The Saddest Place on Earth

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

Positioning, or as I say, the fine art of positioning is something every retina patient can tell you about.. Surgery to correct a retina tear or a detachment is called a vitrectomy, something I am sure I will describe in great detail at a later time. One part of a vitrectomy is the placement of a gas bubble in your eye. It is a dense heavy gas that is put in the eye to keep the retina flat and help it seal. You cannot see anything when it is there but the good news is that the body absorbs the gas, so as it leaves your body and rises you begin to see under the bubble. Except that your eye is a mirror so right is left, up is down and so on and so on.  As the gas rises you actually see out of the top of your vision. Depending on where the tear or detachment is located your doctor may require you to position to maximize the weight of the gas on the damaged area. This might mean that you position on your hands and knees with your head tilted down. It might mean you sit up at a forty five degree angle or that you lie on your side and then turn your head face down. I have done them all. If there was an Olympic sport I could captain the U.S. team. Prior to my last surgery I was positioning face down for almost twenty hours a day.

I left Westwood and began working PRN at a Catholic Charities home for children ages six to twelve.  It was essentially an orphanage. Now there are all sorts of sadness, and there are places all over the world that will break your heart, war torn places, dead and dying, starvation and poverty. I will not argue any of this with anyone. I stared working at this home in Fort Worth to help myself get out of college. I wanted to work less hours and chose when I worked so I took a job PRN or as needed. Most of the time when you do this you can work between thirty and forty hours. It would allow me to finally finish college. The home was divided into two wings, one for girls and one for boys and each were divided into  four or five rooms on a hallway. Girls were not allowed on the boy’s hall and vice versa but naturally they all played together. Each room had four or five boys grouped together by age.  I had one day of training and then the senior group leader who I was training with stopped coming to work and the PRN job I had wanted turned into a full time opportunity so I became the group leader of the oldest boys all around eleven or twelve.

I never saw a kid at this home that was not a victim of severe abuse. They had visible scars and emotionally they were battered wrecks. Even in the midst of joyous raucous play you would see pain creep across their face. They would sometimes look at you and even ask you if you were going to abandon them. My group of boys took it hard that their group leader left and they blamed me so for about a month I went through a lot of rough moments with them until they came around and realized I was on their side.  All of the kids there wee state kids so they received money from the state into an account and occasionally you got to take them out and they would buy things that they wanted or needed. There were some pretty awesome boom boxes in the place. No matter how much they had, it was never enough to make them forget where they had been and where they were at. Most had multiple failed adoptions and most had been abused not only by their parents but by the foster system that was created to protect them. It was the hardest place to leave at night when the shift was over ad every night at least one kid on the unit had a rough night and a group leader would stay until they finally fell asleep. Sometimes I would not makeit home until two in the morning.  You could never do enough, love enough or give enough and the sadness of the place was pervasive. Even after I moved on to other jobs I worked there as a relief supervisor.

Bedtime was the worst. Some nights went smoothly and they all went to bed and slept the sleep of innocents. But frequently the nights brought dreams, nightmares or just hopeless thoughts.  There were times when one of my kids would walk out into the hall and ask if anyone was ever going to love him or ask what he could do to make it all better so that he could be adopted. Naturally I fit right in. I had been asking those questions all of my life. In front of every door the group leaders would sit and chart and almost every night one or all of us had one of our kids out there with us sleeping or trying to next to us.  One of our group leaders would bring Kenny G’s Silhouette and play it and you could hear it playing, the sound carrying down both hallways boys and girls. I still can’t hear any song from that album and not go back, not be flooded with a million memories almost all of them sad. That group leader had a serious psychotic episode one day that scared a lot of us and left in an ambulance. She never returned, so I bought Kenny G and played it for her group every night.

It will always be the saddest place ever for me.

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