The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day.
Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z.
A: Aunt Anna’s Apartments
Aunt Anna lived in an apartment above a florist shop in Linden, New Jersey. She didn’t drive but she could walk along Wood Street where Mom and Pop stores lined the road. Once, inside a large Polish deli where ropes of sausage hung on hooks from the ceiling, Aunt Anna insisted on buying smoked garlic Kielbasa for me to bring home to my Polish mother.
When she moved to Carteret, she lost the vibrant neighborhood. But she also lost the long staircase she had to climb up to the second floor, the traffic noise from the street and isolation from her neighbors.
What she gained was a sun-lit, ground level one-bedroom apartment, closer to her grandchildren and great grandchildren, a quiet neighborhood with a front porch she shared with a woman who lived next door—a new friend.
Aunt Anna, my Italian father’s sister, was the second youngest and now the only sibling still alive among her five brothers and five sisters. When I last visited, she was in her late 80’s, twenty years older than I. We laughed together as if contemporaries. Opening the bottle of Chianti I had brought, we played Mob Hits CD’s and shared a bag of potato chips. My husband never could understand how I craved potato chips with fine wine. “It’s in the genes,” I would tell him.
Aunt Anna and I sipped our wine, sitting side by side on the sofa, listening to the Italian songs from my childhood. As the music played, nostalgia filled us with sadness for family members who had long since died.
Living in North Carolina, I planned another trip to New Jersey in a couple of years. I never made that trip. Aunt Anna died suddenly.
What would I have done differently knowing on that last visit I would never see her again? Wine and potato chips, Italian music and reliving memories—not a thing.
Olden Days of Nursing: A Pioneer of the Past Spurs Others Forward
by Guest Blogger: Cynthia Freund
I talked with Marianna the other day about the book I’m writing (more about that later). She referred me to a post on her blog from a couple of months ago, a post describing the olden days of nursing. She added that she had some very positive responses to that post—and then she put the question to me, “Would you be interested in writing something about the olden days for my Blog?” I obviously fit the age criterion.
I read the post of August 4, 2020, Olden Days of Nursing: Dialysis, about a nurse working in the days when kidney dialysis first became available, the beginning of the 1960s. I know Marianna was asking me to write something about my own early experiences in nursing, and I may do that yet. But this particular post made me think of a dear friend who died a year ago, one-month shy of her 95th birthday. She, too, started one of the early kidney dialysis units, but this time at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
In this millennial year of the nurse, I want to pay tribute to Audrey Booth, both a typical and unusual nurse—a pioneer in many ways.
From the dust bowl of Nebraska, Audrey, a curly-haired blonde, climbed on a horse twice her height to ride to-and-from a one-room country schoolhouse and onto become the Associate Dean at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.
The interval between that Nebraska farm and UNC took her to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, where she earned a master’s degree in nursing. She became an expert in the care of polio patients during the height of the epidemic in the 50s, including caring for kids in iron lungs. That expertise brought her to Hawaii and Guam, and also transported her back to the mainland and the University of North Carolina (UNC). After the polio epidemic, she focused on kidney disease and, in the 60s became a leader in opening the new hemodialysis unit at the VA hospital in Durham—one of the very early dialysis units in the US.
Looking for new hurdles to jump, she joined a small select group planning the nurse practitioner program at UNC. And then, when the North Carolina Area Health Education Center Program started in the mid-70s, Audrey became the Director of Statewide Nursing Activities. (AHECs, as they are called, were designed to be centers of education and innovation, serving as magnets to attract health professionals to rural and underserved areas.) She became an Associate Dean in the School of Nursing in 1984—while continuing with all of her duties as AHEC Director.
Throughout her career, the essence of Audrey was as a leader, a role model and a mentor. She led and taught many nurses, usually just by example. She was not well-known nationally, but she was known by hundreds of nurses—and other health professionals—in North Carolina. Many of us attribute our professional success to her leadership and guidance.
And, as a matter of fact, it was Audrey who suggested to me that we interview the founders and influential promoters of the nurse practitioner movement in N.C. UNC started one of the very early family nurse practitioner programs. It was quite unique in its alliance with those starting a statewide AHEC Program and a Rural Health Program—a collaborative effort involving many. Audrey, and I, were involved in that pioneering effort. So, we conducted the interviews, but Audrey left the book-writing to me.
I am about to finish that book, titled: Nurse Practitioners in North Carolina: Their Beginnings in Story and Memoir.It will be in print in the spring of 2021—and will feature many other nursing stars of the olden days of nursing.
Audrey’s spurring me on to write this book is a perfect example of how Audrey led others—encouraging them to greater endeavors. Plain and simple: Audrey was an influencer, on a grand scale and with each individual. She was a mentor in the truest sense of that word. She was a strong voice for nursing and a strong model for women when women were still fighting for their due recognition. We indeed should celebrate all such nurses, just as the World Health Organization has done, declaring 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
Dean Emerita Cynthia Freund, MSN ’73, and Associate Dean Emerita Audrey Booth, MSN ’57, were awarded the highest honor of the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) when they were inducted into the NCNA Hall of Fame on Thursday October 9, 2014. Nurses chosen for the Hall of Fame are recognized for their extensive history of nursing leadership and achievements in North Carolina.
Cynthia “Cindy” Freund, RN, PhD, worked for eight years with the newly developed Family Nurse Practitioner Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 70s. She then went to the University of Pennsylvania to start a joint program (MBA/PhD) between the School of Nursing and The Wharton School. She returned to UNC-CH and retired after serving 10 years as Dean of the School of Nursing. To her, retirement means “working without pay.” In her retirement, she worked on her book: Nurse Practitioners in North Carolina: Their Beginnings in Story and Memoir, to be published in Spring 2021.
In blue scrubs and a floral fanny pack, UNC nurse Grace Cindric has become the hero we need right now.
In late March, News & Observer photographer Robert Willett snapped a photo of Cindric screening visitors heading into the UNC Medical Center Emergency Department, separating those complaining of coronavirus-related symptoms and everyone else.
In the photo, there’s a swagger in Cindric’s stride, a steely resolve in her sunglasses and respirator mask. In a sleeve of tattoos, there’s a friendly-looking panda staring out from her arm.
“I woke up the next morning, and it was everywhere,” Cindric said. “I first heard from my friend who posted it on Reddit; they said, ‘Fair warning, this got bigger than I expected. … You’re a meme now.’”
Since it was published, the photo has made the rounds on Reddit and Twitter, inspiring dozens of Photoshopped images depicting Cindric in heroic poses. In one a red cape billows behind her, in another she appears on the cover of a fictional video game called COVID-19.
“It was very strange at first. I was like ‘This is too much attention,’” Cindric said. “But I’ve accepted it, and I’m just rolling with it.”
A SYMBOL FOR OUR TIMES
She is the Badass Nurse. A meme, yes, but also a symbol, a face of the nurses and doctors fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. As coronavirus cases mount in North Carolina and across the nation, as citizens panic-buy groceries and avoid their neighbors, Cindric wears scrubs like body armor, with a walkie-talkie on her belt.
To many commenting on the photo online, Cindric represents the heroism of medical professionals putting themselves between the public and the pandemic.
“I think it represents something bigger,” Cindric said. “It’s good that people are starting to see doctors and nurses out here in the middle of everything, doing this work. It’s a fun picture, it’s not terribly serious, but it represents what we’re doing. We’re all putting ourselves in harm’s way to stop this.”
Battling a pandemic is not exactly what Cindric imagined nursing would be like. The UNC-Greensboro grad has been a nurse for four years, the last two spent in UNC’s emergency room. She said she got into nursing to help the community and jumped in the emergency room for its variety.
“As an emergency room nurse, you’ve signed up to do anything,” Cindric said. “The task changes all the time, you never know what you’re walking into. … It’s a little bit of everything, and you have to kind of be a jack of all trades.”
‘COMMUNITY RALLYING BEHIND US’
Cindric said the coronavirus outbreak has escalated everything, that guidelines and roles are constantly changing, that the job she thought she knew feels like it changes by the hour. But she said she feels the community supporting their work, that people send meals and well wishes.
With the photo, Cindric said she’s feeling love and support flowing in from around the world.
“We feel the community rallying behind us,” Cindric said. “We knew the work we’re doing was important before, but we feel the respect from the community. They bring us food and send us messages. The outpouring really makes you appreciate the work you’re doing.”
The policewoman at the Motor Vehicle Agency said she would make me look great. She must have read my mind. I was sick of having a drab face looking back at me whenever I took out my North Carolina Drivers License. Earlier that morning I had rummaged through a motley assortment of make-up supplies in my bathroom. After I applied blush, eye shadow, mascara and a bright pink lipstick, I left the house with a blue blouse and my best earrings. I was 70 years old, and I didn’t want to look it.
The motor vehicle agency near my home wasn’t busy. After I took the driver’s exam and vision test, the policewoman, short, thin and intense, lead me to a cubby in the corner of the room with a blue curtain covering the wall behind a chair. “Okay,” she said. “Sit up straight, shoulders back, big smile. I’m going to make you look great.” Had I wandered into a professional’s photography studio by mistake? She fussed at me like she had every intention of keeping her word.
I sat long minutes on a metal folding chair before the policewoman handed me my new driver’s license. In the picture my eyes were open and I had a sweet expression on my face. I did look great.
Like my husband, Ernie, always said, timing is life is everything. I wanted a good picture and here was a woman on duty that day just waiting for me to walk through the door.
“You did a wonderful job,” I told her.
As I ambled out, she called after me, “Keep all your drivers’ licenses so you can document the aging process.”
That did it. I would get older and my pictures would all be downhill from there. I decided to be proactive. Off I drove to the mall and marched into Macy’s cosmetic section where I balanced on a high stool while a pretty blond young lady slathered various liquids, pastes and powders on my cheeks, eyes and lips. Her enthusiasm and positive comments about my “good” skin soften me to buy a number of products that fit into a 3 by 5-inch cosmetic bag at a cost well over a $100. Not to worry, my husband would be appeased when he saw how beautiful I looked.
When I came home, Ernie was busy in the kitchen. He turned and looked at me. Nothing. Later we sat out on the screen-porch enjoying a glass of wine before dinner. His glance took me in. I was certain that my bright eyes, now lined with #10 dark chocolate eye liner and black lash doubling mascara would knock him off his wicker chair. Nothing. I put on the overhead light. “It’s a bit dim in here,” I said bending toward him, my face close to his. Nothing.
Finally, after we discussed various topics of mutual interest without so much as a raised eyebrow from the man, I said, “Don’t you notice anything new about me?” I smiled with #303 crystal pink lips outlined with #105 plush pink. Ernie’s face paled. He knew the ultimate test of a husband’s true love for his wife was his ability to detect what was different about her. Ernie stopped short of breaking into a sweat as he scanned me: feet to the top of my head.
“New sandals,” he said.
“No, I’ve had these for years.” I could almost see his brain shift to high gear.
“You have a new top?”
I decided to put him out of his misery. “I had a full make-up application. Can’t you see how beautiful I am?”
Without missing a beat, this seasoned husband of 40 years said, “But you always look so beautiful.”
I smiled at his response. Then I told him how much I paid for the cosmetics.
I made an ageist comment. It didn’t seem ageist at the time. I was sitting in the second row of a packed room at Flyleaf Bookstore in Chapel Hill as Pat Schneider finished reading from her new book, How The Light Gets In.
I came to hear Pat for two reasons. One, I wanted to see the woman who developed the Amherst Writers and Artist (AWA) writing method. And, second, I wanted to see a fellow writer that was still prolific going into her ninth decade and had the stamina to go on a book-tour at six sites across North Carolina in seven days.
Maybe it was the interview I had heard a few years ago, which had taken residence in my memory that influenced my comment. A local author discussed her new book on a radio talk show. When asked her age, she said she never tells because she would have problems getting published. She believed there was a great deal of prejudice toward seniors in our society. Well, what of it, I thought at the time. She was already published. Why hide her age? She didn’t look like a 20-something on her book jacket. Telling her age would only prove older writers do get published.
So that evening at Flyleaf Bookstore, when Pat Schneider acknowledged she would be 80 years old on her next birthday, I raised my hand and congratulated her for acknowledging her age in front of this audience. How smugly self-satisfied I felt to call attention to that fact.
It was only later that I wondered why I felt the need to recognize Pat’s age? The audience consisted of people of all ages. Did the 20 or 30 year olds come to see what an 80 year old author looked like? No, they came to celebrate her new book, her legacy of great writing in various genres, and to affirm her talent.
And there I was, calling attention to age as if being an older author on a book-signing tour was in some way unique. After all, I know first hand what older folks are capable of from my many years in practice as a gerontological nurse practitioner.
Had I forgotten that the three other women in my writing group were in their 70’s, the same as I, and we all are writing memoirs. One had already published a book and was working on her second, and three of us have Blogs.
And what about Greta Matus, who was 74 when I meet her this past July. She mesmerized me with tales of her exciting life. I told her about my Blog and within a week she emailed me that she had begun a Blog. “I consider my Blog stories part of a memoir, or memories. That’s the incentive for me, looking back at the stories of my life and remembering them in detail. I’m not looking back because my life is winding down, hardly, but because life changes all the time, and so rapidly, that grabbing and capturing highlights seem important.
And, sharing stories is a good thing to do.”
I came across Emile Betts who wrote her first book at 80 and is working on a second book: a novel. Then there’s Jim Henry who wrote his story while in his 90s. I had forgotten that I had written about him in one of my earliest posts.
So since I heard that local writer a few years ago citing prejudice, it seems there is evidence this is abating. More and more “older” writers are sharing their stories to a welcoming audience. I need to remember age is not a barrier to accomplishment. So whatever age I will be when my book is finally written and published, I know I will be in good company.