Patient zero (0)

For those of you who know me (and the mini-me who inhabits this sanctuary of peace with me) know that since November 8, 2016, I (and she too actually) have been wandering.  Wandering in the wastelands of “What Ifs” and “What Might Have Been” and “How Could This Possibly Be Happening?”  These are barren, drought-stricken, depressing, soul-sucking, mind-numbing places to be.  They are not happy.  They are not conducive to healthy living, nor are they beneficial to the mind, body or spirit.

I read about the five stages of grief (see Kubler-Ross).  I sailed through them all a few times, bouncing back and forth, landing on denial one day, anger the next, back to denial, even hanging out on bargaining for a long time.  But I never seemed to get very far in accepting what had happened that night.  Nor accepting the fact that Hillary would not be Madame President.  Nor acknowledging that the pins and the buttons and the patches and the bumper stickers and the magnets and the paper dolls would need to be relegated to either the trash (sacrilege!!) or the keepsake box (why? why preserve the hurt?).

I turned off the news.  We listened to Christmas music four weeks earlier than our normal. We usually wait until after Thanksgiving Day to bring it all out and crank it all up and dream of white Christmases and peppermint hot chocolate and bulging stockings and pretty white lights.  This year we started early.  We needed to dull the pain.

I stopped perusing my news feeds.  As we don’t have television here (a blessing now that I think about it), I rely on the internet and the radio for my daily dose of world happenings.  Some who know me might say I’m addicted to the news.  I would have to reply, “fair point well made.”

When it became necessary to pack up the Christmas music (which in all truth ends up being more “holiday” music here…heavy on Ol’ Blue Eyes, Dean Martin and jazzy renditions of Rudolph) as the damn store-bought trees were long dead (which is a story for another day…due to a teensy, weensy fire on the mountain preventing us from trekking out back to cut down our tree), I found I still couldn’t quite stomach the news.  We switched to jazz and immersed ourselves in Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck.  With a healthy dose of Frank and Dean sprinkled in as well.

I tentatively waded back onto the wide world of ethernet “news” and found I could barely keep it down either.  I limited myself to one site that has a rather comforting daily column, heavy on the snark, full of like-minded readers, gathering from all walks of life to share our  daily travails.  But that was all I could manage.

The inauguration loomed.  It seemed surreal.  We (the mini-me and I) talked about it and decided no way in hell-o would we be caught watching it (on the computer) or listening to it (on the radio).  Total blackout.  Denial.  Pretend it wasn’t happening.  Go on about our business as if the world hadn’t turned upside down. (One million to anyone who can quote that song from our favorite musical.)  Instead, we listened to jazz that day.

I had to work the weekend.  I work at a county hospital in a red city in a red state.  A very western, very red state.  Usually when I walk into a patient’s room, I inwardly cringe as Faux News is blaring on the television.  And the people are always enraptured.  Enthralled.  First thing I do is dive for the remote to hit the “mute” button so we can have a proper conversation.  I very often get the stink eye over this, but they don’t call us “Physical Terrorists” for nothing.  I prefer physical therapist, but whatevs.

That Saturday was difficult.  I was still in sort of a fog that Friday had actually happened.  We actually inaugurated that man.  I couldn’t see a way forward.  I couldn’t square this circle.  And I was having a difficult time finding compassion for my Faux News-loving patients.  I walked through the morning in a blur, putting my best face on and one foot in front of the other.  My heart was hurting though, and my spirits were definitely low.

Until I met Patient Zero.

Patient Zero, because he is the one who ignited my spark of hope.  He is the one who allowed my soul to breathe, to see the possibilities ahead of us, to acknowledge that though the battles before us may be great, we can overcome.

He was propped up in his hospital bed, the head of the bed elevated so he could see the television up on the wall, with a multitude of pillows surrounding him.  Pillows behind his head and neck, pillows under each arm–almost as if he was floating on a cloud.

He was wearing huge, gold-rimmed 80’s style eyeglasses with a floppy, khaki-colored fishing hat.  He seemed to be entranced by the television and I thought to myself “Self, I cannot handle another second of Faux News.  Somehow you must find the strength to carry on.”

I steeled myself, walked in and commented on his hat.  He turned to me with a 100o-watt smile and told me “I like to make a lasting impression.”   He turned back to the television, smiling all the while, almost enigmatically.  I was curious as to what was captivating his attention.  Because, truth be told, he didn’t appear to be the average Faux News viewer.  He was not an older, white male.  He was very distinctly black.  As in not white. African-American.  He was older, I’ll give him that, but not white.

Curious, I turned my head to look at the television screen and saw “MSNBC” scrawled at the bottom.  I turned back to him; he nodded at me and then gestured with his chin at the tv.  I looked again and realized it was live coverage of the Women’s March on Washington. And Chicago.  And Los Angeles.  And Denver.  And New York City.

I again turned back to Patient Zero, who bedazzled me with that mega-watt smile that seemed to light up his eyes, as if to say “see that? That’s for you and for me and for all of us here despairing of anything being right in this world again.”

It was a few minutes, truly, before I could find my voice.  I stood there entranced as well.  I finally shook my head and mumbled something about not knowing, not realizing, not having any idea…my words seemed so pathetic, so not enough.

He just smiled and nodded his head.  I mentioned that all of the other rooms had Faux News playing and what a relief it was to walk in and see this.  He reached down, moved the covers aside, patted the bed and said “Sit down awhile. Watch with me.”

We watched in silence and awe.  He never stopped smiling.  Quietly smiling and nodding his head.  He seemed to be reveling in the moment.  It would be foolish of me to begin to think I knew what was in his mind, his thoughts.  I didn’t ask.  He didn’t say.  We both seemed to just need the silence and the awareness that a fellow traveler was finding some comfort in the images on the screen.

I reluctantly tore myself away from him.  That’s what it felt like.  I’d found a kindred spirit, a soul who shared a moment with me, and I didn’t want to leave.  I didn’t want to walk out the door into the other reality.  I wanted to stay and be the recipient of that beatific smile.  I wanted to revel in his quiet strength and calming presence.

As soon as I left his room, I called home to make sure the mini-me could see the images that I had just seen.  I wanted her to be able to grab some of the hope that I just did, to see there were others like us out there.  I wanted her to be calmed by the realization that we are not alone in this.

I have not seen my Patient Zero again.  He was very sick then.  I do not know if he is still walking the good red road.  I know with every fiber of my being, on that day, he was a beacon of hope for me.  He was the spark that ignited in me the possibilities of meeting this challenge head on.  He was very sick, he was very old, he was a person of color…three strikes right there.  Yet he found a reason to smile.  And to include me in his quiet strength and equanimity.  He exuded peace and calm, and hope and courage and bravery.  All with a knowing smile on his face.  As if to say to me “Don’t you worry about a thing now.  It’s good.  It’s real good.”

That night I joined the ACLU.  I am now a card-carrying member!  We have been to an ACLU People Power meeting.  We have written postcards to the White House inhabitant.  We are no longer hiding from the daily news.  We have our #ScienceNotSilence t-shirts and have made plans to attend a Science March in a close by community.  We will lend our voices to the resistance.

And finally, finally, I was able to listen to Hillary’s song.

Not without crying mind you.  And I’m not ashamed to admit that the tears are falling now, as I watch and listen, yet one more time.

At what might have been.  At what could have been.  America…what did you do?

I will admit, I haven’t been able to handle the Pantsuit Power video/song that I wrote about several months ago.  That one is simply too much sunshine and light.  I’m not there yet.  Maybe someday.  But not now.  I’m in a fighting mood.  So I need a Fight Song.  A take back my life song.  An I’m alright song.

The above was on my Twitter feed  {from @AltUSFWS} the night of DJT’s address to the Joint Session.  Words from the Fight Song.  Words that I will now live by.

I will walk boldly into the night, the darkness, remembering the serene countenance of Patient Zero.  His blissful, quiet smile as he lay there absorbing the events on the screen.  The battles against him were many that day, and may be still–I do not know.  He met them with grace and equanimity, more interested in making sure my soul was at peace than wanting me to make it better for him.

I dedicate my spark to him, to Patient Zero.  I will raise my voice in protest; I will stand up for what I believe in.  I will teach my mini-me to walk the good red road, to stay true to her beliefs, to advocate for those without a voice.  We will not go quietly.

And finally, because this can not be repeated often enough:

“…the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”     ~Edward M Kennedy

Blessings be.


About madranchwife

Mother, Mad Ranchwife(as in--at times-- crazy, nutso, loco, off-my-rocker insane), Veterinarian, Physical Therapist, "Liberal, pinko, gay-loving, Subaru-driving Socialist" (as I've been called), proud to be a totally tree-huggin', climate change believin', granola girl environmentalist, ObamaGirl, Pro-Choice (don't even get me started here...), and in my younger days a feminist vegetarian as a result of time spent at CU Boulder (this lasted approximately 14 months, until all the Jimmy Buffett I was listening to caused me to crave a cheeseburger). #FindingMyVoice #ScienceMatters
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2 Responses to Patient zero (0)

  1. tseahorn says:

    Smile for the day:
    Remember, most of them were born red and have never experienced anything but red. “Human behavior is learned behavior”, according to my old Sociology teacher. They are what they are.
    As the season of Easter approaches…
    “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

  2. Such an impactful story!! Makes me ponder all the ways politics are reflected in our personal lives.

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