Last week’s Schlag Byte, Barbaro Lessons (about the great Stallion who was just euthanized), was actually a replacement for one that my wife and daughters told me was unprintable. It was my research project about how people of various ages, and in a variety of settings, responded to a remote-controlled device that triggered authentic bowel sounds.
I found the rejected piece riotous, they thought it wasn’t funny at all and attributed it to being “a man thing.” Men are little boys at heart who will still ask you to pull their finger and find it amusing. Giving up the byte wasn’t a problem; the killer came when they added that maybe I was running out of things to say. They said the Schlag Bytes were getting a bit repetitive, and I wasn’t saying anything they hadn’t heard before. Writing a byte once a month, they thought, might be sufficient (they were brutal).
My woundedness dissipated this week, however, because I attended a “Board Meeting” with “my nurses.” I worked with them for almost 20 years at the Judson School in Scottsdale, Arizona. These were great nurses who loved children, and could also set limits with them. We saw each other weekly, and once a month we’d get together for clinical case conferences and to talk among ourselves.
We haven’t worked together for 15 years, but we still get together for “Board Meetings.” We still talk about everything that’s happening in our lives, from dance lessons to radio show call-in winnings. We acknowledge our growing limitations and discuss facing these new realities. I told them about my leaky valves, forgetfulness, my family’s suggestion that I was getting repetitive, and last week’s byte experience. I thought they’d all leap to my defense, but three of them didn’t read them at all and the other one only irregularly. They decided to monitor them for a month and then vote (my wife was quick to point out that the vote of four people who have not been reading them for the past ten years will be meaningless). Okay, I admit it . . . even if it has no validity whatsoever, it makes me feel better.
My only devoted reader in the group is Betty Ann, the pride of Clinton, Tennessee, a high school cheerleading beauty with an alluring Southern drawl. She can put that accent on and it still makes me smile all over. Betty Ann has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for the last 20 years. Nowadays, she’s not getting around much and spends most of her days in a comfortable recliner in front of her computer. There’s a TV nearby where she watches the news channels and keeps up with what’s happening in the world.
Betty Ann has been reading my bytes since I began writing them a decade ago and, without hesitation, said she wants to keep getting them weekly. She said last week’s byte about Barbaro moved her. She wanted to make sure that if a time came when she could no longer speak or recognize herself that the Board would speak for her. And if we could tell she wasn’t Betty Ann anymore, we would help let her go, as in Barbaro’s case.
Before I left Betty Ann said, “Keep on writing those bytes; I look forward to starting my week with them. And don’t worry about being repetitive, you never had that much to say, but you say it good, and most of us need to hear it again.”
From Byte blues to Board business, I love “my nurses.”