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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(”Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They pave paradise, put up a parking lot…")…Joni Mitchell 1970

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration
 
"GABRIEL'S PROMISE"
 
 
San Pedro, California, November 25, 2002
 
“Come on light, change already!” muttered Elizabeth Emily Andrews, already stressing out and here it was only eight o’clock in the morning. She gripped the steering wheel tightly, sideways glancing at her wristwatch. Yeppers, it was official, she was going to be late to work for the third time this week. “CRAP!” she exclaimed, pushing herself back into the seat, and gruffly folding her arms in front of her, pouting. She glared through the windshield at the lazy red traffic signal and tried willing it into changing. "Fat chance," she muttered, giving the object of her frustration a nice loud raspberry, “PHFFFFT!"
            That seemed to delight a toddler sitting in the back of a large SUV along side of her. The little girl or boy, it was hard to tell which from her vantage point, was pointing at her accusingly, and laughing hysterically at the funny face Elizabeth was making. She noticed that the happy little monster was strapped securely in one of those car seats equipped with a pretend steering wheel in front of the kid. The child punched at a big red button in the center of the little wheel, which Elizabeth quickly deduced to be a squeaky horn. That had to be annoying for whoever was driving if not a down right dangerous distraction.
“That’s it baby!” hollered Lizzie. “Give em what for!” she added enthusiastically, laying on her own horn in solidarity with the happy child, just what the doctor ordered to keep her day from turning into one of those days.
Ahhhhhh,” she sighed, grinning and feeling a little bit better.
            It really wasn’t all her fault you know, interns get all the crappy shifts she reasoned. She kept telling herself, "Couple more years Lizzie, just a couple more years." Then she’d be a resident, and move up the hospital pecking order, far enough at least to earn a semi normal work day and a decent nights sleep! She lingered on that thought, enjoying the moment, when the light changed from red to green. A polite little toot from the VW behind her jolted her back to reality, and she made her way quickly across the intersection, heading toward the on ramp for the 110 freeway. Thus began the twenty-five minute drive from foggy San Pedro to smoggy Los Angeles where she worked.
            Fresh out of med school, Elizabeth was a first year intern at the infamous LA County Trauma Center, deep in the heart of the city, where she dealt daily with all the ER action that the ‘City of Angels’ had to offer. As difficult and scary as that could be at times, she really did love her work. It made her feel as though she were making a difference, where it counted, in people’s lives. She especially enjoyed the people she worked with every day, they had become a second family to her. Oh sure, some might mistake the whining, bellyaching, and sarcasm as disharmony, but they would be way wrong! All that griping was just how they got through the day, how they supported each other. Sarcasm was a handy tool when dealing with the day-to-day bullshit she and her coworkers stepped over, around, and sometimes through. Little distractions went a long way to keep from falling into the ‘misery pit’ that surrounded the place. Elizabeth pondered that term 'misery pit,' it seemed about right; it was a trauma center after all.
            Wriggling into a more comfortable position in the driver’s seat, she shifted her left leg, and set her stocking foot down on the armrest beside her. It’s a maneuver ONLY a woman can pull off. You see them all the time sitting in or driving through traffic as comfortably as if they were lounging in the Lazy Boy at home. It's a feat that every man is jealous of by the way. On the really bad days she'd wonder how she ended up in this life. But she never had to think about it long, she knew exactly what led down this path. Her mother had served in the Marine Corps as a surgical nurse during the Vietnam War in the late 1960’s. Elizabeth loved listening to her mom reminisce about those times, even though they usually brought tears.
“Were you scared mommy?” she would ask. And her mom would always answer the same way.
“No baby, I wasn’t scared too much, I had a guardian angel. As long as your Uncle Ethan was nearby I knew that nothing bad would happen to me,” she would say.
            Then she would tell her all about how she'd met her Dad, and how Uncle Ethan was even a part of that too. “You see baby, God puts certain people into your life for a reason, a good reason, always a good reason, whether you understand it or not,” she would say cryptically. Apparently that was her mom's take on Uncle Ethan coming into her life. He wasn’t really Lizzie's Uncle, at least not by blood, only by love. Ethan Kelly was her dad’s best friend at University, and, as fate would have it, wound up serving in the same outfit as her mom. Elizabeth's favorite part of that story was when Mom told how she and Dad brought Uncle Ethan and Aunt Brenda together. It was the kind of romance every young girl dreams of. As she grew older, Elizabeth came to understand that her Mom’s frequent reminiscing was her way of avoiding the misery pit in her past, those dark places filled with terrible nightmares and bittersweet memories.
            Elizabeth was all grown up now, earning her stripes as an ER nurse, working five long years while simultaneously attending UCLA and earning her degree in biology. Like mother like daughter, a fiercely driven and extremely intelligent young lady, she aced the MCATS and continued on to Medical School at UCLA where she graduated with honors, walking with the class of 2001 decked out in her powder blue cap and gown. She accepted her neatly rolled degree signifying her as a doctor of medicine from the Chancellor himself. Elizabeth recalled scanning the crowd at that moment, squinting in the bright sunlight as she looked for her parents and family. She didn't see them at first, but she didn't need to, she knew that Mom would find her. An instant later she heard the shrill whistle from her crazy mother, Carla, who had caught the attention of one and all with her war cry. As Elizabeth left the stage clutching her diploma, she heard her Mom's cheer, in typical Andrews fashion;
“ATTA GIRL LIZZIE!”
“ATTA GIRL BABY!”
            Elizabeth sighed as she merged onto the freeway, sort of checking over her shoulder as she sped across four lanes of traffic into the number one. She always had been a lead foot, a trait she attributed to her father, Sean Michael Andrews, the devil-may-care, thrill-seeking work-a-holic / play-a-holic that he was. She guessed that to a certain extent the old adage was true; ‘the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.’ She was only 28, born on the fourth of July in 1975, but she was an 'old soul' her Uncle Ethan would say. To which her dad would answer back 'too much grindstone and not enough blarney'.
            The only child of an Irish father and Italian mother, a volatile gene pool to say the least, it was a miracle she had made it past her teens. Life was never dull around the Andrew’s house, that she could tell you. What with Dad’s need to conquer the world by day, and reap the spoils by night, one pub at a time, and Mom’s compulsion to fix everything and everyone, offering up her opinions two cents at a time, solicited or not, the Andrews household was to put it mildly, lively! Some of her parent’s ‘discussions’ were legendary in the neighborhood, but you know what, it didn't seem like fighting or bickering, it was more like enthusiastically agreeing to disagree!
            One thing that she always amazed her was that no matter how hot the discussion may have been the two of them never went to bed angry, and they ALWAYS started the next day anew. They fought fair, with love, does that make sense? She was proud to a fault of her family, together they were really something. Lizzie (a nickname courtesy Uncle Ethan) was taller than most of the kids she had grown up with, standing in at five feet nine inches by the time she was thirteen years old. She had a head full of curly auburn hair, and her complexion was fair and freckled. Her eyes were speckled green and brown, some people refer to that mixture as hazel. And she was skinny like her Dad, although she had just enough of her Mother’s Italian curves to round out her figure rather nicely. The breast fairy had been kind as well, so all together; she was quite a dish as Uncle Ethan would say. He liked to tease her by saying things to her Dad whenever she was within earshot. Things like, “Ach Sean, this one is gonna break some hearts, I can tell you that!”  And whenever he teased her, her Auntie Brenda would come to her defense and sock him playfully, telling him to behave.
            The green freeway sign indicated that the 6th street exit was just ahead. Lizzie clicked on her signal and then bullied her way back across traffic into the number 4 lane to catch the exit a quarter mile ahead. She reckoned she'd be to work in 10 minutes barring any traffic issues in the city. The exit came up quickly and she followed the winding ramp up to the stop light and waited to turn left.  The old Pantry restaurant was right next to her and she was enveloped in the wonderful aroma of breakfast, it was Heavenly and it was cruel. She was starving, but there was no time for a decent meal, not even a cup of coffee, she was SO LATE! Sometimes she wondered what it was that had ever possessed her to choose such a demanding life over the life of privilege that her family’s wealth offered. From what mental deficiency did she suffer to arrive at such a decision? Willingly leaving behind an exciting, posh, and cushy life in beautiful San Francisco provided by the fruits of her Father’s success? But then there it was, wasn’t it, the fruits of his successes.
            The common thread within her Celtic and Roman heritage was pride, and it was that pride that propelled her to seek her own way, the hard way of course. The only help she accepted from her parents was for tuition and books. Everything else that she needed, like shelter, and food, etcetera, she provided all by herself, working long hours at the very hospital to which she was driving this morning. This was her life in a nutshell, the last ten years of it a blur of red blood, red lights and shrill sirens, and red entries in the ledger of her chronically overdrawn checkbook. Two more years, just two more years and she would be a resident, the 8-hour dream would be a reality, and she would prove to her folks, and all of those socialite brats she grew up with, that she could make it all on her own. It really wasn’t something that Sean and Carla Andrews needed to see because they never doubted her resolve or her ability. After all, she was their child, right! No, it was something that Lizzie needed to do for them, a respectful acknowledgement for believing in her, for letting her find her own way.
            Lizzie stood on the brakes just before the entrance of the parking structure across from the hospital, and gently rolled up the drive to take the ticket from the machine. She waited patiently as the mechanical arm rose, allowing her access to the employee spaces on the right near the elevator. She glanced down at her watch and smirked, happy to see that she had managed to make up about 30 seconds of the time she lost sitting at that lazy stop light. She eased her little Honda Civic into an open space and killed the engine. The day had started on a sour note. She had overslept after pulling a double shift the day before, and had been rudely awakened around 6am by the pounding fist of neighbor Bill, the tall semi-handsome law student/plumbers apprentice next door. It was bad enough that he was always hitting on her, but now he was hitting on the common wall that separated their apartments.
            Apparently Billy-boy had left his sense of humor at whatever bar he had closed the night before, and didn’t appreciate the gusto with which her cute but powerful Bose radio alarm clock boomed out an AC/DC classic. She could understand that, but did he really have to bang on the wall like Fred Flintstone, and shout at her through the thin layer of sheet rock, “HEY LIZZIE, TRYING TO SLEEP OVER HERE!”
NO he did not! And on that note, she decided that she'd blame every thing that went wrong on this shift on her sleepy and thoughtless neighbor, William Armstrong Monroe, a.k.a. TURDMAN!
            Lizzie turned the key in the ignition and killed the engine. Sighing she said a quick prayer that she'd make rounds on time, and got out of the car. Aiming her keychain at the car door she pressed the button two or three times before she remembered the darn thing had stopped working a week ago. Must be the battery or something she thought using the key to lock her door the old fashioned way. Then turning on her heel quickly she sprinted off toward the elevator, her lunch in one hand (a tuna sandwich and a baggie full of veggies) and a stack of manila case folders in the other. Huffing and puffing she zipped into the elevator and leaned up against the back panel as the doors closed. She took a deep cleansing breath and blew it out with puffy cheeks. Showtime! Dr. Elizabeth Andrews was going to have good day, one way or another, no matter whose pecker she had to step on in the process!
“One day closer to the 8 hour dream,” she muttered.




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