High school was a never ending source of fear for me. My favorite classes caused panic attacks so harsh that I thought my heart would explode. I broke out in hives every time a teacher asked me a question – even though it was rare that I didn’t have the answer. I had great friends (some even from elementary school) that I silently questioned if they really liked me. I didn’t smoke. I did no drugs. I didn’t drink, save for some beer sneaking with Janis or Debi or Kathy. I wondered how I fit in with other students. When the school day ended, most days I was off to the hospital to work as a nurse’s aide. There I was confident and never questioned my decisions. I took pride in my work with patients. I wanted their rooms to be the neatest and their water carafes always filled with fresh ice water and their nightly back rubs amazingly soothing. Because of that, charge nurses wanted their nightly staff to include me. The Sisters of St. Mary’s loved me. The doctors respected me. The kids from high school that also worked as nurse’s aides and orderlies counted on me. Even though these were some of the kids I could not muster the courage to “befriend” in the school hallway, working at the hospital was a completely different scenario. We took breaks together, sometimes sneaking through the boiler room up to the roof four stories above the city. The fresh crisp air regenerating us as we ate our brown bag dinners and, after thirty minutes seeming like a hundred, we were always ready to get back to work and care for our patients. St. Mary’s Hospital was our own little world; separate and far apart from the world of clics and classes and who had the best hair and the nicest clothes. Nurse’s aides wore their hair up or very short and topped with the powder blue cap to distinguish aides from nurses. White uniform dresses (no cutesy scrubs back then), no pant uniforms; name tag over the left breast; white hosiery and white nurse shoes rounded out the approved attire. Same for orderlies with white scrub top, white pants (not jeans) white socks and white shoes. Probably had tidy whiteys too, but I had no personal knowledge of that. Now I completely understand the modern day school uniform policies. Employees should work as a team. Students should learn as a team. Even families should stay together as a team. Right, well more on that later.
During those three years, (in the 60’s, high schools consisted of Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Freshmen were the head honchos at junior high schools.) Bob and I drifted in and out of each other’s lives. When he would appear during my study hall hour and walked right in to talk to me, I was floored. I was also thrilled, but I never understood the audacity to just do that. Hell, I was terrified to ask to go to the bathroom! I admired his guts and I marveled how just hearing his voice, put me smack in the middle of a black and white movie with the disheveled hair and cowboy boots bad guy wooing the properly attired and properly uncertain girl. I loved every moment of it. My boyfriend at the time would look confused as Bob led me out of the class so we could talk outdoors. All the while, the boyfriend would obligingly correct my geometry assignment until I returned. What a guy!
Towards the end of my Senior year, I was hospitalized for two weeks. Two very critical weeks for seniors with finals and graduation rehearsals. I had decided that at 124 pounds, I was fat. And I did not want to be fat at Graduation – like anyone would notice under those huge billowy gowns anyway. I wanted to be 100 pounds exactly and stay that weight for the rest of my life. I was wearing a size 7 and wanted to wear a 5 or even a 3. I decided to put myself on a liquid diet. Working at a hospital, that was easy to do with all of the jello and broth that was available. For the first two weeks, I only sipped broth, jello water, and ice chips. Around the third week, my stomach could only tolerate the ice chips. I was just at 105 pounds when I passed out in a patients room while at work. I could hear the patient calling for a nurse but could not open my eyes or move my limbs. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital bed on 2W. Wait a minute – that is where they had the mental patients and the lock up ward. I soon learned that I suffered a major concussion due to the fall, but my dad’s friend and doctor was sure that I passed out due to drug usage. It was such a ridiculous observation that I did not even bother to respond; assuming that my parents would find it equally ridiculous. They did not. I was flabbergasted that my own parents thought I was taking drugs. Hurt and betrayal do not begin to scratch the surface of how I felt. My parents thought I was using drugs. Me. ME! I was embarrassed by the truth of why I had passed out that night and decided to finally release that tidbit to mom and dad. They thought I was making it up to cover for the drug usage. I was shattered. This would just be the first time my own doctor would forget his oath of “First, do no Harm”.
The only thing that kept me going was visiting hours and seeing my friends. Marla would visit with pizza in hand and gossip from school. Judy would stop by on every break and dinner hour to check on me. Every evening was friends and laughter. The Sisters passing by would give us the “nun look” to quiet us down. I was expecting Bob to show up every day of the two weeks, but he did not. Years later he would tell me how he would get to the door of my room, and I would have someone else visiting, so he would leave. Each day I would awake with the same expectation dashed by the end of visiting hours.
On a lighter note, St. Mary’s had recently employed the dreamiest male nurse assigned to 2W, and I had no problem feigning lightheadedness in order to be scooped up in his arms and carried back to my bed. If there were a television show titled Gdovin’s Anatomy airing on ABC on Thursday nights, there would be no doubt who would be cast as Nurse McDreamy. He was a caring and dedicated nurse and spent several minutes after each episode stroking my head and taking my vitals to assure I was going to be fine. While he never seemed to catch on, the old lady in the other bed did. She once commented how she wished that she was able to get out of bed and feel faint so he could carry her back to bed. She made the comment and ended with a wink. I could feel the dark red creeping from my toes to my face. The jig was up. Damn the observant old lady!
Upon my release from the hospital, I was under doctor’s orders to remain at home for the following two weeks, where I did my homework, sun bathed (had to keep my tan strong) and prepared for Graduation. Graduation Day was my swan song to Grand Junction High School. I had a sweet new dress for my now getting back to normal size 7 body, relatives had come in to celebrate, and Jimmy, a long time neighbor and classmate presented me with a white rose for the occasion. I felt like royalty and relished every minute.
It was the end of childhood and I was ready for the world.