Ah, you met my mother! As she once was, anyway. She was a sweetie and a tiger and your best bud and your worst-nightmare drill sergeant, and she could flip on a blink as circumstances required.

In 1982 I was in the Navy, still an ensign, and about to start sub school. Mom had come out to Connecticut for a week after I had been in a plane crash and was having trouble with some things (sleeping, moving, carrying anything besides myself). My right wrist was in a cast, but my thumb was mostly free. I was due for a follow-up exam the day before Mom was supposed to go home. She came along with me to the base hospital, mostly (I thought) to make sure I was driving okay. Then she came in with me, NOT after asking.

Background 1: Ensigns are the lowest form of officer. No one takes them seriously, unless they’re former enlisted (I wasn’t). So having my mommy come with me to see the doctor was fairly humiliating.

Background 2: Mom was head nurse on the orthopedic floor of the top hospital in the northern Chicago suburbs.

So the corpsman takes me in, gets me x-rayed, has us wait, comes in where we’re waiting and says the doctor told him everything looked good, we were done. And he’s on his way out and Mom says,

“May I see them, please.” (Lack of question mark: not a typo.)

“Ma’am?” (But his body language said, What, lady? Oh!, thinks I, BIG MISTAKE!)

“The x-rays. Please bring them here.” (Cold, cold, cold tone.)

Eyeballs lock. Mom normally stares down doctors who are WAY over this guy’s pay grade, so no contest. Corpsman leaves and returns with my x-rays. Meanwhile, the stupid floor stubbornly refuses to open up and swallow me.

Mom looks at x-rays. “The doctor saw these?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hey, lady, weren’t you listening, I already told you.

Mom points to an area at the base of my thumb on the x-ray. “Tell him to look again here. There’s a hairline fracture on the nervicular. Tell him the patient has tenderness consistent with it.” Hands him the x-rays. NOT up for discussion. The corpsman leaves. Lightning fails to strike me down and relieve me of my suffering. (Stupid lightning.)

Corpsman returns. Corpsman has turned off the “some dumb broad who’s an ensign’s mommy” attitude and addresses Mom like she’s a senior officer. “Yes, ma’am! The doctor agrees with you, ma’am, and he’d like the patient’s thumb immobilized. Would you like to come along, ma’am?” Why don’t I come, too, since I can’t detach my arm at the elbow — yeah, why don’t I do that.

So, now that my mother has essentially bitch-slapped the corpsman all around the room without raising a hand or her voice, she goes into charm mode. “What cast material are you using? Have you tried <something or other>? How do you like…” and so on. By the time they were done they were best buds. Me, I got asked, “How’s that feel?” and I gave a positive grunt. The lack of a detachable arm was my only reason for being there.

So anyway, that was my mother. She stayed in health care, went to work for a small retirement home as senior health assistant (head nurse); got her masters and moved into administration; retired as director of health care of the (by then) three-campus retirement community many years later.

Sounds like Desirae would be her spiritual sister, H. I’m glad she did right by you.

After note: although other bones that were broken in the crash bother me sometimes, my right thumb has always felt great. So there’s that.

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