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Thursday, 17 January 2013

The end of an era

Well, it is finally all over, for yesterday after what seemed like weeks and even months of waiting, I finally left my job. Having spent most of Christmas and the New Year period nursing a heavy cold, last Friday night having completed my final seven day stretch (and it really did feel like a prison stretch), my throat began to display that tell tale soreness. As the weekend progressed so did the cold, with a vengeance. By Monday morning I felt quite possibly the worst I have ever done - hot one minute, cold the next, with a pounding head and a throat that was quite literally on fire.

It sounds ridiculous I know, but so ingrained is my work mentality, that despite the odds, I was in two minds whether to go in or not, mostly I admit because I knew that it was my final week. Against all my instincts, I did choose to go in. The moment I stepped out of the car, I knew I had made a mistake, but I went inside, made myself some Hot Lemon and started my work, thinking that if I waited for the paracetamol to take effect I would start to feel better. Of course it didn't, for this was as much emotional as it was physical and the cold was I now realise, my body's way of making sure that I got the rest that I needed before I start my new job this Monday.  I managed to clean and hoover the Managers office, the dining room and the lounge before I finally gave in and told them I was going home, barely one hour after I arrived, and I did not go back there to work at all after that. Once I got home, I got straight back into bed with a hot water bottle and a pig, where I remained for most of that day.

Tuesday was if anything even worse, with the chills more intense than ever and a headache like none that I have ever experienced. As the day wore on I began to feel slightly better, but worst of all was the cough, At one point I was coughing so hard that I actually made myself sick, which is really not good at all. I have had plenty of colds during my 47 1/2 years, but I honestly do not remember one which has been as bad as this. I knew then that I would be a mistake to go in yesterday, which was to be my final day, and so reluctantly phoned in just after 5pm. I had not intended for it to be this way, but I knew when I got there on Monday as the tears began to prick at my eyes, that I just could not face one more day of working there - it really had got to that point, where if I did not take the complete rest that I needed, I would have completely crashed. Looking back, I always felt that I would need more than the four days I was meant to have (two as holiday that I was owed and two as my usual days off), so I guess that this was the universe's way of keeping me away.

I still thought felt that I wanted to go in and say a proper goodbye to the staff and residents who I became so attached to, and so yesterday after lunch, that is what Coran and I both did. I am not sure how I even managed to get there, as I was so ungrounded and shaky, wondering what would happen and I if would embarrass myself, and of course I did. I think that I had been building up the event of my leaving so much in my head that when it finally did happen it all proved just too much, and I burst into a huge flood of almost uncontrollable tears. It was saying goodbye to three of the residents upstairs that did it, especially Mr G, a wonderful octogenarian who happens to have cerebral palsy. He and I have shared so many moments and so many beautiful and inspiring conversations during the time that both of us have been there, and I will miss him probably more than anyone else.

I remember in particular a conversation we had around the time of Remembrance Day last year, when I made an innocent off the cuff remark about him not being able to go into the Army and fight, and how that had almost certainly saved his life. The following day he told me that he had been a little upset by what I said, but that he had sat with those feelings and come to realise that he had been fighting his disability for all of his 84 years. Following my comments he had come to realise that he needed to be grateful for all that he did have rather than all that he did not, and focus on the good rather than the bad. So from one chance comment came the healing of 84 years of anger and non acceptance. We shared a big hug and many more since, the last of which was yesterday.

The other one I shall miss is Mrs T, a lady in her late 90's whom when she came into the house a little over 2 years ago was not expected to even last the night. Here she is though two years later still with us against all the odds. She spends most of her time in bed sleeping, but when she was awake usually in the mornings after breakfast, or after lunch when I brought the laundry back to her room, for this was part of my old job, I got to know her well. She was such a sweet and kind hearted soul, whose beloved husband fought in Burma, one of a huge extended family all of whom love her dearly. It was easy to see why.

There are though so many people that I shall miss there in so many different ways. I don't know whether they will miss me in quite the same way - I suspect that some will and some will not. When it came to it though, there was no grand leaving present, just a box of chocolates and pot plant with a card signed from "Everyone at the Mad House" (for obvious reasons I cannot use the home's real name, but this is a pretty close description of what it has become), without signatures. Just those few short words.

The one that surprised me more than anyone was the Polish housekeeper, who when I first started there was very antagonistic and seeming to pick holes in all that I did. Over the years she mellowed considerably until in the end we were the best of friends. I think that she will miss me quite possibly more than any of them, as she was visibly upset when I first told her about my new job. Yesterday when I was about to leave for the last time, she came and gave me a big hug with tears in her own eyes and said words to the effect that I was a very special lady who will be very sorely missed. Of course that set me off all over again. In the end though, it was one who said the least (as I did myself) who appreciated me the most, for the only others to say much at all were a Spanish nurse who has been there just a few short months, and the Activities Organiser. I will forget neither of these two very special ladies either, or the Polish nurse who bid me a sad farewell when I telephoned on Tuesday night as she informed me that she would not be in when I came to say my final farewells.

Of course the boss as there too when we arrived. When we came through the door he was just going in to a meeting with someone or other, with the usual face like the back end of a bus. How glad I am that I will never have to see that again. He heard me say quite clearly that I had been ill and had come in to say goodbye to all my friends on my final day, but said not one single word - no thank you for your hard work, no good luck, nothing. To me that really did say it all.

Now that it is all over I am not sure how I feel. I guess it will take time to sink it and to settle into the new job, but once I do this place will like all the others become a dim and distant memory. The wounds will take time to heal, but heal they will, with love and care from Coran and a new more supportive employer who does not swear, shout and leave bullying notes and remarks. Truth be told, I think my former colleagues are probably quite jealous of the fact that I have managed to escape, while they all choose to remain, but it is a choice, and one that in time they too shall make. It is though no longer my concern, for they have to fight their own battles. It is now all about me, and for that I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

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