Ten years ago this month, "The Line" first launched in The Era-Leader. It was as much of a surprise to me as it was to anyone. In middle age, I've learned that over-planning is overrated. Instead, it is serendipity that frequently brings good fortune. And, as it turns out, we are usually prepared. Most everything we need in life largely comes from our roots. At least, it has for me.
My planned career, in law, was short-lived as I soon switched roles, in the 1990s, into that of caregiver for my elderly parents, the late Col. (Ret.) Cecil and Margie Ellzey. And I wouldn't trade those years for the world. Inpatient in a series of hospitals for a period of months in the year 2000, my mother was quizzed by hospital staff, and I quote, "What hospital does your daughter work at?" 'Twas a real compliment from that staff member because times were tough - enough to make the angels weep. What we didn't tell her, what we didn't tell any of them, was that I had pretty much grown up in a hospital. Drawing from those early years, I knew my way around. My daddy was the long-time administrator of the Bogalusa Community Medical Center "BCMC" where I was born in 1964.
As a teenager, I got my start in Central Supply situated in the basement, interning a whole summer and navigating each floor and wing of the hospital. Filling requisitions and delivering medical supplies, I loaded my tiered cart to the gills. My education in the area of medical supplies was topped only by that which I acquired from the people, from employees to patients. Listening and learning, I fondly remember Ms. Barbara Kennedy and Ms. Carolyn Stroud, the Supervisor of Central Supply.
I later transitioned as an intern into the administrative offices at BCMC. There, friend Libby Stafford, Director of Medical Records, together with her staff - Margaret Creel, Ruth Bennett, Lisa Williams, Linda Kirkland, and Nancy McGehee - generously taught me about medical transcription. With today's technology and programs like Epic, I am clueless about medical records in the 21st century. But in the 20th, physicians dictated the records which medical transcriptionists, wearing headsets, then transcribed using typewriters, for the paper chart.
Limited to the summer, I wasn't there long enough to become proficient, but after a few months, I had mastered basic medical terminology, spellbound by doctors who dictated for hours on end. Learning more than I should have, I typed as they talked. Listening was a skill that, unbeknownst to me, would become infinitely valuable later on. It was renowned author Eudora Welty who said, "Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories."
Growing up an only child in Franklinton, I graduated as valedictorian of Bowling Green School in 1982 before matriculating to LSU, where I earned a degree in business in 1985. Then, it was on to Tulane Law School, where I learned to research and write, graduating with a J. D. in 1989. It was this education that prepared me for my short legal career with Liskow & Lewis. The life of an associate at any law firm is a grind, and after our daughter Betsy was born, I discovered that it was hard to have it all. Working full-time until she was nearly two and going part-time thereafter, I soon turned my time and attention, full-time, to my family.
We didn't realize it, but the die was already cast. It was my folks, to whom I had been born inordinately late, who needed me - their only child - the most. I would be remiss if I didn't mention my saint of a husband Rodney, without whom I never could have managed the caregiving, a role he willingly shared while working full-time. A juggling act, while raising our young daughter we managed to care for my folks 24/7 during their twilight years which, for the two of them, spanned from 1999 to 2011. Looking back, I don't know how we did it. But we were equal to the strain. It ended all too soon, some twelve years later, when both Momma and Daddy were gone.
It was then, in the aftermath of unexpectedly losing Momma in the summer of 2011, that I landed at "The Era-Leader." An orphan and empty-nester, I was at loose ends in early 2012. Bridge had not begun, in earnest, for me back then. It was Rodney who thought that I might put pen to paper, with that my only formal training. And it was Steve Kuperstock, the Publisher and Editor of "The Era-Leader," who gave me my invitation to the waltz - the chance to write "The Line." In the beginning, there were a lot of unknowns. Mainly, I didn't know what I would write. My only experience writing had been on law review and at the firm. Thank my lucky stars, this wouldn't be that. I started with my memories, but then I hit the jackpot - with yours.
•Stay tuned next week for the conclusion of ‘Ten years, and counting’.