Not a Morning Person (Niki Starts Dayshift)

Chapter 54

I am not a morning person.

The alarm of my cell phone rings loudly while the device vibrates maniacally against the top of the nightstand. Trying to silence it, I accidentally knock it to the floor where it continues to thrash. I get up and turn the damn thing off, replacing it on the nightstand. Padding to the kitchen I hit the start button of the coffee maker, filled the night before. I take a shower while it brews.

Transferring to day shift during the middle of winter was a bad idea. I wake up in the dark, drive to work in the dark, and then drive back home after a twelve-hour shift, in the dark. The PICU lacks windows, so on a three-day stretch I only have the vaguest idea of the weather outside, other than IT’S DARK.

I transferred to days to be home more with Maddie, and it’s working. Her grades have improved. She’s getting along better with Amber and Wade too, now that she’s home at night during the week, and only spends every other weekend with them and Simon.

Together we plan the grocery list, and in the evenings Maddie helps make dinner. Instead of eating in the dining room where Simon’s chair is conspicuously empty, we eat casually at the coffee table, watching a movie or TV. Some nights Maddie is quiet, but others she talks throughout evening about her friends, school, and her perspectives on life. I’m happy that we’re growing closer again, even if it means getting up in the dark.

I make sure Maddie’s up and getting ready for school before I leave.

“Bye Mom. I hope you have a good shift.”

“Thanks, Sweetie. You have a good day too. Don’t forget your lunch and homework.”

“I won’t Mom. You say that every time.”

“Love you Maddie.”

“Love you too, Mom.”

 

* * *

The challenges of day shift nursing differ from those of night shift.

For one thing, the residents arrive early to place orders. When they can’t locate what they want in the electronic medical record, they go ahead and order them wrong, and then we have to call them to change it, but they still don’t get it right. Eventually we put it in ourselves, and then the pharmacist calls nursing to say the medication can’t be ordered that way either. If the pharmacist is particularly nice, he calls the resident himself and gets the order corrected. So much for physician order entry.

There’s more friends and family members at the patient’s bedside on day shift too. At first it felt as though they were in the way, but lately I find I enjoy talking to them, explaining what I’m doing, and what they should expect. I like teaching so much in fact, I’ve volunteered to precept nursing students during my shifts.

Today as I enter the unit, I’m greeted by the day shift charge nurse, Margaux. “Niki, we’re overstaffed today in PICU. It’s your turn to float to pediatrics.”

 

I Hate This, All of It (Maddie Talks to Niki)

Chapter 51

“Maddie, open the door.”

“Go away!”

“Maddie, I know you’re upset, but we need to talk.”

“I don’t want to talk. I hate you! And Amber, and Dad too!”

“Maddie, I’ve heard Amber’s side of the story, now I want to hear yours. Please open the door and talk to me. 
”

I stand at Maddie’s bedroom door not hearing a sound. I’m about to knock again when I hear footsteps. The door opens revealing Maddie’s face, reddened and damp with tears.

“Can I come in?” I ask.

Wordlessly, Maddie steps away from the door, allowing me entrance. We face each other awkwardly before I give her a hug.

“So what’s going on? Amber says you’ve been picking on Wade. I thought you loved having a little brother.”

Maddie remains silent.

“I have to admit picking out all the marshmallows from the box of cereal was clever.”

Maddie cracks a smile, and we both start laughing. “You should’ve seen his face, Mom. He kept turning the cereal box upside down and shaking it, looking for the marshmallows.”

Still laughing, I work the conversation. “It is funny, but was it still funny after Wade found out you tricked him?”

Maddie stopped laughing. Her eyes squinted at the memory. “He made a face at me, and then ran into his room.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“Kind of bad. He used to look up to me. He trusted me.”

Putting my arm around Maddie’s shoulders, I guided her to her unmade bed where we sat down. “What’s this all about Maddie? What’s bothering you?”

“Ever since you and Dad got divorced, my life has changed.”

“The divorce changed all of our lives Maddie. It isn’t easy for any of us.”

“Yeah, but you and Dad got to choose. Nobody asked me what I wanted. Now Dad’s married to Amber, and she expects me to do all kinds of stuff around the house, like keeping track of Wade while her and Dad spend time together. At first I thought Amber thought I was grown up, but now I know she just wants me to stop being a kid and take care of things for her. I didn’t sign up for that. I’m still a kid.”

“I’m sorry Maddie. I didn’t know this was happening. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you’re always at work. If you’re not at work, you’re sitting around drinking tea and listening to music. I don’t think you want to hear about Dad and Amber anyway. I feel like I have to pick. And you know what, it’s not easy always having to pack my stuff back and forth between your house and theirs. Sometimes I forget my homework at the wrong house, and I get in trouble for it at school. I hate this, all of it.”

How did I not know how hard this has been for Maddie? I’ve been way too distracted with my life, and it’s hurt my daughter. I need to get my priorities straight.

“Maddie, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you felt this way. I’m glad you told me. I see I need to make some changes around here. I’m going to make things better for you, I promise.”

Simon’s Turn (Simon talks back)

Chapter 21

“Yes you are, Niki.  You’re wrecking our home.”

Simon, seated across from me in the family room hadn’t moved a muscle, but the power of his words hit me like a punch to the stomach: breathless, and unable to speak. My bravado was gone. Defeated, I crumpled into the chair, fighting back tears.

“I don’t have the strength to do this,” it occurred to me.

Before I recovered, Simon’s shoulders dropped. His energy changed. He looked down at his hands in his lap before looking into my eyes, and said,

“I’m not angry at you for wanting a divorce Niki.  I’m angry that you gave up on us before I did.”

Puzzled, I stared at him.

“Our marriage hasn’t worked for me for a long time. I don’t know when the magic stopped, but you’re different now Nik.

You used to be fun. We used to go to games together. You were as big a fan as me. Now you don’t want to be in the crowd in the bleachers anymore. You’re not interested in watching on TV either.

You take everything so literally. You used to have a sense of humor and laugh. Now I have to explain, ‘I’m just kidding,’ so you know it’s a joke.

When we go to movies or concerts, the first thing you do is locate all the emergency exits. Everything is always worst-case scenario with you. You’re too intense. When was the last time we laughed?”

I couldn’t think of an answer to this. Simon used my pause to continue.

“When you talk about work, and the drugs you give to those kids, all I can think about is, “Jesus, she knows how to kill someone!”

“I like to think I know how to save lives, Simon.”

“The point is Niki, I don’t know you anymore. You’re not the fun girl I met in college. It’s like saving the world is your only concern. I married a wife, not a super hero.”

Simon bit his lip then clenched his jaw. His eyes were red-rimmed, and moist. Then he pulled his finger out of the dike, and it burst open, changing the landscape of our lives forever.

“Niki, I want a divorce too. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You’re a good person, and I’m glad we share Maddie, but I don’t love you anymore.”