Thursday, June 15, 2006

Old ladies and summer school

Published June 15, 2006

I’m trying to lose weight. This would be the fourth decade of trying. I’m really serious this time. I’ve had it with the wake up calls.

First wake up call was about 10 years ago. I was in the hospital for a serious bout of Pancreatitis. I was really sick and I looked like an old lady. I know this because one of the nurses came into my room, saw the wedding picture of JD and I on the wall next to my bed and remarked, “So, when did your daughter get married?” Even though IV Demerol pulsed through my veins, the sting of her observation killed me. “That is me with my husband,” I said through my drug induced fog. I used to look fabulous. What the heck happened? “Oh, sorry ma’am…I didn’t realize that was you!”

Second wake up call- I was visiting the hospital NICU a couple weeks ago with my friend Barb and her sick infant. A fresh faced young nurse came in the room, pointed to Barb and said, “You must be Mom?” Then she said “You Grandma?” Ouch! Stupid girl must need glasses. I couldn’t believe it. I just had my highlights done too. I could have strangled her or sued my hairstylist.

Third wake up call – I am going back to school. Yep, I am going to try after all these years to fulfill a dream I had when I was 17 years old, youthful, full of promise and wanting to save the world. I want to become a nurse! Huh? Yes, a fabulously over-forty nurse; one of those really smart ones whose brains and beauty only get better with age.
Nurses with good eyesight and compassion are in demand these days. No really, once upon a time, when I graduated from high school, I wanted to become a nurse. I had a couple scholarships but I managed to blow off my chemistry class when I broke my arm in an auto accident. I ended up leaving the Junior College mid semester, transferring to a four year university and getting my BA in something else, completely unrelated. I left nursing back in 1981 and never looked back, until now. Twenty Five years later and I resume my studies this week at Folsom Lake College. I must be insane. I can’t wait.

The big test starts with summer school. Will I be able to finally pass chemistry? I went to FLC to see about getting my bearings straight before school started this week. I found the science department and went into the office to ask about finding the lab. The fresh faced young girl looked at me and said “you must be the new teacher?” “No, I’m an old lady student”. She laughed. I felt the old sting again…this time without the Demerol. “Well, let me show you where it is.” I must have looked like I was handicapped or something. She insisted. After she pointed me in the right direction, and after I bought my books, I took my youngest around the campus and told her what it was like to go to college. “How long ago did you go to college Mom?” Birdy made it sound like I was going to tell her a fairytale. “Well, Bird, it was a long time ago, a little over 25 years ago. But, I’d like to go back now and see if I can become a nurse.” OK Mom, are you the only old person coming here?” I hope not.

In the meantime, I am losing weight. I’ve lost about 20 pounds and I am giving myself a year to lose the rest. Someday, God willing, and for every patient I ever come into contact with, I make a solemn promise – I will never assume anything. You are all youthful, beautiful and skinny even if you have pancreatitis, or something else. I will never look at a woman and assume she is Grandma. Not ever. I pray to God I am not the only old lady in summer school, especially in Chemistry class where I need all the help I can get, or at least a grade of “C” or better. I plan to find a seat down front where I can see the whiteboard and hear the instructor. Time to wake up and let the games begin! An “about to be skinny” old lady is going to summer school.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at


Shan-M said...

Your not old Mom! Once you turn 60 and have grand-kids THEN we can talk about you being old...:-D
Awesome article! Can't wait for the next one!!!


Florin CLAD Cohort said...

Congratulations on your first week back to school! We are all here to help you!


Anonymous said...

I've worked at FLC for many years, and trying really hard to help folks - doing things like walking them to where they are going - is totally part of the culture at FLC, so not to worry!

Tammy Maher said...

I appreciate the encouragement! A reader wrote me today who finished nursing school in her 50's and she lost 125 pounds in her 40's. That's is totally cool! I love you guys.

Kel said...

You go, Tam. Good for you--we're rooting for ya!

Michelle A. said...

You're going back to school?!! Wow! That is awesone!

TCB said...

nice post aunt tammy