Missing my family – on growing, learning and positive attitude

I’m sitting at work today, miserable. My desk faces the wall and the faces staring back at me are eight blinking screens towering over my head. For twelve hours at a time they cast a ghoulish green hue into my corner, battling with the fluorescent lights to see which can needle through my eyes and spark a white hot fire behind them, blinding my brain, forcing me into a catatonic, ‘function enough to get through the day’ kind of state.

I don’t get to talk to many people. When I do, I am usually on the blame-end of the hot fire poker. It seems that my job — this desk with the towering screens and effervescent bubbling, blinding light — was created as a boiling pot to pour all the blame and anger into.

My desk is the blame vat and I answer the phone.

****

I used to have a job I loved.

LOVED.

A word I cannot stress enough; loved.

A job where I was excited to go to work. Excited to see the people I worked with.

They weren’t just co-worker drones that leered past me in the halls, peering through the slivered windows of the doors in an manner that made you wonder if they knew your darkest secrets or had some juicy gossip on you.

The people I worked with weren’t my co-workers, they were my friends. They were my family. I had to build myself up with them, learn to trust them and have them learn that they could trust me. We were a small group and we knew everyone’s secrets but we took care of each other anyway. They were my family. I consider some my brothers, others are like sisters to me, some, the weird uncle or the creepy in-law that people politely put up with but try to swiftly avoid. But we were a family.

We could, and did, say anything — to anyone. We could fight like families do and still come together at the end of the day and depend on each other, but more importantly, laugh together.

My favorite part of this hodge-podge family was that we used constructive criticism. We could tell each other what we had done wrong, we could hash things over, we were willing to argue and fight to prove our points, just to get our points proven wrong, forcing us to eat our own words.

But we learned. We taught each other and we learned from each other.

Admittedly, this vast amount of learning came mostly through mistakes. We learned from our own mistakes and we learned from others mistakes. We played pranks, said things that were too true, and still, at the end of the day we could sit down as a group – as a family – and the stress of the day would melt away with jokes and laughter. On bad days we would come together and the stress would melt with talking and tears.

The times weren’t always fun. In fact, when I really think, — really remember– my feelings at the time were mostly those of despair, of failure, of hopelessness and a profound feeling of being lost and not knowing where I was going.

I didn’t feel competent in my job skills and that really bothered me. It made me feel inadequate.

But with such a strong support structure, I learned. I grew. I became adequate to myself. I was pushed to my limits, learning things I didn’t know I should have to learn. Doing things wrong the first, second, third time to get them right the fourth, fifth, sixth time.

I loved the attention from my “co-worker” family. I began to crave it, to want to learn more, to see more, to know more, which led to me to begin to ask more.

The best advice to this day I have ever been given was by a friend, and I guess also a co-worker and definitely a fellow family member, we’ll call him the bald eagle. He said,

“Always question everything.”

****

When I first started working at my current job, I felt shunned. I came into the job with experience, which, in the blame vat, is something that you are not supposed to be equipped with, I guess. The people that were already working here learned their skills after they were hired, it was part of taking on the job.

I felt like I was walking in with a leg up, I had less training to do, less initial learning to complete. Still, I went through the same exact training as everyone else, but I felt like I was treated differently – and not in a good way.

When I asked questions, I felt like I was put down because I knew too much. If I asked a question that the ‘askee’ did not know the answer to, I was told

“it doesn’t matter, we don’t need to know that stuff here.”

I loathed that answer. “We don’t need to know that.”

Why? Why would we limit ourselves to knowledge?

At first, I brushed off this limit that was placed on my allowance for knowledge. I went with the flow, that’s what you have to do when you first start working for a large company. If you fight the current you get beaten down, eaten by a big hungry bear as you struggle backwards upstream.

But this limit has begun to eat at my soul, to tarnish the cheery disposition that I work so hard to bring along with myself every single day. It has turned me sour to the job.

Now a little bit about the blame vat:

I work in an area that I cannot leave or people might die. It sounds like I’m being dramatic, but I’m really not. I never get to meet these people, the patients that I take care of. I only see their names and their heart rhythms. I don’t get to administer care if something goes wrong, and the worst feeling I have ever felt as a health care provider is watching someone’s heart just stop beating and not be able to do anything about it.

So why do I call this place the blame vat?

A wise woman and mentor of mine once told me,

“Shit rolls downhill.”

The blame vat is the bottom of the barrel. It’s where frustrated nurses call when their patients aren’t doing well, it’s where blame is placed when messages don’t get passed along through proper channels.

We are supposed to have all the answers but have absolutely no authority, which spirals into a cyclical question hell. A nurse calls and wants to know what she should do for a patient with a certain heart problem. I may know, I may not know, but even if I did, I can’t tell her. Why? Not because I’m an asshole. Trust me, I’m not. I can’t tell her because even though I have had the experience of treating patients for seven years, now I only get to look at a screen. And you can’t diagnose or treat a patient just based on their name and their heart rhythm.

So this vat of blame that I stew in for 12 hours at a shot has really brought down my mood. Instead of coming into work with a smile on my face, I have noticed that I look at the ground, avoid eye contact. I walk as fast as I can to get where I’m going, and once I arrive at the blame vat, I stay put. (Mostly because I can’t leave) but also because interactions with the other jilted people is just as unpleasant.

Working for a large company means you have a lot of co-workers. But to me it means that I make no friends. There are a lot of people around, but you never really work with the same group of people. You don’t get to build up trust in those around you, and they don’t learn that they can trust you.

I am tired of the blame vat.

I hate – and I don’t use that word lightly – coming to work with the mindset “I really don’t like my job.”

I don’t like thinking of my job as a torture chamber. I want more positivity in my life, and the only place I don’t feel positive is at my job.

I have decided to change that, because I really do like my job. I have the opportunity to improve or save up to 70 patient’s lives every time I go to work. The health care professional in me should be giddy with joy for that statistic.  So I have started forcing myself to smile more. To make eye contact with people again. To make meaningless conversation because I guess that is what you do when you work at a big company with co-workers. (I’m getting really cynical, but this job just really gets at me, crawls under my skin and lays it’s itchy eggs of negativity.)

My main point is that I’m trying. Trying to be more positive.

Sometimes trying is all the better you can do.

So I smile, I say hello and make eye contact, I compliment people who I otherwise wouldn’t talk to because, as sad as it sounds, the only way I can get people to talk at all around here is to compliment them. It feels good to give people compliments, to see them smile. It makes me feel good that I made them feel good, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’ve made a difference.

And that, I believe, is the real heart of the problem. I’m still stuck, boiling in the blame vat and I feel like I haven’t made a difference.

My quest for knowledge and my push for others to know more has been crushed. My attempts at teaching, at constructive criticism, at learning from others, have failed, they are not accepted methods of practice here. How can I make a difference? How can I help others when I can’t learn and grow?

I miss my old work family.

Modern medicine can’t fix my broken heart

It has been two years, two months, eighteen days, and  twenty three hours since I have worked in an ambulance (At the time I am writing this).

The counter in my head never stops. I can’t forget the day in February that I was injured, because it was also the day that my heart broke.

I think it is rare for anyone nowadays to be able to say that they love their job. It is even more rare for a 20-year-old to have their first serious career be a career they can truly say they loved.

Some would say that I am being over-dramatic, and I guess I am, but it hurts. There is a piece missing from my heart. Everyday since the day my back was injured has been a horrible reminder of a lost love. Every pain shooting down my leg, the constant muscle spasms in my back, the feeling like my left foot is constantly being stabbed with  knives and needles keeps the emotions and realization that I will never again get to do the job that I love fresh in my mind.

It has made me angry.

I have tried to move on. I found another profession, journalism, much in the same way I found my love for emergency medicine, by chance. I just happened to be good at it.

But I am still angry. Angry that I am having all this pain. The things you love should not cause you pain, but they do.

Angry that after all the hard work I put into school so that I could work as a paramedic means nothing anymore. The overnight clinicals in a town two hours away, working days on the ambulance as an EMT and nights at the hospital as a nursing assistant so I could pay off my tuition bill because I couldn’t get enough loan money to cover it. The constant struggle to stay awake during classes after having been up for 32 straight hours because a patient needed to go to Rochester at 1:00 a.m. — a 12-13-hour round trip.

I’m angry at myself because I probably could have worked harder to take care of myself and avoided injury in the first place.

Well, Maybe.

Actually, Probably not. (I won’t get into the staggering statistics of injuries in the field)

Now I’m angry because I have an answer. It took long enough, too. Almost ten months of being batted around like a cat toy to different providers, different specialists, getting injections and having them go wrong, walking around for three months with my leg numb, feeling like I’m going to fall over. When the one test I requested could have told us everything.

But now I have an answer, so I should be relieved, right?

I am, in a way. I am happy that the surgery that I have to have has a high success rate and will probably relieve the searing pain that rips down the back of my leg every time I move it. It will probably help relieve the muscle spasms and stop the feeling of pins and needles being poked into the bottom of my foot.

But when all the pain is gone, I will still be left with a broken heart. Knowing that especially now that I have had back surgery, there is no way any smart person would hire me to work for an ambulance service again. Knowing that I will never get to feel the insane adrenaline rush and pure terror of responding to a car accident, an unconscious person or a cardiac arrest, but also never again feel the warmest feeling your heart could ever know after trying everything you – and modern medicine – have in your bag of tricks to save a life.

But modern medicine,with all the tricks in her bag, can’t fix a broken heart. And even though I will be very happy to be able to walk without limping soon, to go about my day without pain, get back to feeling like me again, my heart still aches to be out saving lives, to help people on their darkest day.

I don’t think anything can fix this broken heart of mine.

Henry – another Flash Fiction Challenge

Today’s flash fiction challenge comes from http://danielboshea.wordpress.com, a 500 words or less story involving snow.

Henry 

Henry was an active man for his age. Almost 70, and he still walked two miles every day. He preferred walking outside, but with the snow and sub-zero temperatures, he was forced to walk indoors on his treadmill. That was ok though, he could watch Andy Griffith re-runs, and Martha always brought him a cookie while he was walking. “To keep up your energy,” she said with a smile.

With a fresh blanket of snow on the ground this morning, Henry pulled on his boots and jacket to go shovel the sidewalk and get the mail. He had made an agreement with the elderly  lady next door with the kyphosis and prosthetic leg, that he would shovel her drive so the meals-on-wheels van could pull up to the house.

Henry finished his stretch of pavement and walked over and started on her driveway. The temperature was up to 28, almost too hot to be wearing a heavy coat while shoveling for the old Minnesotan. He finished quickly and went home and told Martha how nice it was outside.

She agreed, though she hadn’t gone out today, and warned, “tomorrow it’s going to be slicker than snot out there.”

Henry laughed and told her he couldn’t disagree with that.

After supper, he and Martha sat together in the living room, reading and enjoying the quiet crackles of the fire. Henry looked out at the white world and noticed it had started snowing again. He told Martha she sure was right about it cooling down. That night they prayed together for the saftely of their friends and family over the following days.

Henry started off his day on the treadmill, enjoyed his cookie from Martha, and once again laced up his boots and zipped his jacket. It was still snowing, so he decided to grab the mail and shovel later. It would be nicer this afternoon anyway.

Walking out the garage door, he looked at the fresh layer of white fluffy snow, so perfect, untouched.

As Martha had warned, it was pretty icy, but Henry’s old boots had great traction. He started down the driveway, making it three quartes of the way down when the heel of his boot skipped across the ice, sliding on the snow.

Henry fell, landing flat on his back. His bare head, without even a layer of hair to protect his scalp, ricochetted off the ice covered pavement.

He lay there for a moment, his head aching. He felt a warm trickle, he guessed it was blood, at the back of his head. He couldn’t move.

The pain in his head increased, it felt like his skull was too small. He began to fade out. The swelling of his brain shutting down his cognitive thinking.

He began to vomit, tinging the snow orange, and mixing with the blood that was now soaking into the back of his thick jacket.

He faded into unconsciousness, thinking of Martha, as a thin layer of snow fell, concealing Henry from the world.

Belle

This post is another flash fiction challenge from Terribleminds.com The challenge was to write a complete story in 5 sentences or less, no more than 100 words. Here is my short-but-sweet story.

 

The only sound Belle can hear is the thunder of her shoes, the ragged sounds her lungs issue as they beg her to stop. She’s been running, fleeing, for so long now, but the end seems so far away. She questions how far she has yet to go, unsure of what it will take to make her stop. She slows and looks at reflection in the mirrored water of a puddle. All she can see is the chubby, flabby girl from 60 pounds ago, while the puddle begs her to see the beautiful person she has become.

New Challenge

Ahhhh, I can’t sleep…I keep thinking about this blog…if only I thought about all my school stuff with this much intensity.

I just read the new Flash Fiction Challenge over on TerribleMinds (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/24/flash-fiction-challenge-the-10k-contest/)  and I am so excited/intimidated/anxious/in-the-dark-ideas-wise/scared to write it. What a brilliant idea! But it is definitely going to be a challenge. I will update you with my post whenever I get it written (which will hopefully be tomorrow) I love that my job involves so much downtime that I have time to write/read/do homework. It’s such a blessing.

ok….sleepy time. 🙂

kk

The girl in the pink jacket

I wrote this story to help myself cope with a pretty bad ambulance call I was on. I had to change some details due to patient privacy laws and changed some characters and towns around, but all of these things are things that I have experienced at some point. 

The girl in the pink jacket 

It’s times like this when I love the decision I made to become a paramedic, and I mean that in the most sarcastic tone I can muster. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love my job, but the 24 to 48 hour shifts are exhausting and waking up at all hours of the night to the screaming high-pitch tones of the pager and the frantic and unsure voices of the overnight dispatchers leaves something to be desired-like a full night’s sleep in my own bed.

Right now I am sitting in the passenger seat of truck 440, our first out rig, fighting the intense urge to lean my head against the cool window and go back to sleep. I’ve been awake for 36 hours. Well actually that’s a lie, I got about 20 minutes of sleep before this last page came yowling over the pager.

It’s 2:30 a.m.

I just want to sleep.

Instead, I am hurtling down a back country highway with my partner, Tina, who, by the way, is way too energetic and awake for me right now. Tina is a short woman bright green eyes and a saucy attitude. I marvel at her ability to always seem extremely awake-it must be a skill she acquired when raising her 5 children. I pick up the radio off of its silver perch on the dash and say,

“440 to dispatch, we are en route to the scene. Can you repeat the nature of the call please?”

“10-4, 440, you are heading to County Road 18, north of Brandon about 7 miles. The call came in from a third party; the gentleman heard a car crash in his farmyard. He has no more information, but the county patrols should be arriving any minute now. We have the  fire department headed out as well.”

We barrel down back county roads, winding around curves, passing road kill and black skid marks that seem to accumulate easily on these roads in the early fall. We seem to hit every bump in the road as the siren continues to howl its warning to the empty ranges of plowed fields and groves of trees. Somehow, I still find myself blissfully dozing off in the passenger seat.

Tina woke me up by blaring the radio to the local pop-music station and told me we were about 2 miles from the scene. As we approached I could see the vibrant blue and red lights gleaming off the frost covered road and through the thin fog that was starting to appear. It seems like there are more lights than usual.

Tina gracefully backs the truck into the driveway next to a fire truck and two patrol cars. A county sheriff rushes up to the truck and opens the door before I get a chance to unbuckle my seat belt. “There’s someone trapped in the car. They’re not moving and not responding. The fire department is getting ready to start stabilizing so we can cut the doors off,” he says urgently, and then he is off talking with the fire chief.

I look around. I don’t see any decimated cars in the road, just a flock of fire trucks with a herd of men in red hats bustling around. I get out of the truck and walk to the end of the fire truck. My lungs freeze mid-breath. Past an electric fence and down the hill an older model red car lies on its roof. I can see firemen trying to open doors, breaking out glass, looking for the victims; passengers that may be trapped inside the car.

The firemen begin to stabilize the car as we start to grab our equipment out of the back. A large fireman in an even larger dusty yellow jacket and tall, muddy, black rubber boots meets us and grabs some of our equipment. Tina and I exchanged concerned glances and make our way over the still-electrified fence carefully sliding down the frosty hill to the car.

I stand back, taking in the scene. Tina starts laying out our equipment, a backboard, a collar to protect the patient’s neck, the heart monitor and bandages. I turn around and look across the field, trying to visualize the path the car took to get where it now lies, upside down in this ditch. There are tracks leaving the road off the sharp curve that cut a path through some shrubs and small trees that lead up to the top of a small hill. Then nothing. No tracks. It has to be fifty yards or more from where the tracks end on that hill to where the car lays now.

A horrible feeling washes over me. The car must have flown through the air, landing upside down. I am wide awake now, adrenaline pumping through my veins, coursing down my limbs. My gut is telling me that this is going to be a long night.

I turn back to the car. I see a hand sticking out from under what used to be the passenger side window. A pink sleeve starts at the wrist and disappears under the door.

Firemen bring over a saw and start cutting out the passenger door. We are out in the open, but the sound of the saw is screaming in my ears. I want it to stop. I don’t want any of this to be happening. I wish I could go back in time to the minute before my pager went off, then I would still be in bed and no one would be trapped in this car.

The large fireman that we spoke with earlier clamors down the hill with the Jaws of Life and slowly the door is being removed from the car. Tina and I gather behind the line of firemen working on the car. The first responders gather behind us forming a large half circle. We wait for the door to be pulled off, wait to see what horrors could be laying on the other side. For a moment I think that if we were put on a stage we would look like we were performing a small concert, about to break into song. It’s thoughts like these that make me wonder if I am losing my mind. Tina seems to be vibrating with what I am guessing is a combination of excitement and nerves.

This is the part I hate the most-the waiting game. Someone is inches from me-possibly not breathing, possibly bleeding severely. I can’t reach them, I can’t help them. The thick metal of the door is like a prison locking them in and me out.

Someone yells out,

“Stop!”

The door is pulled off the car.

My heart drops into my stomach.

For a fraction of a second no one moves, frozen in place as we look at the scene splayed out before us. There is a young girl in the car, her body lying across the roof, her head by the passenger door. Her body is contorted in a position that isn’t conducive with life. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Her right eye is swollen and bruised; there are cuts on her face and neck from flying glass.

Oddly, none of her wounds are bleeding.

Her long brown hair surrounds her face, attempting to protect her. Suddenly everyone is moving. It’s like a morbid synchronized dance.

I reach into the newly cut hole and stabilize the girl’s head as two firemen grab under her arms and we pull her out onto the backboard, straightening her crooked spine. I look down to her ribs, she isn’t breathing. I reach to her throat feeling for a pulse that isn’t there.

Her neck is broken.

Someone starts CPR. Tina slaps on the patches of the cardiac monitor and I put on the collar to hold her neck straight and still. Millions of thoughts fly through my mind, clouding it up. I can’t think straight.

Why did this happen? This girl can’t be more than 17, young and beautiful. Even laying here at this gruesome scene with a bruised and swollen eye, she is pretty. Her pale face is accented by her long dark hair. Her hands free of cuts from the glass around the car. The pink jacket she is wearing brings out the slight color left in her cheeks, the flashing lights glint off the broken glass tangled in her hair.

The monitor shows that her heart isn’t beating. It can’t be right. There has to be a patch off, a malfunction with the monitor. Her life was not meant to end this way, on the uneven ground in this ditch with the crisp fall wind biting through her pink jacket.

I grab a bag valve mask and start forcing air into her lungs. My mind snaps out of the fog and I start barking orders at people. Tina starts an IV in the girl’s arm, firemen start cutting her pants off, looking for injuries to her legs, looking for blood. I call out for a round of  Epinephrine to help her heart start to beat again.

My own heart is beating hard enough for the both of us. She can’t die. I can’t let it happen.

The first responders stand in a line waiting to perform CPR, relieving each other when they become tired. We push all sorts of medications into her IV. I keep breathing for her with the bag valve mask and prepare to put a tube into her lungs so we can help her
breathe better.

Nothing seems to be helping. Her heart still isn’t beating, she still isn’t breathing on her own.

Has it been too long?

I move down to take my turn at performing chest compressions. Tina looks at me; we both know that nothing we do is going start her heart again. Too much damage has been done to her frail body. My head starts spinning again. I continue compressions to try and block out all the thoughts flooding back into my brain but my attempts are futile.

How can this happen to this beautiful girl? She is so young. Kids this young aren’t supposed to die. They aren’t supposed to get hurt like this, body busted up in a car accident, contorted into the horrifying shapes of broken limbs. They aren’t supposed to die on the side of the road in the cold October air with no family or friends around to say a last goodbye, to brush the lock of hair away that has fallen across her face.

We don’t even know her name.

I was warned about this in paramedic school; warned that people will die. But no one ever told me it would be like this; in a dirty, dusty ditch in the middle of the night.

Suddenly, I become aware that Tina is pushing on my shoulder. She is telling me to stop, that we have done all we can. I realize that I am crying. The tears running down my face are starting to freeze in the stinging air. I continue CPR, pump after pump on her chest. I have to save her.

I am unable to move myself away, to do anything else. My brain tells me to keep going, that she is young, she can live.

Young people aren’t supposed to die.

I stop and check the heart monitor one last time. It shows a thin, flat, final line. I feel for a pulse once more. The skin at her neck is smooth and cold. There is not pulse to be found.

I look at my watch and hear myself saying, “Time of death; 3:16 a.m.”

Tina walks over with a sheet and covers the girl’s body. I stay, unable to move, looking at the girl’s face, the bruise surrounding her eye, the glass in her hair. I wonder what the last thing she said was, wonder who she spoke it to, and why she was driving on this desolate county road so late at night all alone.

I walk back over the electric fence to the truck. Glancing down the hill I see the car is still upside down. Our equipment is scattered on the ground, paper wrappers blowing across the field in the wind; the evidence of our failed efforts easily blowing away as if they were never there.

The door of the car is lying behind it, out of the way and out of place. Most haunting, though, is the white sheet that flutters in the cold breeze, attempting to hide the outline of a young girl whose life ended far too soon.

Lego story challenge

I was recently given a small pile of legos and told I had 5 minutes to build whatever I wanted. I started building and wound up demolishing everything I started. Then, with 30 seconds to go, I built a small (and rather disappointing) windmill. (Thank you, deep Dutch roots.)

I was then informed that I was to write a story featuring the creation I had made, so here it is, very creatively named, I might add.

The Windmill

Espen and Claudios were their names, the two men who built me. They toiled in the heat and dirt, slowly building me from the ground up with strong, think boards, finishing with four giant wooden blades that held yards of canvas as sails. They painted me a deep turquoise blue, the color of the river that flows freely behind me.  At first they used me to pump water out of the brown tangled swampland that lay out miles before me. The large, lofty sails captured the wind and for a year, day and night, I pumped the soggy swamp water into the meandering river

The land dried out and I was converted into a mill. Espen and Claudios began to plow the fertile land and sow grains into the freshly turned soil. I milled grain for years, powered only by Mother Nature’s heavenly breath.

Soon the children came along, Vincent and Arabella are their names. Vincent was a tall, blonde, energetic child with a wide smile and cratered dimples. He was the son of Espen and Camille, and lived just two miles north along the river. Arabella was a small girl, always clad in a sun dress and her golden hair in braids. She could wander for hours in the emerald grasslands surrounding the fields. Often she’d come to my doors with wild flowers forming a halo in her hair. By the age of 5 Vincent and Arabella were stitched together at the hip. They would walk along the river from school, crossing the bridge their fathers erected across the river. They would sit on my steps and throw pebbles into the gravel road and use sharpened sticks to etch pictures and tic-tac-toe boards while they waited for their fathers to finish the day’s work.

Many birthdays, holidays, and picnics were held in the grasses around my foundation near the river bank. They were large, exciting celebrations with many guests. The parties would last late into the night, ending with fireworks that arched into the sky, bursting overhead with a chest-rattling thunder.

I watched the families grow as I grew older.

Espen and Claudios grew to be old men. They kept me up nicely, repairing shattered windows and splintered boards after storms, repainting me in my famous turquoise, and frequently patching and replacing my sails so I could continue to run the mill.

Vincent and Arabella grew into stunning young adults, and, seeing their fathers growing old and too frail for the stresses of daily labor, took over the operation of the mill and fields. Never had the grains grown taller or with more seed. The two had a gift for growing things together; their love for one another was no exception. They were married on the green rolling grasses of the riverbank where they’d spent endless hours playing and laughing in their childhood. As the years went by, Vincent and Arabella had children of their own.

They had built their own home just a stone’s throw down the road from their childhood homes. They continued to mill grains to send down the river into town. They sewed and harvested crop after crop, their sweat becoming part of the land.

Vincent and Arabella grew old over the years. Their own children had taken over the milling operations and general upkeep of my sturdy frame.

Every day, Vincent and Arabella would walk the two-mile stretch of path from their home , hand in hand, just to sit on my steps and watch the sun raise and set over the fields of growing grains they have trusted me to watch over every day for over eighty years.

The children married and, family by family, they moved away until the last child had gone, leaving me standing over the barren, rough fields. Vincent and Arabella stopped walking down to sit on my steps every day. I no longer milled grains. The only daily visitor I had was a small brown turtle who lived under a log at the muddy riverbank. Vincent would walk down the path alone sometimes, re-living stories of his childhood and courtship with Arabella.

One day I realized that he had not made the journey down to sit on my steps for over a month.  I worried that the worst things had happened to he and Arabella but I continued watching over the fields that had now been taken over with brown prairie grasses. My paint started to crack and chip in the heat of the summer sun, my bare wood now exposed to the wind and rain. Slowly I began to rot and my foundation began to crack and crumble. Small animals moved in and began raising their families in the dusty, cobweb-covered mill. I had lost all hope that I’d ever watch over growing fields again.

One day, driving down the road that was now overtaken with weeds and prairie flowers, a car arrived. It pulled up right to the steps and slowly, Arabella stepped out of the back seat and into the summer sun. She was old now, her back bent in the curve of old age. She used a cane to steady her weak legs and slowly climbed the stairs. She looked up, and I could see tears glistening in the corners of her eyes.

Soon, more cars slowly crept down the dusty path. The front car was long and black. It stopped and six men in pressed black suits solemnly walked to the rear of the car. I recognized two to be Vincent and Arabella’s sons.

I watched as they slowly pulled a long shiny box out of the rear of the car. I realized what had happened.

Vincent was dead.

Arabella was openly crying now, long silver paths cutting down her cheeks, highlighted by the morning sunlight. The men carried the box over to a hole, freshly dug this morning, and placed in inside. Other mourners gathered around, sharing their parting words as the hole was filled in.

Most of the cars had made their way back up the overgrown road, but Arabella continued to sit on my steps, looking out over the dead fields where she had toiled in the sun for so long with Vincent by her side.

Painfully, she stood and walked back to the car. She took one final look over the dead fields, at my rotting wood, at the peaceful river flowing in the background. She ducked her head into the car and it drove off.

That was the last time anyone came down the path. I continue to stand, watching guard over the dead fields and listening as the wind blows through my rotting boards.