I want to tell you about The Boss. It’s hard to know where to begin, unless it is in the airport looking for my sister. We’d both purchased tickets to Florida the night before, a one-way ticket for me and a round trip for 5 days for her. This sudden need for sunshine had less to do with sunshine (because frankly, it hasn’t been what you’d call warm in the sunshine state) and was more a direct consequence of a seizure my mother had earlier in the day.
The Boss was one of the first people we met at the hospital – a tall woman with a pragmatic, not-to-be-obstructed kind of approach. She was mom’s nurse technician for the day and she kept things in order with a general’s fortitude and the efficiency of conviction.
But that wasn’t all.
She danced with my mom. On the way to the commode, but they danced. And my mom smiled at her with the purity of a child who has just pleased someone in authority.
She prayed with my mom. My mom on the commode and unraveling because of the sense of shame associated with her loss of control, The Boss prayed with her. Nothing fancy. No big words or high concepts. The kind of prayer you pray when things are ugly and you’ve got nowhere to look but up.
Over the past 10 days, each day bringing a new loss for mom, a new insult to mom’s dignity, The Boss has defended her like this was her own mother. Fussed at me when she was up without socks, bathed her when she lost the ability to do that herself, always pragmatic, always on top of things, always with a kind of muscular kindness that doesn’t tolerate any less than the right thing at the right time.
In the end, and we are at the end, the doctors have been lovely. The nurses have been kind and capable. But it is The Boss that will have been the difference in giving my mother something to smile about at her most vulnerable. It is The Boss that I will hang onto as a long-lost family member and someone to live up to.
Don’t look above you for examples of who to be. Look around. They don’t put these people on TV or in the movies. They don’t show up at the front of an arena with a band behind them and screaming fans. They put them in hospitals and schools and in daycare facilities. If you want to figure out who to be when you grow up, find someone like The Boss. And hope that they like you enough to let you stay for a while. Because it’s been nothing less than a privilege to have her with us.