“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”*


Bob, I’m having trouble using the computer today; will you please forward to all the usual suspects?

I’m moving to the Iroquois nursing home today.  That’s pretty scary.  Huh!  The rest of my life . . .

I have acquired a particular fondness for you all here at Crouse Hospital.  We’ve been mutually annoying to one another on a fairly regular basis but, still, I’m glad I’ve been here.  I don’t do well in captivity but I’m learning.

I’ve been learning to fail.  This morning I looked at the roses and finally understood the difference between “dead” and “drooping.”  Boy, am I drooping.  It’s been really weird to travel the distance from “Get out of my way; I can do this better than you” to pushing a button and waiting for someone to put a pillow behind my head.  Sheesh, you think I’m sick or something?

I resent the fact that you’ve been as good as you all have been because I don’t know how to deal with it.  I have been out in the cold of poverty, disability and isolation for two decades; coming into the warmth of total care is too weird to describe.

The first day at Crouse Hospital, Nancy brought me a soft, creamy blanket with the Crouse logo.  I have slept under it every night; tonight it will be in a new location.  Yesterday, Peter brought me a turquoise knitted lap robe; keeping me warm is your thing, huh?—or just keeping me covered?  😉

Somebody should return the Dietary credit card to Alex.  That was totally cool.  I have been a long-term patient at the worst possible time from a feeding point of view, but you all made it okay.  Did you know that the cafeteria serves fudge chiffon pie?  My preferred end is Death by Chocolate.

Dr. Kronenberg came to see me one day.  I was surprised that he was of average height; one expects the Big Guy to be a big guy.  When I complimented him on the hospital, he gestured to a couple of staff people in the room and said, “It’s these people who get the credit.”  Well, no, not exactly.

For a decade I worked as a temporary secretary.  I worked in about a hundred places and learned that the attitude in the front office filters down to the mailroom.  Crouse’s “attitude” is one of kindness that I have seen reflected at every level—Respiratory, Dietary, housekeeping, nursing and so on and around.  Because the care is good at Crouse Hospital, it can only mean that there is great human goodness in Dr. Kronenberg.

Crouse Hospital should change its motto to “We treat people, not diseases.”

There’s more I’d like to say but I’m too tired.

Go in peace, and thanks for the caring,

Anne C Woodlen

*From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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