Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tears Make Rainbows in your Soul

I am not even sure that I remember how to do this blog thing.  It has been so long.

I last wrote in October of 2018.

Bernie & I had just moved to Portland.  We were living with our son and his then wife and our beautiful grandchildren, Sullivan Bernard and Cassidy Rae.  Oh, and Baxter, the dog.  And tons of chickens.

Our first 2 houses fell through.  That was difficult.  But, looking back, I am so glad they did.  The house that we ended up in in Beaverton is EXACTLY what we wanted.  God was watching over us along the way.

We moved into our home right before Christmas 2018. 

At that time, Bernie was still working nights at Providence East Portland.  The commute from our new home was ONLY 1 hour vs. the 90 minutes it took him to get to work from Kevin's home in Hillsboro.  Life was pretty good.  However, Bernie's real desire was to find employment at St. Vincent's Hospital in Beaverton.  The commute would only be 10 minutes each way.  In March, he was accepted to join a new unit there.  It was a step-down from ICU.  There would be weeks and weeks of training and learning new things.  For 12 years, Bernie had been a cardiac nurse.  Now, he would be expanding his field to whatever patient came from the ICU to the IMCU.  From the start, something was wrong.  He was not eating.  I would make him breakfast, and he'd take a couple bites.  He usually brought home most of his lunch, uneaten.  As soon as he finished trying to eat dinner, he would hit the computer and study till he went to bed.  The next morning, the routine began again.  This went on for 2 months.  I was worried about him.  On May 2, 2019, our 38th wedding anniversary, I came home from a meeting to find him just standing in the garage, staring.  He had worked with a new mentor that day and she called into question the order in which he visited his patients at the beginning of shift.  After his shift was over, the charge spoke to him about the way he prioritized his patients that day.  He vehemently defended why he chose to see whom when.  It was not a big thing.  The charge just wanted to discuss it with him.  By the time he got home, during that 10 minute drive, he had lost all confidence in his ability to function as an effective nurse any longer.  He was overwhelmed.   There was no anniversary celebration that night. 
The next day, I suggested that we go somewhere for a walk.  It was a beautiful day.  We walked through beautiful forests and wetlands.  School children, out on outings, passed us on the trails.  All the while, Bernie's eyes were on the ground, his hands in his pockets.  I wanted to shout:  LOOK UP!  See the beautiful trees?  Hear the birds?  But, something kept me from doing that.  At the end of our walk, his charge nurse called and they talked for a long time.  I went walking on my own while they spoke.  Whenever I was within hearing range, I would hear Bernie again trying to explain why he chose to treat his patients the previous day in the order that he did.  His charge was very kind, but didn't back down a bit.   It was Friday.  Bernie had invited a co-worker from Providence East Portland over for dinner that night.  He was in no shape to entertain, but he tried.  Houston was a real friend, understanding, offering support where he thought appropriate.
Bernie went in the following week and informed the charge that he would not be returning to that unit.  She told him to look into taking medical leave, which he did.  The following weekend, I booked an Airbnb in Rockaway.  I thought some beach time would really help him.  I invited Kevin & the kids to come down, too.  I will just say that it was the saddest weekends of my life with Bernie.
His condition would be a classic catatonic state.  He could not enjoy the ocean.  He could barely get out of bed.  What had happened to this man of mine?  What had happened to the guy with the endless quips and deadly sense of humor?  How was I going to get him back?  Kevin and the kids went home on Sunday morning, and Bernie & I stayed one more night.  I packed us up as he wandered around aimlessly.  My heart hurt, but I loved him so much.  What was I going to do?
Kevin, who, at the time was seeing a counselor of his own, really, really encouraged Bernie to find a counselor.  It took a few days, but he got in to see Dr. Brunstein fairly quickly.  The first few visits were pretty uneventful.  Bernie was just telling him about his childhood and our life.  He filled him in on our years in the cult. 
One of the issues that Bernie discussed with Dr. Brunstein was something at work called "competencies".  There were 25 -30 areas in which each nurse was supposed to show their manager that they were COMPETENT in these areas.  Bernie took it very seriously.  Periodically, the unit manager would ask him how he was coming with his competencies.  He had, by this time, maybe got ONE checked off by his manager.  First of all, he was busy taking care of his patients.  Secondly, when he did have his manager observe, he said she took about 90  minutes to do it, because she wanted to go through everything and not just observe him doing it for her.  That was discouraging.  He asked his friend, Houston, if he had completed his competency check list.  Houston had been there for about 18 months.  He laughed and told Bernie that he had just taken them home and thrown them under his bed. 
After one session with Dr. Brunstein, Bernie came home just a little annoyed and said that the Doctor was trying to tie all this into his past with the cult, and Bernie thought that was ridiculous.  I suggested that he not push back, but go with it.  So, the next week, he and the Doctor pursued this avenue.  After much discussion, Bernie discovered that because of how we were taught that everything we did had to be 100% perfect, he had applied that to this list of competencies in his adult life.  Sounds insane, doesn't it?  And yet, it was very real for him.
And, so the months wore on.  Bernie was on medical leave from May through August.  I can't tell you how many days there were that he could not even get out of bed.  He kept the shades drawn in our room, and a pillow over his head.  I could not do anything for him - except be there.  On Memorial Day weekend, I bought him some plants and bushes, knowing how he loves to work in the yard.  When I brought them home, he was very sad.  I couldn't understand it.  He loved working in the yard.  He told me weeks later, that when he looked at them all he saw was WORK and he had no energy to take care of them.  Eventually, they got planted.  Every single one of them will always remind me of this time that we came through - together.  
Bernie continued to see his counselor over the next several months.  His other Doctor tried various medications with him.  None of them helped.  He was jittery, anxious, void of any energy or direction.  Finally, in December, he was able to see a psychiatrist.  She tried a few different medications, and they have worked well.
In late summer, Bernie decided that he would start looking for work again.  He was feeling a bit better and was not ready to quit nursing yet.  And still, he questioned his abilities as a nurse.  He put out dozens of resumes and endured some pretty awful interviews on the phone.  Imagine how hard it was to watch this man, a brilliant cardiac nurse, endure rejection after rejection after rejection.  Each time, he would try to be positive.  It just made me so sad.
Without dragging this on too long, I am happy to tell you that he applied for and has been hired as a cardiac nurse in Tuality Hospital - the same hospital where Sully and Cassidy were born.  The commute is about 20 minutes each way.  But, the best thing is that he is finding his purpose again.  He is so excited to begin this next chapter in his career.    March 9th is his starting date.
We should never underestimate what stress can do to our lives.  This move to Portland was a BIG thing.  Bernie had been happy and in his job for 12 years at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane.  Life was really, really good.  The years went by, but he didn't really notice that whole aging thing, because life just WAS.  The newness of Portland brought that state of zen to a screeching halt! 
*Big city  "I hate big cities."
*Traffic  "I hate the traffic."
I sit here in Rockaway Beach today, February 25, 2020.  I ponder the things that have taken place since my post of October, 2018:
We moved into our beautiful little home in Beaverton.  Christmas.  Early 2019, the extreme, gut-wrenching heart ache of our daughter in law choosing to end her marriage to our son, Kevin.  My heart screamed:  WHY DID WE MOVE HERE?  WHY DID WE DISRUPT OUR COZY LIFE?  When I saw the pain my son went through, is still going through, the answer is clear:  God put us here for him and those 2 beautiful children of his.  And, our son was here for his Dad during Bernie's time of crises.  Family.  All of our family has just been amazing through all of this.  When his brothers heard of Kevin's situation, they were both here immediately in support of him.  It was beautiful.  We raised good sons. 
For those of you that have been with me through the past year, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your love and support.  I have felt it.  I don't know how I could have done this without you.  I love you all.


  1. Beautifully, beautifully said and so from your heart. You and Bernie are an amazing couple and you are so blessed to have each other, but most importantly faith in God and each other. You are an amazing testament of love.

  2. Francie, I was nudged to pray for you, Bernie & the family for some time. Now I know why! You are family to me in ways I can’t explain. Congratulations to Bernie on this new position & I know he will excel! I am so. Excited for this new chapter I. Your lives. God is walking every step with you, you are not alone! Love you all! ����❤️

    1. Thank you, Karla! Believe me, I felt those prayers. I wasn't sure where they were coming from - but, I am so grateful. Love you!

  3. Isn't it amazing the twists and turns our lives take? Things we cannot understand at the time but somehow it all turns out right. I am so happy that Bernie has found his "niche" again. Happiness reigns in your house.
    Loved your new blog.

    1. Thank you! Another chapter about to begin...