Recipe for Success
A young nurse is taught patience (and a few things about cooking) by her first patient.
“Oh!” It didn’t sound very appetizing. Millie must have read my mind: “I’m tired of soup!” she said. Unfortunately, I could only cook the basics. “I haven’t done any fancy cooking since junior high home ec,” I confessed.
Somehow that got Millie excited. “I’ll teach you!” she said. “Like I did my girls.”
Teach me? How was she going to do that? One letter at a time, that’s how, I thought. “Okay, Millie, tell me what to do.”
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Millie kept her instructions short and simple. I had no trouble performing each step. By dinnertime I was lifting apricot-scented chicken out of the oven—and it was delicious. Maybe I wouldn’t become a better nurse on this job, but I would become a better cook.
Millie sipped her portion through a straw and grinned. “The last nurse burnt the chicken.”
“I was sure that was going to happen to me,” I said, laughing.
“I’ll teach you some fancy needlepoint stitches when we’ve mastered cooking,” she said.
“I can’t wait.”
Millie soon had me doing things I didn’t imagine I could ever do. Like set an elegant table for dinner, complete with napkins folded like birds-of-paradise. Such skills had nothing to do with nursing, of course, but at least I was learning something on this job.
“Apricot chicken,” I read off the familiar recipe card one night. Luckily Millie never got tired of it. “Serves one to one hundred.”
Millie blinked for my attention. “Let’s do it!” she said.
“Have a party!”
A party? Was she kidding? Of course not. Not Millie. She made a guest list and dispatched me downtown to buy presents: a special book for her husband, a robe for an old family friend, a tie for her doctor. “Find a pair of hoop earrings for yourself,” she said. “All the girls are wearing them now.”
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By the time we’d all gathered around the table for apricot chicken, I knew it was going to be a successful evening. Millie beamed at me from her wheelchair at the head of the table. Thurber patted her hand from his place next to her.
My earlier attitude made me feel ashamed. I’d thought Millie’s situation was hopeless, as if the fact that she had so little time left meant she might as well already be dead. Yet when I thought back on the weeks we’d had together, they were some of the best in my life.
Millie had taught me that even a single day could be precious if you used it well. I’d learned something that all my years of nursing school hadn’t taught me.
Eventually I got a call from the Veterans Association. I’d been selected for a staff nurse position on a medical unit. Millie was so happy for me.
The day I started my new job, I called to check on her before leaving home. She had died peacefully in her sleep the night before. She was with the angels in heaven now. But her spirit guided me every day of my long career.
She had made me a better nurse, an answer to my prayer. All my patients had the pleasure of a little bit of Millie under my care.
Try Millie's Apricot Chicken recipe for yourself!
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