“Oof! Still engaged.” Jenny sighed and rubbed her burning eyes. She stood up, stretched her thin frame and forced herself to concentrate on the medications she had to administer.
“Why don’t they answer those buzzers?” she muttered while ticking the air out of a syringe.
She berated herself for taking on the extra shift and decided it was time she learned to say no. Her empty stomach grumbled, but worrying about her father took away her appetite.
“Judy! Mrs. Werner’s blood pressure’s dropping.” The student nurse’s panicked voice interrupted Judy’s thoughts.
One look at the gray face of the post-operative patient was enough to feel panic rising in her throat. The woman’s breathing was shallow and her skin felt clammy.
“Fast-bleep the surgeon, Viva! You’ll find the number on the bulletin board.” Judy’s voice was steady, but she was trembling inside.
Quickly she drew the curtains around the bed and felt the crushing weight of responsibility on her shoulders.
Judy patted the patient’s trembling hand. “Everything will be all right. Don’t worry.” Please God!
She increased the flow of the intravenous infusion line.
“He’s on his way.” Viva stuck her head through the curtains, her voice bright with relief.
While the patient underwent emergency surgery, Judy was running to and fro, trying to cover all bases at once.
Finally able to sit down and write her reports, Judy tried her father’s number again. Too-too-toot. She smashed the receiver down.
“Fighting with your boyfriend?” The grinning surgeon entered the nurses’ station.
She felt her face flame. “No doctor. Oh! How’s Mrs. Werner?”
He told her they had stopped the bleeding and would keep her overnight in ICU.
It was 11 p.m. Finally.
Judy reported about the patients to the night shift and hurried to her bicycle parked on the hospital grounds.
She shivered when the cold night air penetrated her thin coat. Slowly she pedaled through the quiet streets.
When she entered the house she grew up in, fatigue had dulled the usual trepidation. Her alcoholic father suffered from Liver Cirrhosis and at times could be very volatile. She found him snoring on the couch. Carefully she put the receiver back.
Judy shook her head and sadly looked at the untouched meals in the fridge.
“Such a mess!” She picked up the trash-can.
“What are you doing here?”
Her father’s angry voice made her jump. The overflowing, pungent basket spilled its contents, exposing several whiskey bottles.
“Daddy! You know you shouldn’t drink. You’ll kill yourself.” The moment the words left her mouth she knew she was in trouble.
“You’re telling me?” her father roared and glared at her through bloodshot eyes. The growling mouth with the yellow teeth and his oily, unkempt hair gave him the appearance of a horror-movie figure.
Judy couldn’t move. “I tried to call you.” Fear constricted her voice.
The first punch caught her on the cheekbone and the second sent her to the floor. She curled up, trying to protect her face.
“Oh my God!” Instantly sober, he sank to the floor. “I didn’t mean to. O, why didn’t you die instead of your mother?” He wailed. “I can’t live without her.”
The righteous anger that rose up in Judy banished the fear and pain. She stood up and looked down at her father who struggled to get up from the floor.
“Help me!” He held out his trembling hand.
“I won’t. Not anymore.” A shivering sob escaped. “I’ve tried; for so many years. You know Dad, I’m fed up with your egocentric behavior. Tomorrow you better listen to your social worker. I won’t set foot in this house anymore. Good-bye!”
Assaulted by guilt, Judy hardly slept that night.
Her head throbbed when she reported for duty, but instead was sent to the Radiology department. X-rays didn’t reveal any damage, but the personnel doctor ordered a week of rest.
“Nurse Judy,” the head nurse snapped. “I’ve heard about your father’s problems, but this has gone too far. I cannot condone that my deputy is attacked by a family member!” The kind eyes didn’t match her stern exterior.
“Deputy?” Judy croaked.
“Yes. I want to promote you. Now go home girl, rest and think about it.”
Judy had just reached her floor in the nurses’ flat when the hall-way telephone rang. Not in the mood to answer, she went to her room. When it kept on ringing, she finally answered it.
“Your father consented to move into the hospice,” the social worker informed her.
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