Monthly Archives: March 2011

Oh, Shiloh

Shiloh is a PTA at my current clinical. She is pregnant; very, very, VERY pregnant. Everyone is sure they will have to perform an emergency delivery for her. (She isn’t due till late next week.)

I have seen plenty of expectant mothers before, but Shiloh is somethin’ else. For one thing, she is all baby. If you watched her from behind, you’d never know she had a baby growing in her; if you see her from the front, she looks like she has a 50 lb watermelon attached to her front, and that it’s a wonder it doesn’t tear off from all that unsupported weight. Her baby is projected to weigh at least 10 lbs, but she seemingly has not gained weight anywhere else on her body. (Not from lack of eating bacon, I assure you! Today she was wondering if anyone would recognize her if she went through the lunch line a second time.)

Even more strikingly, she doesn’t seem tired. Oh, she says she is, but she still willingly walks up four flights of stairs, baby-belly and all. Every once in a while, she comments wonderingly that “all I want to do is sit here.” It wouldn’t be so funny if she didn’t sound like it was such a peculiar idea, all the while wrapping her arms around her belly that looks like it’s ready to explode. It’s not her first baby, so it’s not like you’d expect her to be surprised at being at least a little fatigued.

Shiloh is the kind of person you didn’t think really existed. She always looks serene, and speaks in a smooth, calm, low voice. (She assures us she can be less than serene at home.) By the end of the day when everyone is getting a little frayed around the edges (never mind women who are 9 months pregnant), when things start going wrong–she laughs. A few times I have seen her rubbing her head, but it always turns out she had a headache.

I know she’s human, but still. If I should ever carry a baby, I hope I can do it with a smidgen of the grace she’s doing it with.

Shiloh, Shiloh, Shiloh. Are the rumors I hear true? Do you go roller-bladeing out on the sidewalk with your kids?

(Yes, it really is past midnight, and yes, I really should be getting to bed)

(wanna know something else? That thar girl singing is Joy Williams. I wouldna known if someone hadn’t told)


I feel kinda sad, ’cause there was a post I wanted to write–just for the sake of writing it. It was a striking (to me) vignette, and I wanted it down. But–later. I said later, not now, when I have time, soon, later. When you say ‘later’ too many times, you lose your chance. The other night I realized that I couldn’t write it. I’d forgotten too many details that transform the ordinary to the striking. I lost the vibrancy that gives writing that piquancy that sets it aside from tedious recounting. So while I know that I could patch a version of that post together. . .I lost my chance at a really good piece of writing. And that, to me, is sad.


Ok, there. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, we can move on. (Maybe another night, I’ll take a whack at that post anyway; just not right this second.)

Right now I’m on my last clinical rotation. . .it’s short-term rehab. Everyone is old. It’s a constant reminder that you ARE going to get old. . .but that that doesn’t say much. There are so many hundreds of thousands of ways to get old. But who they are now is only a result of how they were before. . .so how, exactly, do I want to get old?

Like the 91 year old who says “honey, I can’t” to everything you try to get her to do? Or the 91 year old who still has a sassy sense of humor? The 82 year old who regretfully recounts how she used to walk outside and mow the lawn with her “John Deer tractor” and how “I thought I was exercising and working hard!” She says she knows better now, with her feet turning black from poor circulation. It hurts to watch; she has spunk and life inside but her body is falling apart. Or maybe like the lady–I don’t know how old she is or what brought her here, exactly, but she always waves and smiles from her room whenever I pass. Her trailer burnt to the ground about 5 years ago, and she was just getting back on her feet. Or so she says; she didn’t come in with much in the way of clothes, and we had to raid the lost and found to give her changes of clothes. She speaks of how she was always poor from childhood, but that she wouldn’t change anything. It was a happy life, and everyone was so good to her.

There is the obese man who wants to tell you to do everything for him, and thinks he’s tough ’cause he got a tattoo. . .and there’s the wasted away (87 lbs at last weigh in) man who doesn’t want you to even TOUCH his stuff who speaks of his time in army training when he had to live off the land in the California desert, and does things for himself when he really shouldn’t (falling and breaking your bones right about now would be a bad idea, just so you know). There’s the lady with “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” who’s frequently overcome with panic attacks, and the lady who had the stroke who’s so depressed she sobs and sobs when she sees pictures of her family. Because of her stroke, it’s about the only way she can communicate right now, and it’s potent.

There are people who have their family visiting frequently–morning and afternoon–and there are those who are homeless and never have a family visit them. There are people who always seem to have a smile in their eyes and people you can’t seem to get to smile no matter how hard you try.

They are people.

As such, they are dying.

We all do; we all know it.

This is the part where I go:

Knock, knock. Um, God? Remember the part where I don’t work with dying people? Remember that the reason why I went with physical therapy was because people get better? Remember? Remember?

But they don’t. People die. Sometimes we’re further from it than other times, but it’s really only a delusion to say that we save anyone from death. We never really cure people. Sometimes we extend relief; sometimes mercy; sometimes love. But no field of medicine can ever offer a complete cure, a total healing.

I don’t understand why God seems to be telling me, over and over, day in and day out, this is how people get old. And after they get old, they’re going to die. And there’s nothing you can do to stop them from dying; but what are you going to do about getting old? But He won’t let me hide from this. Intertwined, interwoven, invading, unavoidable: you can’t fix other people’s lives, and what are you going to do about your own life?