A young woman travels home to find her sister dying in a rural hospital.
|In front of me is more blood than I have ever seen. Two nurses keep trying to pull me away. My feet are planted, like the roots of an old oak tree Katy and I used to climb. I refuse to leave her.
It is like a movie scene. Without warning, my sister had picked up the vase of pink baby roses I had brought her.
She threw the vase at a plate glass window; resulting in an explosion, like gun fire.
All action had moved into slow motion. Katy stepped through the shards. One piece was at her neck, a butter knife separating soft tissue. The blood bubbled from her throat. Now Katy was limp, her ocean blue eyes looking beyond this world.
I heard a blood curdling scream, my own voice.
Someone barked, "Ativan; two milligrams, I.M."
It felt like a wasp sting in my buttock. Someone offered a wheelchair to collapse on. Hospital staff was filling the room.
Two hours earlier:
The hospital was just what I expected. Nothing seemed to change in this sorry town I had grown up in. I had left when I was a teenager. Here I was at twenty-two, like a super hero from a comic book, sweeping in to rescue Katy.
A small lobby had stained rugs and mismatched plastic chairs. A few plants needing resuscitation were scattered around. There was an area with food and beverage machines along with a stained microwave. I was the only person around except for a man that was snoring. He was spread out over the chairs clutching a paper bag with a deathlike grip.
An information desk had a middle aged woman with interesting gray and red streaked hair in a bun. I believe she was eating something from the movements of her mouth. It was probably under the desk area and spicy from the smell. She smiled at me. Her front tooth was missing and she had dark eye makeup complete with glitter lashes.
"Can you give me a room number for Katy Robbins?"
"She's in 313."
"It says 'No Visitors'," she emphasized.
I suppose she was in charge of enforcing that. I wasn't going to argue with her.
"Thanks. Have a good evening."
I took the stairs.
I had to pass the nursing station. A young girl in a blue top stopped me.
Her name tag read,
'Becky Long' Nursing Assistant.
"Can I help you?"
I told her Katy's name.
"Come this way. You know she's in bad shape, mam."
"I know, Becky. Thanks for taking care of her. She's my sister."
"I am glad someone cares about her. She sure is sweet".
"You have a visitor, Katy," my new friend announced.
Katy was a shadow floating over the floor, a vague resemblance of the sister I remembered.
I felt chills rush through my bones. I reached out my arms to hold this fragile marionette.
"I am sorry, Aileen," she quietly whispered. "See what he did to me."
Sitting down on the bed, I looked with horror at her scarred face and ugly track marks on her arms.
I knew who "he" was. The spider that came in our bedroom at night, wrapping his long legs and arms around little girls. He whispered sweet sentiments. He had cheated on Mom many times. Daddy was an alcoholic god in our house where we bowed to his heartless presence. None of us talked to each other about it. He made sure we were scared of him and jealous of each other.
Our mother left us with him. The house was full of holes where he had placed fists after using them on us. I was young but I remember how weak Mom was. She had stopped cooking and taking care of us. She sure could still lift a beer to her mouth. Sadly, I found out later she had died alone in a homeless shelter.
Katy had walked away and left me with him when I was fourteen. She was sixteen and terrified for her own life.
She spoke like it was physically painful, crying, "I had dreams. I could have gone to college. Maybe God would've gave me a good man and babies. I wouldn't be dying from AIDS."
Katy's tear-filled eyes told the ugly truths. She slowly spoke of her life on the streets. Men and drugs had used up the sad shell our father had left of her.
Her dignity had been lost. She had no faith in herself and no strength to fight.
"I can rest in peace if I know you will never see him again. You can have a life."
I touched her sweet face.
Katy's brain had been damaged from drug use and the beatings. I know she had been told many times that I had a productive life now. I had spoken to her on the phone.
I was the fortunate one. I knew there had to be help. I went to the high school clinic and talked to the school nurse.
"I have a problem at home, Ms. Smith."
I couldn't even finish talking. The tears came loose like flood gates, opened from years of holding back. She pulled me into her arms and I soaked her blouse. By the time I slowed down and started to apologize, she was having someone call the Department of Children and Infant Services. I didn't even go home.
A very special worker took me into her family which meant love and therapy. Dorothy Remron had four other foster children. I found out that night what having a warm bath, pajamas, a safe bed with clean sheets and a hug meant. Another girl living there had been molested. We both went to a therapist to talk about the shame.
I finished high school with a 4.0 and was rewarded with an academic scholarship. Now I was in graduate school and working with the District Attorney's office to make sure people like my father were punished.
I really had tried to get Katy help but she kept going back to the places she knew and the same rotten people. She would not agree to a treatment center and she was over eighteen. It is difficult to get a court order to put her in the state facility. The major problem is that the facilities are under staffed and patients are not kept long enough to help them with multiple problems.
Our father had committed suicide last year before we could prosecute him.
Katy knew all of this but maybe her brain had gone through so much it was drained. There wasn't even room for the good news. Of course, the AIDS was effecting it at this point.
I am ashamed it had taken me this long to see her but I had been trying to work for her.
With her final strength and last shred of dignity, Katy raised off the bed. She straightened her back and went towards the window.
The movie started and Katy played her final scene.
Light seemed to shine through her, cleansing all disease. Katy was like an innocent baby bird flying from it's nest for the first time.
By Kathie Stehr
Edited May 2014