The War after the War
Baron no more…
Nell woke to the smell of the coffee she set up the night before. She lay there taking in everything around her.
The beautiful home in Piermont surrounded by not-so-dense forest and a huge prairie for a backyard.
And a small trail to the boat slip below on the Colorado River. No one could ask for more.
Their home was perched upon a hill, some 50 feet higher than the landowner’s house attached. In New Hampshire it is not unusual for there to be these new additions put behind the historically old homes, always higher up and at a better outlook advantage.
She turned to the slumbering woman next to her. And she at once felt exhausted.
She and LeAnn had been together for a long time, longer than most people in “Alternative Lifestyles” and for that she was proud. But she had turned LeAnn into an emotionally dependent piece of luggage. Out of fear of loosing her, and her own horrid habit of MBPS. She tried to overcome this malady, but with each person that entered her life, it only got worse instead of better. One was left with critical heart problems at a young age that culminated in several heart attacks. Another, had organic damage to her brain(whatever THAT means) and another had died in a horrific car crash. And now she was reaping the hell she created.
LeAnn rustled in the sheets, turning slowly to look at her love, her one true love.
“Go back to sleep” Nell rose and put on her slippers, grabbing her cigarettes and lighter as she shuffled out of the room. For Nell, silence was golden in these early hours and she craved it.
She poured herself some coffee, grabbed a tin bucket of corn, her cigarettes and padded out to the wood deck.
The second she set down the bucket, her beloved chipmonks peeked out from the short rock ledge they made home. They would come out and stand waiting to be invited. One, she name Vince after Vince Lombardi for his referee stance, little front paws raised as if in “hurrah!” waiting to be asked to join the group. Nell poured out a small amount of the corn onto her hand and they came running. Climbing on her shoulder and fighting for the choice morsels. Eventually they had to leave. They had the instinct to leave once she lit a cigarette.
The sky was especially white, “We should have snow by tonite” she breathed in the fragrant evergreen, turning to go into her home where she dressed and headed to work on this cold New Years.
LeAnn glanced at the clock. It was 3am. Typical.
Nell had the haunting early hours at the VA Hospital in White River Junction. LeAnn was responsible for them being there. She coaxed Nell into moving from Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Houston to New England, where she worked as a “glorified housekeeper” , cleaning the operating rooms, scavanging surgical sponges and other prizes left unused. She had control of the med’s cabinet as well.
Nell had been posted in several stations on the East Coast, for the Coast Guard and had regaled LeAnn with the stories. Nell had not served overseas, but she did her duty on the mainland for 10 years before she was asked to leave “because she didn’t look good in a uniform”. She had gained a lot of weight, her uniforms needed constant tailoring, finally her ex had to sew a new pair of trousers because she was afraid to tell her CO she needed a new size. This was discovered and Nell left “Honerable Discharge” in hand. She felt reasonably assured no-one knew, but the eyes still see.
She missed those days, but she fought the war here in the United States, of men returning with issues far more intimidating than Saddam Hussein or Osama could cause. She felt like she was doing her part.
Their once full life of friends, parties, charity functions and hectic work schedules were now replaced with a sort of solitude; at times wonderful, at others stagnating. She blamed LeAnn, she blamed herself more
LeAnn had done so much for her over the years and she appreciated it. She took care of Nell’s sister, Mandee an RN with a questionable past. (Many jobs in nursing homes, many name changes, many locations.) Mandee had cosmetic surgery LeAnn and Nell drove up to her town to care for her. Lee doing the lion’s share.
She took care of Mandee when Mandee wanted to change careers, running off 500 resume’s and letters, faxing them to potential employers. She did all the research compiling names, addresses etc. And this was before the net. All this while Mandee and Nell sat in the kitchen smoking cigarettes and reminiscing about old times. Mandee never lifted a finger.
Lee made certain Mandee was included in ALL events, all holidays. Mandee had not been so forthcoming, but that was Mandee’s way and no one was going to change that now, Mandee was over 60 years old.
LeAnn and Nell had gone to visit them in Alabama, LeAnn’s first visit, and she was appalled. Nell’s mom, Nettie and dad Bill, were incapacitated and really did require help, but Nell’s mom was too proud, and Nell’s dad, too tired to fight her.
LeAnn had spent countless hours at Nell and Mandee’s parents, cleaning their house when it was infested, INFESTED with millions of ants. Ants in all the cupboards, in the sink, under the sink, in the floorboards, in the REFRIGERATOR and FREEZER! Nell spent this time either sleeping or visiting with her folks.
At that visit, LeAnn spent two days trying to convince Nettie to give Mandee a lamp that the daughter coveted. The lamp had been a gift from Mandee’s father, long since gone, to Mandee’s mother. He had arrived home drunk, with lamp in hand;
“Here, I got this for you”
Nettie didn’t know where or how he got it, she didn’t care. She went to brain him with it, but changed her mind. So here it was, waiting for his daughter to make it her own.
It wasn’t anything of great value, not in the monetary sense. As a matter of fact it was quite hideous. You know, those lamps all colorful, ceramic, a woman holding a bunch of fruit.
Not LeAnn’s type. But she knew Mandee wanted it and Lee felt Mandee deserved it.
“She isn’t getting it!” Nettie exclaimed, “And I have no idea why you are arguing Mandee’s case for her, she wouldn’t do it for you!”
Nettie carried on something fierce about Mandee being unreliable, selfish and several other things LeAnn could not fathom a mother saying about a child. Nettie followed it up with a promise that if LeAnn continued her quest on behalf of Mandee on ANY issue, she would regret it as Mandee had no conscience and would turn on LeAnn in an instant if it suited Mandee. But LeAnn wore her down and Nettie finally gave in, out of exhaustion in the fight and because she felt LeAnn needed to learn about Mandee on her own. LeAnn felt triumphant and could not wait to hand the treasure to Mandee.
Which she did, And Mandee seemed genuinely grateful. She had this sort of a chirpy, childish way. When Mandee wanted something she would take on the demeanor of a little girl, and a “baby talk” voice that few found engaging, and LeAnn ignored. But that voice worked wonders on Nell. Nell was 14 years Mandee’s junior, and felt compelled to do Mandee’s bidding.
The list was extensive, LeAnn’s emotional gifts to others. Several of Nell’s AND LeAnn’s friends benefited from the “resume’” gift . LeAnn was compelled to give to others wanting to change careers. She hated seeing people so abhorred by the workplace. And at one time Lee was a popular fixture in the Engineering and Architectural industry.
LeAnn was often meted out to Nell’s friends and co-workers to do charity. Such as bringing one co-worker’s grandmother to and from the nursing home where the grandmother would visit her husband. Every other day, if not EVERY day. Then taking the elderly lady to lunch, or the store.
Another of Nell’s co-workers, had health issues regarding her husband causing her to have to leave her young children with LeAnn, sometimes for weeks at a time. Once LeAnn took care of them from the week before Thanksgiving to Christmas. LeAnn did all the cooking, decorating, shopping, gift choices, taking the youngest to and from school. After all was said and done, she fell in a heap in exhaustion and ended up sick at home on Christmas. The pictures were telling. Nell with a chef’s hat, cutting the turkey LeAnn had cooked, the family and friends enjoying dinner and gifts. LeAnn was happy to see the pictures. If not a bit jealous, and sad as she recuperated from the 6 week long chore.
Nell’s niece, a drug addict, recovered, had fallen off the wagon, and called Nell for help. But Nell was reluctant, she had issues with Lucy, her niece, Mandee’s daughter and did not want to be involved. But LeAnn insisted. “She’s family”. Nell gave in, but not without giving a diatribe of past crimes from her niece. They drove to Massachusetts to collect her, driving the snow-laden streets for hours looking for her. They finally found her. LeAnn used her maternal instincts to convince Lucy this was for the best and Nell and LeAnn brought her back to New Hampshire and finally to the VA (Lucy served as well) for some sobering vacation.
Then Nettie and Bill became sick. Nell and Mandee decided to take separate duty. Bill would come to stay with Nell and LeAnn. Nettie would stay with Mandee, which, truly, what followed should not have been a surprise.
LeAnn tended to Bill, feeding him his meals, which were mostly by tube, changing his cloths and tending to bathroom duty that was seldom in the bathroom. Bill had suffered several strokes and was totally dependant on others for help. Nell went to work very early and arrived home exhausted, she had little time to talk with her father, but she gave him what time she could, when not sleeping.
After several weeks, LeAnn woke one morning and found Bill gasping for breath. Something everyone knew was inevitable, and just a matter of time. But LeAnn could not accept this fate and fought to have everything done for him. Nell knew better and explained to LeAnn, this was the best thing that could happen.
For weeks after LeAnn questioned herself and what she could have done different.
A bit more than a month later, Nell got what she had anticipated, but dare not say. Mandee had deserted their mother and Nell needed to go to Alabama to collect her. Nell knew if LeAnn had not been there this would be an impossibility. She drove to Alabama, took what she could of her mother’s belongings, and headed north for Nettie to live out her days. Nell was very disappointed in Mandee and made it known. LeAnn was hopeful, but reluctant to believe this would be the last of Mandee.
LeAnn welcomed Nettie and took great strides to make the little woman happy and comfortable, getting up all hours, preparing whatever foods she requested, but never ate. They would talk for hours of Netties days in the service. She helped start NATO.
“They might as well have blown my brains out” she laughed “because if anyone wanted information and threatened her family, she was going to ‘fess up”!
She had great adventurous, mesmerizing talk compared to the simple life Lee had been accustomed.
Sleep was a commodity, LeAnn knew these were Nettie’s last days and Lee needed to do whatever was necessary to make them as good as possible.
Nettie wanted to stay in the elderly respite care aforded by the White River VA for 2 weeks (she was a soldier as well), while Nell and LeAnn went on a small vacation. While they were gone, Nell received a call from another co-worker who had been looking in on Nettie.
“Nettie looks good, and she even has make-up on” She continued “Oh, and Mandee is here.”
This sent up an alarm to LeAnn who knew Nettie had no makeup And God Knows what Mandee was up to. . LeAnn was certain the “blush on her cheeks” was “death pallor” and begged Nell to go home. Nell was reluctant, at times begging for LeAnn to at least let them stop at a casino. LeAnn wouldn’t hear of it.
When they got back to the VA, LeAnn had been right. Nell’s mother was not quite right and LeAnn wanted answers where there were none. Nettie was at once transferred to palliative care. But not before a visit from Mandee. Nell and Nettie requested LeAnn stay with Nettie at ALL times and not let Mandee anywhere near her for fear of harming her. When she was in hospice at the VA LeAnn kept sentry in her room very day. She would only return home to shower, change, and tend to whatever Nell could not.
Once, upon returning to the hospital, she found Mandee and her daughter Lucy, whispering to Nettie. LeAnn was incensed, she could not believe her eyes. This woman who deserted her mother was now using the woman’s incapacities to reap certain “after life” rewards. LeAnn did as Nettie and Nell ordered and asked them to leave.
Nettie died at home soon after. And there was certain wrath to be realized from Mandee. Mandee came to the house and asked Nell to bring LeAnn from her cooking and preparing for the guests, into the den so she could talk to her
“LeAnn, I want to tell you and Nell something very important. I am getting married”
LeAnn was silenced by this audacity. Mandee’s mother had died, this was her funeral, and Mandee wanted, needed, the limelight. Nell said nothing. She was highly intimidated by her sister and let Mandee do this from time to time through the years, standing back, like a coward, saying nothing.
Nell had a good relationship with Lee. Mandee was not going to allow that. It was no coincidence that when Mandee visited her children, their happy couplings came to a quick end.
“We are all very worried about you. You are always in bed” Mandee continued “And the drugs…”
LeAnn was a “pain” patient. Through the years, she had grown increasingly reliant on pain medication. And Nell used her influence to keep these prescriptions to date and in fact, increasing them at every turn. Nell had convinced the Psychiatric PA they were seeing at Fletcher Allen that Lee needed more, and more, and more. And LeAnn was not about to tell her no. These drugs were all she had to lull away the years. She became immune and was quite alert and able while under these influences. But she was aware of the issues of addiction and asked the help of her pharmacist to help her get off the worse, Fentenyl patches, much to Nell’s chagrin.
After Nell and LeAnn moved some 100 miles north, the medications increased.
LeAnn had been seeing Carol, a PA, psych in Burlington. For some reason Nell had decided they should go up there rather than have LeAnn in the system at Dartmouth, where Nell’s co-workers also practiced while not on duty at the VA. There were times, LeAnn became concerned, but the unconscious lull for the dreamy sedation desire prevailed over common sense.
She was to see Carol once a month. She liked Carol. Carol was gay and had recently broken up with her girlfriend. She talked about how wonderful she thought Nell and LeAnn’s relationship was. “Enviable” she said.
You see Nell and LeAnn never fought. They had rules, no using “you’re the one” (try NOT saying that). If you had an issue, you brought it up within 24 hours. If you decide to cool down and bring it up the next day “too BAD”. Never air your dirty laundry. And no lies, you cannot unscramble eggs. Lee followed these rules as if her very life depended. And little did she know, it did.
Nell had become increasingly depressed, which was natural considering all. LeAnn asked her if she would like to go see Carol without her. Nell quickly took advantage and started seeing Carol on a monthly basis. Under Lee’s patient name.
“Lee, I would like to see my sister” Nell finally asked, and LeAnn saw this coming, and was reluctant, but knew if she did so, she would loose her, so she reluctantly agreed.
Soon LeAnn was waking to Mandee asleep on her antique couch almost every day. Lee had asked her to please use the spare bedroom. The furniture had been in her family for almost 50 years. But this was not taken in the breath that Lee had offered.
Mandee and Nell would spend hours in secretive talk. LeAnn trusted this. She loved Nell, they had been together 14 years.
December 31, 2009, January 1, 2010
Nell wanted to spend New Years with her family. LeAnn had no idea Nell had reassigned her devotion. She trusted Nell and that was alright. She was especially exhausted, too tired to keep her head up. Nell had giving her a sizable amount of Soma in addition to her regular meds, MSContin, Msir, Clonopin.
They were in the foothills of the White Mountains and Nell had traded in both LeAnn’s vehicle and her own, purchasing an SUV. She had LeAnn where she wanted her. Isolated, unsocialized and available to only her. And LeAnn did not mind.
Except as of late, Nell would make her use wheelchairs wherever they went. She also had LeAnn on oxygen and convinced her she had many maladies, including a heart condition. Yet she gave her muscle relaxers. Wasn’t the heart a muscle?
Carol, the PA had increased the medications as Nell had requested.
And now LeAnn was in a fitfull sleep well into the New Year.
During the night and into the early morning hours, LeAnn could vaguely see people as if in a dream, passing in and out. At one time, someone, she didn’t know who, gave her something vile to drink.
Nell returned at 2:30 to a pathetic site. LeAnn had been vomiting profusely, and not able to make it to the WC at times. LeAnn would return to bed and stare vacantly at the wall. Nell lay there, unalarmed, watching TV, relaxed, her arms behind her head.
Then at 3:00 AM she shot up “Lee, we need to go to the hospital”
Lee had no idea what this sudden alarming change came from, but she was grateful.
They pulled up to the door at Dartmouth, Lee all but fell to the newly snowed sidewalk. Nell rushed a wheelchair to her side. When they arrived in the ER, Lee was whisked to a room, unusually fast, but her vitals required it.
“Do NOT tell them I gave you all that Soma” Nell demanded. And Lee obeyed.
After tests, x-rays, re-x-rays, Dr. Fields came in the room.
“Lee, your lungs have filled up, 75% from the first X-ray to the next. You are very ill and ..” She took Lee’s hand “you probably will not survive 24 hours”
Lee was too exhausted..and sick to respond.
“Lee, tell us what you want us to do”
“Nothing” Nell interceded “she has an advance directive, an order, no resuscitation.”
Dr. Fields knew something was not quite right. Dr. Fields intended to keep this woman alive and find out what the real problem was. She was certain Lee had the L1H1 virus and she needed to contact disease control to get a protocol.
January 4, 2010
Within 3 days, Lee was diagnosed with MRSA and E-coli. Both were in her lungs and stomach. An exterior delivery system had been involved. And she had a good idea who. And the CDC would be investigating.
….back to December 31, 2009
Mandee waited for Nell to get out of the car, she then rushed into the house. Mandee reached under the cupboard where she had secreted a small vile of the noxious concoction she had created from the elderly ppatients under her care. Mandee reached into the fridge to grab some chocolate milk, opened it quickly, making certain to stay out of Nell;s peripheral vision, pouring the liquid into the brown milk, spilling a small amount on the floor.
Nell followed soon after, went into the kitchen, reaching up into the top shelf and bought down the Soma. A few more won’t hurt.
Mandee got Lee to swallow the liquid, while Nell gave her the pills to take with the milk.
At the bottom of the logger’s road, a grey sedan waited. After the SUV turned onto the main route, the sedan crept up, no lights. The dark cloaked person enters the house making to the bedroom where Lee slumbered.
She pulled back the blanket, then the sheet exposing Lee’s thigh. The room was dark, but the moon full against the white ground outside made enough light…
As she injected Lee, Lee wakened “Carol, what are you doing here”
Nell had a secret. And so did Lee’s Psych Doctor.
Music: Silence is golden/The Tremeloes
© This material is the copyright of Dianne Schuch Lindsey and cannot be duplicated in any fashion without the express permission of the Author. All rights reserved