I Remember Pauline

I

In 1963, I was nineteen and beginning to show some of the symptoms of, what I call, Childhood Trauma-Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (wow, a long title there). However, in retrospect, I am unable to give it any other name. It is, what it was and came at a very terrible cost.

I did not drink, nor do drugs back then, nor did I act out other than being very insecure, sensitive and lonely, those showed, at least to people who cared which excludes my family.

I met Pauline when I started working as a kitchen helper at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Minneapolis, MN, where was the Dining Room supervisor, aka my boss. Almost from the first day, it seemed as though she hated me for some odd reason. It seemed, at least to me that I was her private punching bag when things went wrong. The dishes were not done correctly; I was using too many eggs, I was not overseeing the diet line, I missed a zillions spots on the dining room floor, and my hair was too long. You cannot believe how much I hated that woman. I wanted to kick her ass from one end of the hospital grounds to the other and back again.

Then one day, she assigned me to work in the small kitchenette on the 5th floor of the hospital. It was a room about twelve by twenty feet with a steam table serving line and small tables. I thought it was pretty cool, but I was a bit naïve; it was in the psychiatric ward, so I was a bit nervous. Fortunately, patients were not allowed in without the nursing staff, or so I was told.

            At noon, a sous chef would come up to help swerve, then leave when at one when the kitchenette was supposed to close. On this day, we only had four or five patients who were in and out fast, so we finished early. As I was cleaning up, a patient walked in with a bizarre look on his face. He stood in front of me and looking right into my face and said: “Do you know the president was shot?”

            The first thought that came to mind was, is he was going to tell me about President Lincoln? I did not need that, so I told him he had to leave, but of course, he was not about to leave; he took a chair by the window and started crying.

            Not wanting to upset him more, I quietly grabbed up all the sharp knives and slipped out the employee door only to find a woman in white, kneeling in the middle of the hallway. Now, since this was a men’s ward floor, I was now starting to get a little more nervous.

            I edged my way past this woman, and ran, not walked down the hall to the locked nurse’s station where a nurse (female) was sitting at the desk crying. As I attempted to tell her about the patient in the cafeteria, and the woman on the floor, she blurted out, “They killed the President.”

            Remember now, even though I had pretty much been on my own since age fifteen, and often neglected before that, I was still naïve in many ways. OK, I am lying, I was scared shitless.

            I ran back to the cafeteria to find the patient had left, so I quickly locked all the doors and ran down the back stairway to the main kitchen and dining room. You will never guess what I found there!

            I found more people crying and telling me the President has been shot and killed.

            Luckily for me, Pauline, the woman I whom I had thought hated me, stopped me, took me in her arms and hugged me.

            “It is going to be all right, baby.” She said, and she wiped away the tears I do not remember shedding.

            She held me close, as though I were her child; telling me that things I would be safe with her.

            After I had calmed down, she told me to go to the locker room, get into my street clothes and meet her out by the employee entrance.

            When I got there, she, and her husband were waiting for me. They took me to a local café where we had some coffee and watched the news. After about an hour, they took me home to the room I rented. Pauline gave me her phone number and told me to call her if I did not want to be alone.

            From that day, until I quit the hospital a year later, Pauline remained the tough, demanding boss. She made me do things over until I did them right. She made me admit my mistakes and make them right. She showed me color and gender make no difference in real friendship. To this day, I cannot help but wonder if, when she died, did she meet Nana and Henry, my best friend in elementary in heaven; they were so much alike.

Rest in Peace, President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1917 to 12:30 PM, November 22, 1963

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