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Monday, December 12, 2016

History Windows

Thanksgiving Dinner during WWII
As a photographer and paramedic, I have been blessed (sometimes cursed) with the ability to permanently capture the world around me in vivid, exquisite detail, in "History Windows" (pictures). Each profession, I believe, has made me better at the other.

Saturday night, I worked with Jamie. It was our first time together though we had known each other for years. The call volume was steady. A little of this, a little of that. Some needed advanced life support and others not. Around 02:30 in the morning, we went to the address of a 92 year old female who was having gastrointestinal discomfort. She had recently been hospitalized for the same and probably would benefit by returning tonight - just not with the care of the paramedics as she was completely stable.

I disconnected my equipment and explained to the family that the local EMS agency would be taking their mother back to the hospital. Across the bed from me was the patient's son and daughter in-law, tired, frightened and out of their comfort zone, as they were not from the area and were probably tired of dealing with mom's medical issues.

While talking to the son, I noticed a very large, stunning black & white photograph of a newly married husband and wife on their special day about 3/4's of a century earlier. It took my breath away, the etched excitement, happiness and hope in their smiles - present, their entire future - ahead.

So here we were in the midst of her future, particularly the part wedding vows refer to as "in sickness" but her other half had long since left, as did most of those she knew from that time.

I excused myself and told the son, "I apologize for staring. That picture is striking. I, I'm a photographer also." Distressed, he couldn't offer a smile but he did ask, "You like pictures? I'll show you a picture." He circled the bed and led me out of the room and into the kitchen. There on the wall was a large, elegantly framed,  photo somewhat similar to the one above. It was, of course, black & white (as were all pictures of that era). The picture was composed beautifully as it used vanishing points and the rule of 3rds which any photographer will understand. In the middle at the most distant end (the vanishing point) were the patient's two grandparents. Flanking the grandparents were a seated group of young adults, male and female emerging into the foreground. Between them was an enormous spread that lined every inch of the rectangular Thanksgiving table. Along the right side were six GI's in their pressed army uniforms, their smiles as broad as their shoulders and behind them, standing, were two beautiful young maidens.

At a glance; "Meah, an old picture of some people at a table. Big deal." The same response we sometimes have toward our patients, 'another gomer,' or 'waste of our time.' Nothing will put you at odds with me faster than disrespect for the elderly. We do not 'sling lizards' or whatever other ignorant pejorative idiots use. We are their guardians and protectors for as long as we wear this patch and do this work.

The picture (History Window), her son explained, was taken after combat had ceased in Germany and Japan. The six handsome GI's were all her brothers, safely home from the different theaters and the second fair maiden, her sister. Our patient is now the sole survivor of the lot.

I was happy that I got to share a moment of her long life and that in that moment, I earned her trust, made her smile and even dance with me as I helped her from the bed and spun her around into the awaiting stair-chair.

It was the first and probably last time we would exchange glances.  My position as a paramedic granted me access to a moment with this beautiful nonagenarian. And now she and her family are etched permanently into my History Window.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. Watch for and record your moments, your History Windows.

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