Hunter’s First Night Shift
My son, Hunter, decided to follow in my footsteps and go to nursing school. I knew I’d love the fact I would finally have someone to talk shop with at home. I didn’t expect his first night shift to answer the question of whether or not I had done with my life what I was supposed to do. Frankly, I didn’t even know I was still asking that question.
Hunter’s living at home and will graduate in a few months. It’s been delightful having him here. He’s the kind of person I categorize as low-need-high-social value. He’s cheerful, rapidly adjusts his expectations to reality, and is insightfully, sarcastically funny. Hunter is not going to take any crap from his patients, but he’ll know which ones need a “No B.S.” approach and which ones will crumble from a no-nonsense approach.
So here it is, deep into nursing school and he is going to “shadow” a nurse for a night shift.
I know all about night shifts.
I’ve been a nurse anesthetist for over 25 years and have worked every variation of hours inside the 24-hour cycle, including 24 straight. It’s a club: those of us who know how to stay up all night, who know that the time to eat or time to sleep is meaningless, who know how to produce even when you’re tired, hungry, thirsty, gotta pee, and the people around you are needy and hurting.
My husband and I have been married over 30 years and have 2 kids: no one else in this house is in the night shift club. I was getting a new member.
It never crossed my mind that his first night shift would be a the-universe-is-unfolding-as-it-should event for me. Hunter was the guy on deck – this was his moment. Indeed, it wasn’t until he was standing in front of me for the obligatory “You’re in the Club” photo that
The universe spoke. To me.
In an unbidden slide show, my 30 plus years of experience literally flashed in staccato images in my mind’s eye. It wasn’t actually frightening, but it was so odd and so intense that if it had lasted longer, it would have been. I literally saw a package of light come in through the back door, dip in and out of me and leave the way it had come. This thing had a purpose, and it was done with me just as quickly as it could be.
I almost asked Hunter if saw it – but somehow I knew this moment was mine. And Hunter had enough going on. Adding crazy mom to the list seemed wrong.
I knew what this package of light was: it was the toil, knowledge, and experience of many who had come before me and now my contributions were in it, too.
And all this time I thought my life’s work was my own.
I got it. I finally understood that even though we feel alone, none of us are. You are connected to people you have never even known existed. We are all in the same club. When your kid is the vehicle by which the universe speaks to you, it’s magic. I don’t see myself standing on a beach and marveling at my smallness in the grand scheme of things again. I will certainly wonder at the grand scheme, but now I know the scheme itself is composed of everybody’s smallness. It’s comforting. I like feeling connected to the past and thinking someone in the future who will never even know I lived will somehow benefit because I did.
As for Hunter and his new career, that’s between him and the universe. I don’t think for one minute my little package of experience went from me to him. In fact, I know it didn’t. I saw it bypass him when it left.
The universe is so big, who knows where it was headed …