The Press-Gazette Publishes its Maggie Follow-Up Story

 

St. Vincent Hospital Green Bay

“There was a great deal of interest in the story I published on Maggie,” Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter Dian Page told me after her initial column on my search for the nurse named Maggie, which was published last month.  “I’d like to do a follow-up story.  Could you pass along some information on what you found?”

It took me about a week to return calls and emails from the many people who responded.  It took an equal amount of time to process the thoughts and feelings it brought to me.  It was incredibly touching that so many people were interested in my story and my search.

Today Dian published her follow-up story, Pediatrics Nurse Remembered Fondly By Many.

Have you ever searched for someone from your past?  I’d like to hear about it.

In my Anne on Fire research, finding this much information on a “Maggie” — someone remembered but long-lost from contact — is unique.  Talking to friends, relatives, siblings, doctors and others associated with my burn experience, their memories have varied widely.   Just because the memories are vivid for me doesn’t mean they leave memorable impressions on others.  One person’s crisis is not necessarily another’s.  One person’s joy may be their own.  It’s remarkable to have the perfect shared experience as I found in my search for Maggie.

For example, when I called the doctor listed as my pediatrician, he was receptive to my call.  He had known my parents for many years and I had gone to high school with his son.  As much as he remembered our family, he had to scratch his head about me.  He certainly remember me but not the story of the burn even though it was 99% certain that he was there during the initial stages.  When I talked to my father-in-law (a retired surgeon) about his, he reminded me about the volume of work and the many sleepless night he spent doing surgery after surgery.  Of course, he remembered many of his patients and their specific stories but helped me understand how impossible it would be to remember every detail as a patient would.

All of this is what makes the Maggie story so remarkable.  From everyone I talked to and everything I learned, I know Maggie always remembered me.  As a nurse’s aid, I was told, Maggie would have had the time to spend with her little patients — unlike the duties calling the regular nurses and doctors.   And that is what people remembered about Maggie:  The time she gave to those she loved.

It’s something to know and remember about life.  The time we spend with others is the most lasting gift of all.

Returning to Green Bay

Rainbow on I-43 North September 30, 2011

Since my parents passed away in the mid-1990s, my return visits to my hometown of Green Bay, WI are tied to special events rather than happenstance occurrences.  With a class reunion looming, I made plans with two St. Joseph Academy high school friends to attend the event together and didn’t initially give much thought to maximizing my time there.  But as the weekend approached, it seemed right to think about, and perhaps visit, some of the landmarks from childhood.

After all the research and thinking I’d already done for Anne on Fire, I decided to let the weekend unfold on its own rather than attempt to orchestrate anything.

As Barbie, Teresa and I hit Highway I-43 for the drive north, the largest and most beautiful rainbow appeared ahead of us (see photo above), symbolically beckoning us forth, or at the very least giving us a very good feeling about the weekend.  (For meaning on rainbows, see:   http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-do-rainbows-mean.html and http://www.buzzle.com/articles/colors-of-the-rainbow-and-their-meaning.html) .  Our feeling was right on the money:  Green Bay had changed and expanded since our high school days but our connections to each other felt as if no time had passed. 

519 Spring Street, Green Bay, WI

On Saturday, we did some errands and then drove by the old neighborhood.  I hopped out of the car and took a picture of my old house at 519 Spring Street (above) and then we headed out of the city to visit Teresa’s parents for lunch.  For our entire childhood, Teresa and I lived across the street from one another, frequent refugees in each other’s houses and intertwined in the storylines of growing up.  Her parents had long since moved from the St. James neighborhood we shared and we pulled up to a cozy brown ranch with an enormous garden next to it.  The table was set for lunch and after a tour of the garden (and some choice pickings from the remaining harvest) we settled in to catch up and break bread. 

As lunch neared its close, Teresa’s dad turned and sincerely asked, “Now Annie, tell us what you are doing with yourself.”   After telling of husband and kids, I mentioned my Anne on Fire pursuits hoping they might have a remembrance or two to share.  I watched Teresa’s mom nodding and then she said, “I do remember how hard it was on your mother.  There was one day when I went across the street to visit and she told me she had just received a call from the Service League.  Just the day before I had received one as well and of course with all the kids I had, there was no time for me to be volunteering for other things but they must have been calling some of the neighborhood women.  After what had happened with you, there was of course no way your mother could have joined and she told them that.  They wanted her to know however that they were very busy because they were regularly visiting you in the hospital.  Well, your mother was about as mad as I’ve ever seen her.  ‘Gwen,’ she said ‘How could they?  If they really wanted to be of service, why wouldn’t they come to my home and watch my other two children so that I could visit my own daughter in the hospital?””

She continued, “Annie, I think your mother had a lot of stories like this.  There were things she wished people could have or would have done to help.  But in that day and time, we didn’t say what we wanted.  We accepted what was there.  I know there were many people who were there for her and we all tried to help her as much as we could.”

We talked some more about what they knew about the accident.  I wondered how many other friends and neighbors in Green Bay had bits and pieces of the story like Teresa’s parents did.    It meant so much to have these details, to hear their recollections; to fill in the context I had been seeking.  I wondered too why some people like Teresa’s parents were so forthcoming and others so resistant.   I wondered if I had enough stories and if not, where to probe for more.

With warm hugs and muddy shoes from the garden visit, we pulled out of the driveway and returned to our reunion adventure.  I squeezed in time to see my brother coach his son in a kiddie football game and visit with my sister and sister-in-law.  When my sister Susie invited me to church on Sunday, I met them at our old parish, St. John the Evangelist, before driving back to Chicago.

Everything about the visit felt right — the warmth of a small town, the ease of going from Point A to Point B and the connections with the people gathered there that weekend.  Even my own Anne on Fire story felt right, that things happened just as I’d been told they did, that people knew, remembered and cared.  If you let it happen, you can always be home.

St. John the Evangelist Church, Green Bay