“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.”
~ Helen Keller (1880-1968)
Gail Sobotkin earned a nursing degree from William
Paterson University in 1974 and a Legal Health Care Specialist certificate from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2001. She did community health nursing for many years and worked for the State of Delaware’s Chronic Renal Disease Program before retiring in the fall of 2010. She loves to write inspirational short
stories that touch people’s hearts and also writes medical articles. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Nursing, Chief of Police Magazine, Police Times, America’s Intercultural Magazine (AIM) and the Delmarva Quarterly. Since retirement she has been writing on Hub Pages where she publishes health related articles, memoir vignettes and inspirational fiction under the pen name, Happyboomernurse. She also has a health expert page on Self Growth.com.
“Most people are searching for happiness. They’re trying to find it in someone or something outside of themselves. That’s a fundamental mistake. Happiness is something that you are, and it comes from the way you think.” Wayne Dyer
This is Gail’s Story:
Everyone has people and events in their lives that mold their characters for better or worse and I am no exception. I was the middle child of three and when my mother was pregnant with my baby brother she developed complications that required her to stay in bed as much as possible, something that was difficult to do with a 2-year-old (myself), a 6-year-old (my sister) and a husband who was rarely home. Mom told me years later that she’d
been terrified that she would give birth to a stillborn baby, but that reading to me helped take her mind off those morbid thoughts. “You were an amazing little girl. You’d bring me drinks and food, get your own bottles and lie down next to me in bed content to listen and look at story books for hours on end. By the time Bobby was born I discovered that you could actually read many of the words in the books.” Because of that early childhood experience reading has always felt as natural as talking and breathing to me and I know the experience greatly impacted my future by giving me a life-long love of books and making my later transition to school exceptionally easy and positive.
My favorite game as a child was playing “teacher” especially with my little brother and I had every intention of becoming a real teacher when I grew up but my career aspirations changed during my teen years when 3 more events led me in the direction of nursing. First, mom became disabled due to asthma, emphysema and depression and I spent a lot of my time taking care of her. Then my father suffered a massive heart attack and was not expected to survive. Fortunately he was rushed to a hospital that had one of the few
Coronary Care Units in the country and when his heart stopped beating, quick action by the nursing staff resuscitated him. When he recovered from the heart attack dad thought nurses were God’s angels and he was convinced they’d saved his life. The third thing that steered me in the direction of nursing was that I fell in love with a young man named Helmut, who had cancer. Helmut taught me the power of touch and compassion in alleviating pain. He died during my first year of college and I changed my major from English to Nursing, privately dedicating my nursing career to him.
A few years later I met and fell madly in love with the man who would become my husband. Fred was a Vietnam Veteran who, having seen buddies killed and maimed during his two tours in Vietnam, seemed different from the other men I’d dated. He was more mature and certain of what he wanted to do with his life which was to become a teacher. Five years into our marriage we had a son, David, who is our only child and whom we are very proud of. We recently celebrated our 37th anniversary and though we’ve had many
challenges during our marriage our love and commitment to each other has always
gotten us through them.
In my forties I felt a great urge to write and my husband was very supportive of my efforts to do so. I began taking weekly Authentic Writing Workshops in Woodstock, NY, with a teacher named Fred Poole. The workshops were informal and they focused on writing from personal experience. Fred’s tutelage taught me to write from the heart and always strive to find the truth in my memoir style vignettes. One of his favorite sayings was that,
“Authentic writing is a process of self-discovery. If you’ve found the truth, it will most likely be something you weren’t even aware of when you first started writing a piece. It’s also likely that it will be something others may feel threatened by, but you can’t let fear of other people’s reactions keep you from being courageous enough to speak your truth.” Fred’s workshops were a safe and accepting place to practice this kind of writing. No one was allowed to criticize, analyze or judge the subject matter that another writer had written about; instead Fred kept the focus on the quality of the writing. Did it have the ring of an essential and universal truth? Did it feel like the writer had held back, been
too emotionally detached from the subject matter, thereby leaving the listener feeling cheated? Fred also held readings in a NYC café and in Woodstock where his workshop students could read their work to a live audience. Participating in the readings was intimidating but also exhilarating.
I moved to Delaware a decade ago and haven’t joined any more writing groups but I have continued writing and have had my work published in several journals and magazines. I retired from nursing in 2010 and started writing and publishing my articles on Hub Pages. One of the most gratifying things about Hub Pages is the instant feedback from readers. There is great satisfaction in knowing that something I’ve written has touched someone’s heart and I feel honored when readers open up about their own experiences adding depth and insight to my hub article through their helpful comments. I’ve discovered that personal stories are more powerful than I previously realized and that they inspire others in ways you might not expect or they’re read by someone at just the right time to bring much needed hope when they’re in the depths of pain and grief. At the very least, readers learn that they are not alone in the challenges they face.
Sample Memoir Vignette:
The Night My Two Year Old Brother Got Drunk
One night while my sister and I were in the living room, Mom yelled out from the kitchen
that it was time for Bobby and I to go to bed. Jeanne was allowed to go upstairs half an hour later and I, being the middle child, had the job of putting our younger brother into his crib. But on this night Bobby wasn’t co-operating with me. In fact he was acting down- right peculiar. Every time he tried to stand up and walk his tiny body would sway from side to side and he’d take a few steps forward, then fall back down on his well padded, diapered behind. Thinking he was just fooling around I told him to, “Quit acting so silly and stand up straight.”
“Can’t,” he said, falling back onto his butt. Then he laughed and laughed and we laughed with him as he repeatedly attempted to walk. Jeanne and I started to imitate his actions and we were all staggering around like miniature drunken sailors until Mom stuck her head in the room and told us to, “Quit fooling around and go to bed.” I tried to lift Bobby up but he was like dead weight and kept slipping to the floor.
“There’s something wrong with him, Ma. I can’t get him to stand up. You try it
and see for yourself.” She did and all of a sudden we heard her gasp and say,
“Oh my God, he’s drunk!”
“Drunk?” Jeanne and I looked at each other and burst into another round of convulsive laughter. We didn’t really know what drunk meant except that it was something that happened to adults when they had too much beer or wine. Our baby brother was drunk. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Unfortunately, for Bobby and mom it was no laughing matter but I didn’t know that until years later when mom shared with me how scared she’d been that night. She felt so guilty for leaving the open wine bottle out where he could get at it. “Your poor brother puked and cried and rolled around in his crib with a bellyache for a few hours and nothing I did
could console him. At one point I thought I might have to take him to the hospital but then how could I explain how he’d gotten drunk? Instead I stood vigil by his crib even after he finally passed out, to make sure he kept breathing and wouldn’t choke if he vomited again.”
Forty two years later, mom, sis and I stood vigil around Bobby’s hospital bed, waiting for him to die from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. This time Jeanne and I were crying, not laughing about the end result of his abuse of alcohol and poor mom was again caught up in a morass of guilt, fearing that she’d been a bad parent and had somehow caused his death. She was inconsolable after he died and slid into another one of her deep depressions.
Hub Pages Profile Page http://happyboomernurse.hubpages.com/
Self Growth.com Health Expert Page http://www.selfgrowth.com/experts/gail_sobotkin
Thank you so much for all the support you have given me throughout the last eight months. I wish for you a beautiful life and continued joy in all you do.