouse and being afraid he would bring one to me in my sleep. Sleep offers the unknown and I don’t like the unknown.

Now, a lot of what I’m describing is a fair amount of depression for which I’m also medicated. the combination tends to go hand in hand but the anxiety is what keeps me hindered. I just always anticipate the worst and have to talk myself into better scenarios.

I’m on medication, I’ve used meditation, I put trust in the power of prayer. I have lavender essential oil rollers, several mineral stones handpicked by someone who knows what they mean, my pillow is sprayed with a calming scent. It’s not for lack of effort. Just, in my brain I have to talk myself out of worst case scenario and try to take a chance to live. It’s all exhausting.

I hope I’ve provided some clarity on your friend/ family/ coworker who suffers from anxiety. Although you’d like us to “chill out” and don’t get why we won’t now just know it’s not that we won’t, it’s that we can’t.