Well, I’ve put it off, writing the second part of my live aboard days, the San Diego chronicles as I’ve just named it. Thinking about it was just to over whelming for a while because there was a lot of years in San Diego and a lot of events. I decided for a while to just write memories as they came to me so that’s what I’ve been doing. I actually plan to continue along this line for a while because it seems to be a rather good idea. So, for the time being, the San Diego chronicles will be un-chronicled, or to put it in another way, out of order. Eventually I plan to rearrange them in order when I feel I have compiled enough memories. Or, if it reads well, maybe I will leave them as they are.
I’ve already written a few so I will find them and rename then with a part two and maybe three and so on. I hope you enjoy reading them. I love feed back so please feel free to comment. Hopefully one day I can turn it all into a book. So, to make things clear the Moon Shadow – My live aboard days, San Diego Chronicles, go after the Moon shadow – My live aboard days. I’ll work on rewording the titles later. I still have a lot of proof reading to do but here it is regardless. I also will be adding photos as I find them.
(The deck of the Moon Shadow.)
Life In The CNA Lane
-HOW THE WHOLE CRAZY IDEA BEGAN.-
When I was 15, still lived on the Moon Shadow (a 41′ sail boat) in Gloretta Bay, San Diego I found an add in the paper advertising a ROP (Regional Occupation Program) class being held at the San Diego Community Collage. It was a CNA/HHA class. Since it was an ROP class I knew it would be free except for books and such. I’ve never had an interest in anything medical related, but my sister did. However, she had gotten her CHSPE (high school equivalent diploma) when she was sixteen and hadn’t perused anything since. At this time she would have been 18. I knew if I signed up for something she would too so I decided to help her out with out her knowing it. I didn’t even tell my parents what my true goal was. I just showed them the add and told them I wanted to sign up for it. Everything worked out like a charm. Once my sister found out my mom was taking me to the community collage to sign up for the class she said she wanted to do it too.
The collage administration didn’t want me to sign up at first because I wasn’t 18 or over but my mom read through the paper work and there was no age limit so they had to allow me to sign up. The program was a crash course. We would be attending the classes Monday through Thursday eight hours each day. The first half of the course was held in a class room and some lab rooms at the community collage and the later half of the class was held at Kearny Mesa Nursing Home.
-YOU GOTTA BE MEANER THEN THAT TO GET RID OF US.-
The first day the class was so filled students were standing in the hall way. We were introduced to our two teaches and teacher assistant. There were a lot of firm instructions and words about what they wouldn’t put up with. Each day we returned the teachers assistant got harder and harder on us. Neither my sister nor I felt threatened by her because we were taught to work hard and we knew we would be doing out best so there was no reason for anyone to rightfully get upset with us. Each day the number of students dropped, many of them just couldn’t take the teachers assistant, she was too hard on them. Though we saw all this take place there was just something about that teachers assistant that didn’t seem opposing to us, I think we just found the whole thing amusing, not to say we weren’t serious, but still amusing.
It wasn’t long before all the remaining students had seats with a few extra empty ones. Once it became clear that the remaining students were determined to stay the teachers assistant let us in on a little secret. Besides being a teachers assistant her other job was to get rid of anyone who might possibly not really want to be there or were there for the wrong reasons. California convalescent homes were tired of hiring people who didn’t care about their job and didn’t care about the people they were taking care of. The ROP program decided to try some thing new with it’s CNA training and weed out the folks who had the wrong attitude. It was a great idea, but I believe it wasn’t something that remained in practice in the years to come. However, for our class, I would say I was the only person there who didn’t really want to be there. I didn’t dare consider leaving the program because my dad told me that if I failed I would have to repeat the class and I hated it enough to push myself real hard so that wouldn’t happen. This all may sound bad but just because I didn’t really want to be a CNA didn’t mean I would work less hard or care less for the people I took care of. That was not part of my personality, I always believed in doing my best and treating people with kindness no matter how I felt about the job itself.
When the teachers assistant let us in on their secret all but one of us in the class informed her we had actually gotten to like her. She thought that was terrible but funny. One of the girls was very intimidated by her but managed to stay regardless. She was also the only one who cried through the movie about how to cope with sorrow when a patient dies. The rest of us were trying desperately to muffle our laughs at the really old movie with the hilarious lala chorus in the background. It was so awful it was funny.
The most difficult time for me was the class room work and tests. I would take my book home, do the homework, study for the test and make notes and study more on the buss. My sister wouldn’t study till we were on the buss going to school. Then she’d ask me for my notes, read them and get an A. I’d usually get a C.
-HANDS ON TRAINING & BUS ADVENTURES-
We usually took the city bus to school. At first we took it to Down Town SanDiego and walked the rest of the way to the collage. It wasn’t the safest feeling thing to do but it was ok. Then we discovered we could take the bus to the trolly station, transfer onto the trolly and get off right across the street form the school. Once the class finished the class room and lab work we had to take two buses to get to Kearny Mesa for hands on training at the nursing home.
Since it took much longer to get there we had to get up earlier. My family isn’t known for timeliness, actually they are better known for being late. We would row our dingy to a beach near the road, my mom would take the dingy back and my sister and I would walk down a short strip of road and up a small hill to where the buss stop was. We usually did this in a hurry. There was this one day we had started walking on the road and the bus passed us. There were several other folks who would get on the bus so I ran for it. I hadn’t ran in a long time but managed to sprint in record time up the hill. AS I got to the top of the hill I shouted to the last people boarding the bus to have it wait for us. I could tell they tried but the bus driver drove off regardless. My sister had to coach me back into breathing correctly because I had outdone myself and was barley able to suck air in.
We got ourselves together and came up with a plan. The class required so many hours in order to graduate and neither of us wanted to have to go back and make up time so we decided we would walk real fast to the bus stop across town just before the Coronado Bay Bridge. We knew the bus had to go around to North Island so if we were just fast enough we should make it. No matter how tired out we were we walked that mile as fast as we could. We arrived at the bus stop not really knowing if we had made it or not and sat down to breath. Then, the bus went flying by. Boy were we mad! So, we ended up waiting till the next bus came and just hoped that being late wouldn’t kill our hours too much. As it turned out we were fine in the long run. I believe we were only late maybe one or two times more. I can only remember one other time and it was because our bus got in an accident.
(My mom in the dingy.)
The bus rides were actually quite interesting. Not so much the ride there. On the way there the bus from Coronado to Down Town San Diego was nice, clam and quiet. Then we got out and waited for the Kearny Mesa bus at dawn. It might have felt unsafe except there was always a group of Jehovah’s witnesses out witnessing to people and while they would normally seem annoying their presence just made it feel a little safer. Then the Kearny Mesa bus would pick us up. This was the long ride and I usually went to sleep. Sometimes my sister and I would try to take turns on who got to sleep but I think I usually went to sleep anyway. She said one time I fell asleep and leaned my head forward then turned it sideways as if there was an invisible pillow floating there for me to lay my head on. She told me she felt bad for me so she placed her hand there for my head to rest on. Aw, I have a sweet sister! Most the folks on the bus became aware of each others stops and we would wake who ever it was that didn‘t wake and make sure they got off at the right place. Though the seats were hard the ride was quiet and serene and had nice folks aboard. However, the Kearny Mesa bus home was a complete different story.
(Map of Coronado to Kearny Mesa)
-I STILL LOVE COFFEE.-
We would arrive while the morning air was still chilled and wait outside for the nursing home doors to unlock. They served coffee and because it was so darn early and I was working like an adult I took decided I deserved a small styrofoam cup of coffee at the start of my work day. My sister being the big sister she is had a little fit over it and insisted I not drink coffee since I was only 15 and if I didn’t listen she would tell mom and dad. My sister was good at telling on both of us. Normally I did what ever my sister told me to but in this case I drank the coffee regardless and continued to every day before work. She never actually told on me.
We all trained and worked hard at that nursing home. Though it was hard manual work I still found it easier then doing the class book work. Taking pulses and blood pressure was the hardest part. I just was never very good at it. Still when it came time for our review the teachers told me they were very impressed with my work. My sister on the other hand struggled with this part. We always got a kick out of how she could manage the class work but struggled with the manual work while I was just the opposite. Often when folks meet both of us we come off exactly alike. We never looked alike but our mannerisms and the way we talk is the same. They would comment on how alike we were and we’d either tell them or just think, “just wait!”. Sure enough with a little getting to know us they would learn just how opposite we really were. Growing up so close together on the boat and often being each others only friend naturally made us seem so much alike.
-THE BUS RIDE I CAN’T FORGET.-
The trip home on the Kearny Mesa bus was always an event. Soon after we boarded the bus the bus would pick up quite a number of mentally handicap people who were getting off work. They were always lively and something interesting was always going on. Then when we got closer to Downtown and the mentally handicap folks had already gotten off there would be a number of different odd people who would get on the bus and just about anything could happen. We liked the mentally handicap folks much better because although they did odd things most of them were pretty nice and safe to be around. But, the folks who got on after that weren’t always so safe feeling or nice.
There was this one meritorious day that I will never forget. It was on the way home. The bus picked up most of the mentally handicap folks and one of them became particularly loud. He started picking off people who were sitting together and asking very loudly, “YOU LIKE?” over and over while pointing full arm and finger at the folks he was talking at. He would eventually change sets of people and continue the inquisition. Everyone on board tried to sink into their seats and not be noticed and pointed out, me included. But I was pure out of luck that day. He spotted me and the guy I didn’t know sitting next to me and we were questioned over and over again until he had to get off. I couldn’t wait to get on the quiet serene seat cushioned Coronado bus and go home. But, like I said, I was pure out of luck. If my memory serves me right, I believe we missed the bus and had to wait for the next one. It was one of those places where a bunch of buses stop one right after another in just about any order so you try to see what numbers are there so you know wither to go forward or back ward to get your bus and like that day we just didn’t hit it right and it drove off before we could get to her. Once on board we had a sigh of relief as we sank into our somewhat comfortable seats and settled in for the short ride across the bridge. The bus home was normally almost full but everyone was always very quite and polite. This day I had to sit away from my sister on the sideways seats. I sat next to what seemed a normal looking lady until she turned to me and directly in my ear yelled at the top of her voice, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?” And that was the start of it. She yelled in my ear all the way home. The short trip felt like forever. Later that month my sister and I were waiting for the Coronado bus home in the rain when some fellow busers (I may have made that word up.) offered for us to stand under their umbrella with them. While standing there chatting they told me they were on the bus the day the lady screamed at me all the way home and that they had felt very badly for me. We all got a good laugh out of it.
-SOME TEACHERS KNOW HOW TO MAKE AN IMPRESSION.-
When we had been doing the class room work we had two teachers. One told stories a lot and was fun and easy to learn from. The other hardly ever told stories, was monotone and a little grumpy making it difficult to pay attention to her. The one with the stories was really quite exciting. She taught a lot of thing I used in situations other then work, just life situations. Her story relating on how to deal with grief was far better then the silly movie they showed us. She had involved with one of the most notorious plane crashes up to that date. She was one of the people who had to go through and identify body part from the wreckage. She told us how she felt fine, like she was ok. But her husband knew better and insisted she stay in her room and type out what she saw till she broke. And eventually she did. She let us know who important it is to face what you’ve been through instead of burring it even though our mind might try to tell us it’s not necessary. She had also been an ER nurse during the Watts Riots and had stories and examples to use to help us learn and be ready.
I remember this one gross story she told to help us understand why cleaning the patient properly was so very important. She had a patient once who had never had her toes cleaned and when she went to clean them there were worms living in-between her toes. Man, I thought that was just about the grossest thing I had heard. When I got assigned my first patient she was a total care agitated older lady. Thankfully there were no worms between her toes, but, I do believe no one had ever cleaned between her toes. They were full of gunk and wreaked a horrible foul stench that would stick in my nose. It was truly awful. I made sure to clean between her toes everyday and eventually the smell faded and went away.
–NEVER UNDERESTIMATE AN OLD BED RIDDEN LADY.-
That lovely lady also punched me in the face once too. She didn’t like participating in anything even being washed. So when I would wash under her arm she would tense her muscles making it very difficult to pull her arm out so I could wash her. I don’t think it had anything to do with being ticklish because she was like that with everything. This one day while holding her elbow up to wash under her arm she released her arm and that’s how I got punched in the face. I was ok. After the shock of what happened I thought it was funny. I spent a lot of my time there feeding her. She had o teeth and her food was only things that could be swallowed. Still, she insisted on chewing every single bite for a very very long time. Before she became “my” patient the nurse assistants didn’t have time to really feed her. They would stick a bite in her mouth and then go do something else and return from time to time to put another bite in their mouth. So by the time the food was removed she would only have had a few bites. Though this seems awful and in humane they really didn’t have time for her because they had many other patients they needed to care for. This was why when I did graduate I didn’t want to work in a nursing home. I couldn’t stand the idea of not really being able to care for the people I was supposed to care for.
The room mate of “my” patient was a lady who was about to turn 102. She had lovely long white hair and was one of the most aware put together people in that home. She considered her total care agitated neighbor her friend and often prayed for her. Though she wasn’t one of my patients I did help her from time to time and we chatted often. She told me that for her 103’d birthday she wanted to join her husband. From what I heard later on she got her wish.
I also often took care of a lady next door to the one I was assigned to. She was a German lady and only about 40 years old. She had a stroke and lost the use of her left side and her ability to speak English though she could still understand it. She was the most demanding patient on that floor and although she was attended to often you could almost always hear her calling out into the hall for the nurse. Though she was impossible to please I would attend to her when ever I could. Her husband visited her daily and would wheel her outside for a walk. She seemed to adore him. One day while looking for something of hers while getting her ready for her husbands visit I found some lipstick. I asked her if she wanted to wanted to wear it. She brightened up and let me know she did. For a few days I put it on her. She actually seemed nicer after that. Then one day I asked her if she wanted to put it on herself and she did. It was so curious to see that she would only put the lipstick on half her lips, the half she could feel. I would finish it for her of course. Gosh, I was 15 then, now I’, 43 and I think back on how I knew she was considered young, but I had no idea how young.
–NAKED MEN AREN’T A PROBLEM.–
After the nursing home training ended we had a short period of time where we did some Home Health Aid training. My sister and I were assigned to this one company and a particular lady who would take us with her on her patient visits. I do believe this was the first time I ever saw a naked man. I wasn’t concerned about it. I had been cleaning old ladies and when one works in this field they often have to clean men as well. For me it was just a part of the job. I could clean a grown persons fecal matter so really not much else phased me. My sister was almost terrified and tried to protect me by blocking the view which she failed at but I was fine.
-WE DID IT!-
Soon after the HHA training we were individually called in to speak with the two teachers. They told me that from the beginning because of my age they knew I would fail. I had no idea they felt this way because they never once showed it. Then they told me they were very surprised and happy that I actually made it, I passed! Both my sister and I got our CNA/HHA certificates and pins and didn’t have to come back! It was a good day!
-AFTER ALL THAT TROUBLE…-
The biggest insult my sister and I encountered as CNA’s was when someone asked us what a CNA was and a Navy Seal corpsman named Al answered and said in a rather condescending tone that it was the same as a candy striper. I respect what candy stripers do but after such a grueling class it was just a mean insult. We both had a crush on Al up until that point. I’m pretty sure my sister didn’t know this cause I was in the habit of not telling anyone about who I liked. I think Al was trying to impress another girl we were with at our expense. Later he turned out to be a very nice guy.
-MY SISTERS CNA JOB, UNDERPANTS INCLUDED.-
My sister was hired at the Coronado Nursing home and worked there for a year. She was kind enough one day to share her life with us and brought us all home a lovely thing called scabies. Boy was that a nightmare. It took two full applications of Lindane lotion from head to toe to finally get rid of those buggers. It’s the same stuff you use for lice. My mom was allergic to it so she had to use the stuff you use in it’s place. One of the things that made it so difficult was that we had to shower at the public pool and apply the lotion in on e of their cold cement dressing stalls. Thankfully the second application of the lotion worked.
Another thing I remember about my sisters job was when she was pulled aside by her boss and told that the other employees were irritated that she didn’t wear underwear under her uniform. My sister was god-smacked. She always wore underwear. We had been taught that when one wore white you were to wear either white or beige underpants and she just happened to often wear beige ones. I mean, who would want colored or polka dots showing through their white uniform.
My sister didn’t stay longer then a year because of the same reason I refused to work in a nursing home. She was getting in trouble for taking to much time with each patient. She felt wrong just to leave them be when they needed her and go on to the next one. So she let the job go but still had a good reference.
-MY FIRST HHA TYPE JOB-
My mom found me a job though some folks she knew. It was an old German lady who was mostly comatose. Sometimes she would wake and her family would speak to her in German. She lived with her elderly daughter and son-in-law. Her son would often visit. Her daughter was afraid of leaving her alone but desperately needed time to grocery shop and have a few moments to herself. So, my job was to just be there with er so she wouldn’t be alone. I was encouraged to bring reading material which I did. I had just started a Christian mystery novel called The Case Of The Frozen Scream. It didn’t take me long to rethink my reading material choice after getting to the scary part and there I was sitting with a dying woman in a little room with small windows up high near the ceiling. However, my time with her was cut short.
-DEALING WITH DEATH-
After only having that job a few days I called in to let them know I was on the way but would be about five minutes late. The daughters husband answered and was so glad it was me. He told me his wife had taken her mother to the hospital and had been there for a very long time and he was worried that she needed a break and encouraged me to hurry on to the hospital. She was happy to see me and was in need of a dinner break. I sat in the chair by the dying lady and read the six first chapters from the book of John to her from the Bible. Eventually her nurse came in and asked me to feed her so she could attend to other patients. I happily agreed. She showed me how to feed her using a syringe that sucked up the food and then you could gently squeeze it into her mouth. The woman breath was a slow long inhale and exhale and irregular so feeding her was a little tricky because I didn’t want her to choke. I had only been able to give her about two “bites” when her long awaited inhale just didn’t come. I’d never been real confident with my skills at taking people pulse but I gave it a few tries but couldn’t fine one. I believed she had died but as a certified CNA it was made very clear to us that we could never diagnose or we could be sued. So I went out of the room to find her nurse but couldn’t. I finally found some nurses at a near by station and tried to tell them what had happened with out actually saying it. I came out some thing like, “she isn’t breathing like she was before.” The went to check on her then called in the doctor. After the doctor left one of the very curt nurses walked briskly up to me and in a very firm matter of fact tone said, “you know she’s dead don’t ya?” I shook my head yes. Soon the daughter and son came in and went into her room. Either before they walked in or after I let the daughter know I had read the first few chapters of John to her before she passed. I had called my dad to pick me up so when I left he was waiting in the car outside. I felt fine the whole time, a bit awkward, but fine. However once I sat down in the car I began shaking all over. I told him how odd I thought that was and he assured me it wasn’t really odd at all. A few weeks later I was contacted by the lady who hired me and asked to come to her house for tea and to talk about her mom. She had an old odd home right on the bay. The back patio, yard and garden were very lovely and like walking back in time. She had some nice patio furniture and we sat out there drinking tea together. She told me she read the passages I had read to her mom and exclaimed, “that was a lot!” She expressed her gratefulness for me being with her mom so her mom didn’t die alone which was her biggest concern.
-MY SECOND HHA TYPE JOB.-
My next job was for a couple who lived in the Coronado Shores, a high rise condo building that my dad was a graveyard shift doorman for. They had two homes, one in Coronado and I don’t recall where the other one was. The man was from Turkey and was an architect. His work was in the other location but his wife was ill and needed to stay in the warmer climate so he needed someone to stay with her when he was gone. He was very frugal and me being only 15 with out a drivers license and much experience meant he didn’t have to pay me much. He was very uncomfortable to be around but it was fine because when I was there he was gone except for the few minutes when he was on the way out or in. His wife was a rather pleasant person.
(A picture of the Coronado shores building my dad and I worked in taken from our boat.)
I wasn’t very experienced at cooking yet. My cooking experience on the boat was on a two burner propane stove only. Later I would become the families main cook but up till this time I was still sharing the responsibility with my mom and sister. I had either little to no experience with a microwave and I was completely fascinated with it. I was curious and happy to discover they even had recipe book for it too. The lady had a frig full of frozen microwave meals which I thought were great. Later she became a little annoyed that I rarely cooked for her. I’m not sure how I was supposed to do that thought with out a car and money to shop for groceries but such is life.
I was also happy to be able to watch TV late at night after she went to bed. We didn’t have a TV so it was quite fun. I would watch some of the old black and white comedy variety shows and Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd was on then so I got hooked on that too. I sure thought Bruce was cute.
Though I wasn’t hired on as a maid I still had to make sure things were kept nice. The lady I took care of had eagle eyes and could spot a dead moth the same color of the carpet under the shades on the floor. She wouldn’t rest till I could find it and dispose of it or what ever else she may have spotted. As tedious as that was I didn’t mind because mostly I had an easy job.
-THE TROUBLE WITH EXPLOSIONS.-
One day I dressed in my new outfit I was proud to have. It was a pink pair of baggy cotton pants and a matching pink and black striped large blouse. Sound ridiculous now but I thought I looked darn good then. I didn’t get new stuff much so I felt extra good. I wasn’t allowed to wear tight or fitted clothes so I was accustomed to baggy things. I had found a recipe book in the kitchen on how to make deserts and sweets using the microwave. I was excited to give it a try. I had been taught to bake and even make candy but microwaves are or so I thought, a whole different thing. I found a recipe for a sweet I wasn’t familiar with called divinity. It looked scrumptious in the pictures. So, there I was in the kitchen that the man who hired me had designed with a bowel of hot goo in the microwave…that I burned. It was starting to smoke up the kitchen and I knew the lady I took care of would have a big problem with this. After all she was on oxygen. So I immediately tried to stop the smoke by putting the hot bowl of burned goo under the faucet and turning the cold tap on it. Boom! It exploded all over me, all over the walls, all over the counter, there was black goo everywhere and the smoke didn’t get much better. I opened the windows, turned the fan on and heard the lady call from her bedroom and say some thing about the smoke. That’s when the virtual timer started. I had from the time she walked from her bedroom and then down the hall to clean the entire gooey mess. I wish I had a camera recording me back then cause I still can’t figure out how I was able to do it but I did. I finished cleaning the kitchen then shimmed past her with my back to her so she would see the mess on my clothes and into the bathroom to change. We got some extra fans and she never spotted the tiny gray dot I couldn’t get out of the kitchen wall and everything turned out ok. Later my folks told me what my big mistake was so I tried the divinity microwave recipe one more time and it came out ok. Not good, but ok.
-WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST BE FRIENDS.-
There was a big young guy that would come by once a week to replace the oxygen tanks. He seemed like the type that may have been bullied as a kid and looked over. We chat while he changed the tanks and then he’d go. One day he asked me out. I wasn’t real happy about this cause I didn’t like hurting peoples feelings. I let him know I wasn’t interested in going out with him as nice as I could but he took offense and pouted from then on. It made it very awkward when ever he came over. It was because of people like him that I was terrified of ever telling a guy that I liked him. I was sure that if he didn’t like me back I would lose his friendship and I didn’t want that to happen so I always kept it to myself. Some folks may think that was a good thing, but I would disagree. While being shy and quiet may keep one out of trouble at times, it also makes one miss good opportunities and experiences.
My job was only for a few month while the ladies husband had to be away. When he had finished his work and came home as he handed me my last check he told me he thought he paid me to much anyway. That was his goodbye. I couldn’t have had a happier bike ride to where I was meeting up with my folks. Even though the lady was pleasant I was happy to be free from their frustration with me not having a drivers license and the stress of her husband being rather rude. I think really I was quite pinned up way up high in that high rise condo for several days a week. It was just nice to get out and be able to stay out.
I didn’t do anymore CNA/HHA or companion work after that and neither did my sister. But the training wasn’t wasted on us. We both found a lot of use and knowledge from what we learned for everyday life. It served us well when we were missionaries at an orphanage in Mexico and other jobs and situations and especially when we became moms.
Read Full Post »