By Rosalie Tirella
UMass nurse magic … As I’ve searched for a safe place to sleep in my car (certainly not Abby’s House or St. Paul’s Church – the places you’d expect to be safe havens), I came upon the UMass Memorial health care Plantation Street campus. Figured I’d park there at nites and snooze and no one would notice the difference! A safe nook! … Well, they did notice. Over the phone one UMass urgent care nurse said, after I explained our plight, YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! … Another UMass staffer, a security guard inside urgent care, said: NO ZZZZs here – even though I’m COVID-vaccinated, -boosted, flu-shotted and shingles-vaccinated AND GETTING my 2ND COVID BOOSTER VACCINE ON THE EXACT DATE I’M ALLOWED TO. Showering at the YWCA was hurtful after the front desk lady said: GET HERE EARLIER !! …so the old lady dues paying regulars don’t have to mix with a homeless woman, I assumed. I said to her: THANKS FOR TREATING ME LIKE A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN, YWCA SALEM SQUARE! I thought the YW was were supposed to support all women … and combat these feelings and prejudices!
But I BELIEVE IN WORCESTER’S YOUTH! The kids at McDonald’s are so polite and friendly, giving me that extra big cup of water for my pups. Giving me that extra cup of hot water for tea. I tip them a buck when I can, which is often!
And last night at UMass I spoke to a young nurse in red blue jeans who I wished was my daughter. She looked to be about 25. She was slim, athletic, smart – and compassionate. I told her what I was going through, the voucher, the crumby Connecticut apartment, my pups, and she said: THE RENTS ARE CRAZY IN WORCESTER! THAT’S WHY WE MOVED OUT OF WORCESTER! No, you need your dogs! Then she said: Wait here by the desk. I have things for you.
The minutes dragged on. I wondered did this nice nurse forget about me – move on to triage someone with a greater emergency.
But 10 minutes later this young UMass nurse came out, a bounce in her step, wavy black hair bobbing, her COVID mask secure …she came to me with a huge plastic bag filled not just with the basics like shampoo, hand sanitizer and soap but a true gift! With lots of goodies to make me smile! As if she had thought about me – as if she cared and wanted to keep me healthy, as well as safe. My blessings bag had a big tube of petroleum jelly in it, along with a bottle of body wash, a big tube of body cream, a UMass eye mask for sleeping in relative darkness, eat plugs to make things quieter, four pairs of socks, two tooth brushes, two tubes of toothpaste, gargle rinse containers, a plastic foot pan and four face cloths. And to top it off, this nurse gave me a light hospital blanket WHICH SHE WARMED UP IN THE HOSPITAL WARMER OVEN! Beyond saving me a trip to the dollar store, this young totally in the moment UMass nurse bestowed upon me grace, kindness and human love. …My eyes welled up in the UMass urgent care area.
Back in my car with my goodies taking up the whole front seat, I thought of my late mom and her tears! Ten years ago, as I visited her every day in her studio apartment, to care for her – for four years! – to visit her, to bring her her McDonald’s coffee and cheeseburger and apple pie …to make sure all was well…to listen to her worries…or to confer with her elder care provided homemakers and CNAs or her meals on wheels folks… sometimes Ma would cry so softly, her little round shoulders trembling as I hugged her goodbye for the day.
I’d say: Ma, why are you crying?
My mother was not a cry baby. I saw her cry twice in my Green Island childhood and youth – and never at her seniors complex. She said: My Rosalie, you don’t know what it means to have a daughter!
I felt that way last night at UMass urgent care when that young UMass nurse ran out from her hospital triage room to hand me my gift… helped this old lady. I experienced daughter-hood – from the other side.
Always pay it forward!
In 10 or 20 years, it could be you!