Saturday, October 9, 2010

We are family

Tonight I had the great pleasure of reuniting with the most influential people in my young adult life.

Back in 1990, when I moved here to the Austin, Texas, I got job working as a nurse for a little operation called NurseFinders. During my orientation I met a woman named Karen who thought I looked amazing in my Daisey Dukes and tank-top. She, admittedly, had a gigantic crush on me...until she heard me speak. We became fast and quick friends. Soon, we both started working for a hospital here in town, St. David's Medical Center, on the spinal cord injury/head injury rehab unit.

Here on the unit I met the people who I would consider my family for close to 9 years.

There was Big Daddy David, who functioned as, not only the charge nurse, but everybody's big daddy. He was the brain of the unit. He advised us all professionally and personally at some point during our time spent there. He really was my dad-away-from-dad. One of my first exposures to David was on Halloween, when he and Anne (Anna-banana) dressed up as Wayne & Garth from Wayne's World.

Anne was another one of the nurses in charge on the unit. She was smart, no nonsense (unless she was dressed as Garth), and one of the most serious go-getter nurses I ever met. If I ever had a question about anything related to nursing, she was glad to help out. She also taught me how to balance my checkbook (as she pointed out tonight!). Apparently she didn't like my method of journaling my checks written in whole dollar amounts regardless of the actual amount written!

I mentioned Karen above. She was like a hybrid cross between my mother and my older sister. She's typical Austin...laid back, cool, carefree, bra-free. She and I made each other laugh (and cry) like no other people I knew.

Jan came around a couple of years after I had started. She started when Anne went on one of her 15 or 17 maternity leaves (I swear, Anne was ALWAYS having babies). She quickly became part of our family and became my mother-away-from-mom. I can't begin to tell you how amazing of a woman Jan was back then. She battled non-hodkins lymphoma while working full time and never once lost her smile or her cool. I always wanted her and her husband, Jeff, to adopt me so I could be part of their family forever.

David Abel was our unit clerk and my older gay sister. We had a love-hate-love relationship and the two of us often brought lots of drama (and laughter) to the unit.

Leah started many years after I had been there. When she originally started, she worked the evening shifts. It wasn't long before she transferred to the day shift and wedged her way in to our family and hearts. She quickly became my older, much prettier sister. (A few years after I left the hospital I talked her into joining me at the law firm I worked for. She came...for three days...before she decided she just wasn't cut-throat enough for the legal field!)

Yoli was a contract nurse that worked with us almost every single day. I have no idea why, as often as she worked, she never joined us full time. She was my heart, my soul, and my travel companion. She made me laugh with everything she said (and I did the same for her). And while she truly enjoyed my craziness, she, more than anyone, encouraged me to cool my shit and become a more "normal" person. She never once let me get away with an injustice and would make me apologize to people that she knew I owed an apology to. My most favorite memory of Yoli is the week we spent together in Galveston in a house on the beach.

Colleen was the unit's therapist. I knew her during my time at SDMC, but we've become closer since I've left. In fact, she's even babysat the boys for us!

I loved these people for all of my 20's. All of them, really, molded me into the person I am today. I owe each of them a debt of gratitude. I left the hospital in the late 90's. While I'm positive I wasn't the catalyst for change, almost all of them left to pursue other opportunities soon after I did.

Colleen ran into Anne at the grocery store a few weeks ago and said, "We should all get together." She called Karen, who ran to town with it and made it all happen. It was so amazing to see all these people tonight. It was almost like it was just yesterday. I love you, my SDMC family.