Chapter 3 – Shift Work

I should have known in nurses’ training when I needed to pray to start the day that this need would not disappear after graduation.

At Blodgett, new graduates got the night shift. There was a saying that went like this: “You won’t get days unless someone retires or dies.” It was a hierarchy. The new grad worked herself down the clock from nights to PMs to days. As senior students, we’d plotted in our minds how to incapacitate a few of the older day-shift RNs. We usually wouldn’t kill them outright. A small accident would do, one that would break a leg and take months to heal. Enough time to hasten our jump down the clock.

My night shifts as a new grad started, unofficially, the day Marv and I got married. My dad had married us at two in the afternoon on September 8, 1962, the day after my graduation, in my church in Cutlerville, a block down 68th Street from Pine Rest and my first patients, Greta and Tryntje. A memorable day for me, until that evening in Ludington, about a hundred miles north, in a musty log cabin. After I’d taken a picture, black and white, of our newly ringed hands and my pink roses corsage on the white chenille spread, Marv had a sudden bout of vomiting. Then he passed out on the bed. While he snored, I lovingly turned off the overhead light so I wouldn’t bother my brand-new husband and camped out in the bathroom to read, sandwiched between the tub and the toilet on a cold tiled floor. I suppose I read tourist magazines; I surely would not have brought along any novels, and I tiptoed back hourly to check his pulse and breathing.

I didn’t know then he could sleep through fireworks.

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