Our lives were framed between the day we met and the day you fell at my feet. For me, there was, is, and probably always will be only you.
Our meeting was right out of South Pacific. I saw you enter a crowded room and I was immediately sure that you were the right person for me. I think it was your face which radiated kindness. And so it proved. You were kind to everyone and cared about people in a meaningful way. When you were completing your dissertation on trace metal analysis, you assumed you’d end up in business, working in water pollution, but you didn’t. You ended up in a hospital, working as a clinical chemist.
The phone rang a lot. Where’s Dr. Soules? I need Dr. Soules. You were the one patients called on for their arterial blood draws, a painful procedure that you worked hard to mitigate. I remember when you were learning to perform those draws. Our fruit was pockmarked for weeks. I’d open the fridge, see another pockmarked orange and wonder if I should stud it with cloves.
The downside of your work was that you were rarely home before eight or nine at night, sometimes later, and you were on 24/7 call for the entire 29 years you worked there. I became adept at keeping food hot and not dried out, dinner after dinner, before we got a microwave, but even then, it took attention. When we had a son, especially when he was little, I had to put him to bed long before you came home. As for 24/7 ‘on call’, that meant limited holidays, staycations mostly, because you had to be able to get to the hospital.
I recall one Thanksgiving where we got 8 inches of snow on Wednesday and another 8 inches on Friday. Our house was without power for four days. Thanksgiving was cancelled, but police instructed everyone not to leave their house. You had your jeep and took off for the hospital. I learned later that you had quite an argument with the police at the end of our street, but they finally let you go through.
Home alone for four days with no gas or electricity, I reverted to my childhood when I’d had neither of those (and no running water in those early years). I relied on a small fireplace in the den, cooking on it and keeping it going through the night. As it was an ornamental fireplace (as most are in the U.S.) and now a proper drawing fireplace, I wasn’t particularly warm, but I was fed. I did meet my relatively new neighbors, though, because someone came to check on me and discovered I could cook on an open fire. Word spread and my house was full of people by the end of the four days. I cooked whatever people brought over (“can you cook this for me?”). When you got home after four days, you found a dozen people in the house, kids running around, and a complete mess. You just grinned, amused the kids (you could talk kids into doing anything), and, as always, took care of us.
When you fell at my feet one Saturday and were gone, the phone rang for weeks. Where’s Dr. Soules? I need Dr. Soules. I’d have to explain that you were gone and that they’d have to accept that their blood draws would be done by one of the pathologists. They’d tell me how much you meant to them over the years and my heart eased.