Monday, December 30, 2013

The Christmas Stocking

It was a dark and stormy night, paralleling the dark storms that were raging inside of me.  The sleet rattled at the windows like the tapping of boney fingers of death. I was facing my first Christmas alone.
I had given birth to a beautiful little girl who had passed away at the age of five. Her rosy cheeks and coppery hued hair would be forever etched on my heart. Memories of her patting my face with her small, chubby hands lingered. Even though her death had happened nearly forty-five years ago, that was a wound that had never fully healed. The scars from my dear Leah’s demise had again burst wide open and were weeping heavily. Wade’s death earlier in the year reopened those wounds and had added many more.
Wade and I had bought a small farmhouse that was to be our retirement nest. We remodeled and updated only the kitchen and the bathrooms, allowing the rest of the house to retain its unique and quirky charm.
The highly waxed wooden floors were original and beautiful. They reflected the warmth of the blaze in the fireplace. It had all felt so warm and cozy, but no longer. It would be a cold and lonely holiday for me and I was chilled through and through.
I sat staring into the fire, wrapped in a thickly crocheted throw. Its somber hues of gray and brown yarns matched my mood.
I allowed my mind to wander. My thoughts flickered like the flames of the fire. From somewhere in the recesses of my memory, I recalled that there was a small wooden box in the attic when we bought the house. We were much too busy then to deal with it when we moved in. A voice seemed to be speaking to me now. It seemed to call from far away, “Fetch me down. You need what is inside.”
The voice seemed real. I actually looked around, but no one was here. Although I felt oddly foolish, I did as I was asked. I had nothing else to do. Amid a lot of bumping and banging, I drug the old chest into the living room to a spot beside the fireplace. I lifted the lid and set it aside. Covering the contents was a frayed and much used quilt. The once bright colors were faded and torn. I ran my hand over the surface feeling each small hand stitch. Moving it aside, I saw the box was filled with old Christmas decorations; blown glass, beaded ones, folded foil, and fabric ornaments.
Standing, I went into the kitchen and brought out a large cut glass punch bowl. I carried it to the hearth and began to fill it with the antique ornaments. When it was full I centered it in the middle of the dining room table, it seemed as if unseen hands were guiding me. The storm outside and inside seemed to be less dark and less severe.
I folded the quilt intending to return it to the box. As I placed it inside, the old newspaper on the bottom slid to the side and a saw a scrap of red material. I lifted the paper and found a small Christmas stocking.
A small voice said, “Hang it up on the mantle. Santa’s coming.”
With trembling fingers, I picked it up. As I started to hang it up, I felt and heard something crackle down near the toe. Reaching inside, I found a folded piece of paper. It was a note written in green crayon. “I LOVE YOU MOMMY…LEE.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Christmas Blessing

I was driving home after work listening to the Christmas carols on my radio. My mind was awash with a long list of things I needed to do before the holidays. I started to unwind as the music filled my car. I was looking forward to visiting my family and celebrating with them.
I heard a voice say, “Stop and buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.”
I looked around my car, but no one was inside. I thought, “It would take me weeks to use a gallon of milk and I just bought bread.” I shook off the voice and drove on.
I had almost forgotten the voice and had started to relax again. My mind started to scroll through things that I had to do yet.

The voice appeared again. “Buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.” It was more insistent and louder.
“Where is that voice coming from? I can’t use more milk and bread.”
Again I shook off the intrusion of the voice and continued to drive.

I was almost halfway home. The voice came again, but this time it was filled with an urgent, pleading edge to it. “Stop the car and buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.” It was a voice I could no longer ignore.
I was almost to the grocery store where I always shopped for my own groceries. I gave up and yielded to the voice. It was so urgent I couldn’t ignore it. Why, I wasn’t sure?
I parked my car and made my way to the back of the store, where the storekeepers always conveniently place the milk and bread. It makes each shopper trek through the store trying to evade the traps of sale items and enticing displays.

I was in and out in just a few minutes, using the express line. I felt foolish as I sat in my car. “What was I going to do now?”
I started the car and continued the drive home. Before long the voice returned saying, “Turn here.”
I was startled by the voice. I had the already followed its advice, I needed to see what would happen next. I made the turn.

I’d never driven in this area before. Small bungalows and cottages lined the street. Most of them were neat and orderly. As I neared the end of the street, I saw a home that was starting to deteriorate.  As I came nearer, the voice re-appeared and said, “Stop here. This is the place.”
I pulled over to the curb and shut off the engine. The cooling engine ticked off the seconds as I sat gathering my courage. Collecting the groceries, I opened the car door and strode up the uneven walkway. I climbed the steps and moved to the door. I hesitated and then knocked on the door. A flake of paint drifted to the floor of the porch.
I wasn’t sure that my rap had been heard and was about to knock again when the door opened a crack. A young woman’s face appeared. “Yes?” The door was nudged wider by a toddler at her feet. In her arms was an infant.
I held out the milk and the loaf of bread. “These are for you.”
A wide smile spread across her face and tears began to course down her cheeks. She managed to say, “I have been praying for these. There was no milk for the baby and no food in the house. Thank you so much. This is a true Christmas blessing.”

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas Candies

I smiled as i lifted the old candy box down from the top closet shelf. It was worn from many years of being handled. I remembered the year when my wife and I had gotten the box of assorted chocolates as a Christmas gift. The candy was long gone, but the box had gained a second purpose of collecting buttons, thread, needles, and a variety of other accumulated odds and ends.
I flipped open its broad yellow and white hinged top. A faint aroma of the chocolate wafted up and stirred the memories lodged in my nostrils. It took me back to an almost embarrassing incident that makes me smile now. My wife was still alive and our three children’s ages ranged from four or five years old to twelve years old.
My wife had invited some of our old friends over for a post-Christmas celebration. It was to be a time for talking, snacking, and exchanging of gifts. Those friends had three children of their own and it made a perfect fit for our friendship and for exchanging of gifts.
My wife had prepared a tray of vegetables and dip, a tray of crackers with a cheese ball, and a tray of assorted cookies to serve our guests. As she showered and got dressed, I set the trays of goodies out on the dining room table. It looked festive, but I thought the cookie tray looked a little plain and would look more celebratory with a few of the chocolates scattered on the tray. I pulled the candy box from its spot under the Christmas tree. I opened it up and lifted the first piece of chocolate from its resting place inside. It was still cradled in its crinkled brown paper cup.
The aroma and the sight of the confection made my mouth water. I hadn’t eaten one of the chocolates yet and it tempted me. I was feeling a bit hungry and seeing all of the food on the table and thought I would try a piece now. As I took the candy out of its paper wrapper, I thought that it felt a bit odd. Turning it over, I had a surprise. I could see that one of our kids had picked the chocolate coating off the underside. Apparently the child hadn’t liked the crème that had been hidden inside and returned it to its brown crinkled paper cup and then slipped it back into box, making it look as if it had never been disturbed.
I ate the disfigured piece of chocolate even though I could see that the crème inside wasn’t my one of my favorites. The frugal nature in me rejected the other option of throwing it away. The waste of food would have grated on my upbringing.
I picked out a second piece of candy nestled in its paper nest to put onto the tray. This one felt odd too. When I turned it over, it had the bottom coating of sweets scraped off as well. The chocolate layer was gone and the creamy filling was exposed.
I looked through the candies. All of the chocolates had been mutilated, rendered bottomless, and returned to their candy box homes. That evening none of the sweet confections ever made it onto the cookie tray. Completely by accident, I had discovered and avoided an embarrassing situation.
Even if I hadn’t caught the mutilated bonbon, our friends would have understood. They had three children too. It has become an amusing story in our family and someone will ask, “Anyone want a piece of chocolate?”

Monday, December 23, 2013

                                                         The Voice of an Angel

     This is a story that I wrote for a Christmas challenge. The place and actual scenes are fiction, but the affliction of Alzheimer's disease claimed my mother's mind and soul for almost six years. The last few years she didn't speak or if she did it was gibberish. Near the end she refused to eat. The central idea of the story is true. Out of the darkness of her mind she made one lucid statement before the ravages of that disease claimed her mind until it was released at her death.

The Voice of an Angel

It was December 1976. We had just moved into the rustic cabin where my wife was raised. It was a long shot, but her Alzheimer’s had progressed rapidly. I thought if she was in familiar surroundings it might slow its onset.
The disease wasn’t called Alzheimer’s back then. It was called hardening of the arteries or dementia.
We had been married for nearly forty years. I could see it all slipping away.
My wife Sybil had been forgetting things for a long time until she finally retreated inside a shell of silence. We still had occasional moments of intimacy. I would sit beside her, hold her in my arms, and stroke the hair that had turned from gold into silver. I would remind her of the things I loved about her and the memories that we shared.
Helping her to dress, eat, and wash became my life. She had given so much of her life to me, what could I do but share mine? It was stressful at times, but she was my love.
A light snow had fallen overnight creating a winter whitened world where ice and lace graced the bare trees that surrounded the cabin. I dressed her warmly. Taking her hand, we walked under the crystal and powder canopies. I was lost in the beauty of the moment while my wife was just lost. As we explored, I noticed a stand of pines behind the cabin.
It had been years since I’d decorated for Christmas and even longer since we’d brought a live pine into our house. I felt that it was time to do it again; after all, this might be our last holiday together.
We walked back to the cabin. I unlocked the shed, took a hatchet out of my toolbox, and led Sybil back to the pine grove. She stood nearby watching as I cut the tree. The snow sifted onto me with each swing of the blade. The evergreen groaned and fell. I tucked the hatchet behind my belt, grasped a branch of the tree with one hand and Sybil’s hand with the other. Towing the tree behind me, our progress back to the house was slow. I stopped to catch my breath several times.
I helped Sybil climb the steps onto the porch. Pulling the tree onto the veranda, I leaned it by the side of the door. I made a hasty trip to the shed to fetch the box of ornaments and tree stand. Inside, I helped Sybil undress and sat her in her favorite chair. Trading the hatchet for a saw, I cut the pine’s trunk to fit the stand.
The tree was soon covered with lights and ornaments. It looked so bright and festive. Sybil watched as I worked, but what registered in her brain I was unsure. I went into the kitchen to make some cocoa for us. I heard Sybil moving in the living room. I had to check to see what she was doing and be sure that she was safe. She was standing and staring at the tree.
She lifted a tentative finger to touch an ornament. I held my breath. It was the first ornament that we had bought after our wedding. It seemed as if a light went on behind her normally flat eyes.
She touched the bright, shiny orb and looked around. A vaguely familiar voice spoke. It was rusty from many years of disuse, “Where’s Carl? I love him so.” The voice suddenly stopped. The light in her eyes went out, but an angel had spoken.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Life Can Be a Ditch

After the neighbor filled in a ditch that ran across a corner of the property, my back yard became more and more bog-like. It became increasingly difficult to mow because it was turning into a water-filled swamp. With all of the rain this summer, I was unable to mow it. I couldn’t get into my garden to weed. The mud in it was up to my ankles even between rains.

I asked my brother Ken, to come out and help me decide what we needed to do to help alleviate the problem without trespassing onto the neighbor’s land and reopening the filled in ditch. He had been busy and was unable to bring the excavation equipment out to carve some new channels for the water to exit my land and to flow away like it did before.

Today was the day. He brought a machine with a bucket on a long arm. The one ditch that had partially filled in with grass and silt needed opened first. The treads of the machine had to rest in an incline and a he was digging the debris from the channel, the one tread came off the cogs of the track, not good. That’s one thing that you don’t want to happen in the field especially.

Now starts the fun. He couldn’t drive it away, with only one tread. There was only one other option and that was to get the tread back on track. Oh boy, it was a chore. With two pry bars, strength, and a lot of determination, we got it back into place. Those treads are heavy, about five hundred pounds or more. After about half an hour, damp feet for me, and a wet butt, it went back into place. We were both relieved and dirty, but he was able to finish that section and then dig a new ditch to open a low area in my back yard and allow the water to flow and not accumulate behind the high hump dam.

It was amazing to see the amount of water that began to pour through the shallow trench. The water rolled downhill to disperse over a wider area of low ground. It should be absorbed more readily in that extended surface area.

I was glad that it was done. After we loaded, chained down the back hoe, and Ken drove off, I went upstairs, pulled off my soaked socks, and removed my saturated underwear and jeans, I took a hot shower. I was happy to have washed off the mud and dirt and to have warmed my feet and fanny.

My yard is torn up from the treads, but that can be handled in the spring when the sap is in the trees and a man feels young again.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Humble Pie

This is a story about my aging memory and how I ended up serving myself a huge portion of humble pie. Over the years I managed to amass, inherit, collect, be given, and even purchase several less than haute couture clothing; including some sweaters and several long sleeved velour shirts.
Being the thrifty and just shy of being a hoarder, I’ve stored them in closets, drawers, and boxes.
My kids teased me about them and I said, “When I die, I will leave one of them for each of you.” including the in-law kids.

The one item that I am writing about is a sweater. I worked a summer on a dairy farm to earn money for clothes to go back to high school. This sweater was fuzzy and soft almost like angora. Its colors were red, burgundy, light gray, and charcoal. It had wide bands that ran from side to side in jagged lightning like stripes.
Although it looks odd today, it was in style then. After high school, I tucked it away when I went into the Navy and to Penn State, but when I graduated and came home and started hunting I found it hiding in a drawer. It was perfect to wear under my blaze orange jacket. It was soft and warm. Wearing it I was comfortable even when I was out in the winter’s bluster and cold.
Slowly, just like me, it began to show its age. It developed fuzz balls and the material at the elbows wore through. I kept returning it to the dresser drawer, thinking “one more year.”

When my son was visiting one summer from Amarillo Texas, they were kidding me about my collection. I pulled it from the drawer and gave him “his inheritance” early like the prodigal son and immediately forgot that I’d done it on the spur of the moment.
Hunting season came around and I looked for my sweater. I couldn’t find it and struggled with long johns under my hunting clothes. I was disappointed; the next year, the same. I couldn’t find it. I didn’t remember that it had moved to Texas. I had given up hope of finding it.
About two weeks ago, my daughter-in-law posted a picture of my son, proud as a peacock wearing it on Face Book. I accused him of pilfering my sweater to harass and tease me and generally gave him a hard time for taking it.
It was then that my daughter-in-law reminded me that I had given it to him nearly four years ago. I still didn’t remember it, but I was embarrassed none-the-less. I had forgotten all about it.

About then, I thought that I had to eat the whole pie.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oh Deer... All Done
     I spent much of the last two days butchering the deer I got, cutting the meat from the bone instead of sawing through the bones like your local slaughter houses Some I made jerky. I made up a recipe like usual and this time it is almost too hot and spicy. It makes the tongue tingle.
     I cut some into bite size pieces and cold pack canned it in Mason jars. I made nine quarts.
     Much of it I sliced into steaks and chops. They are packaged and frozen. The rest I am planning on grinding and after I spice it, I will put it into a casing for salami. I shouldn't have only one choice when I want to eat some of the venison.
     All totaled, I think that I have about seventy-five to eighty pounds of meat saved and preserved for the winter.
     I am not greedy though. The rib cage I leave almost intact. All of the scraps and much of the suet I dump inside the ribs. It looks like a cornucopia an that's what I call it; a cornucopia for the birds. I placed in a tree where most animals cannot get it, but allows easy access for the birds.
     Today I saw ravens, crows, some chick-a-dees and a hawk. I am not sure what species it was. With the harsh cold winter winds, the fat from the suet is what the birds need to survive and that is what I give them. Last year, I had cardinals and blue jays there, but I haven't seen them yet this year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sometimes just rounding had its surprises. The beds the hospital used back then had side rails that ran the entire length of the frame. They could be partially or completely lowered depending on the patient’s condition. If the patient was confused the rails were up to keep them from falling out of bed and completely down for alert and ambulatory patients. It was legal then and considered proper treatment at the time.
There was one hazard that came from having those long side rails up and that hazard was for the staff. We called them “racing stripes”. There were times when the patient was incontinent and played in their bowel movements. They would finger the side rails and leave a layer of feces on the rail. Often a staff member would lean over the side rail to check a patient for incontinence or investigating an odor. The unsuspecting staff member would accidentally brush against the feces that coated side rail and come away with brown stripes across the front of their uniform. There were many nights that some staff member finished their shift in green scrub clothes from the operating room.
One night on early rounds, we could smell the odor of bowel movement in one of our four bed rooms. We checked and all the patients were clean. We thought it might just be flatulence. As we rounded later, the smell persisted. Again all the patients were clean. We checked the garbage cans, thinking that someone had disposed of a soiled bed pad or diaper in one, nothing. We started a search, patient hands, under beds, night stands. Yes, we’ve had patients who would use a bed pan and then put it back into their bedside stand. Again we found nothing. We redoubled our efforts.
One of the aides pulled back the curtain on the window. There on the windowsill were several rolled balls of feces. There were marks on the window glass where the man had tossed the bowel movement, it hit the window, and had fallen to the windowsill.
The shift before us had not seen the feces on the ledge and had closed the curtain. Thus the mystery of the stinking room was solved. It was just another day in the life of a nurse, or should I say night?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Bit Chilly

My brother Ken called. It was early. He said, “I spotted a deer. Did you want to come out and get a shot at it? I know you bought your new gun and haven’t shot a deer with it yet.” I said “Sure.” and proceeded to get dressed for the outdoors. I just bought a new rifle. It is a 7 mm 08, left handed bolt. I do everything else right handed, but shoot right.
I’m sorry to all of the people who believe in PETA, but getting outside and hunting is enjoyable to me. I’m not the best, but I like it. To me PETA means People Eating Tasty Animals. If hunters didn’t help to control them, they would ruin crops and soon even the vegetarians would have nothing to eat.
Driving to my brother’s place, I saw the temperature on the dash of my car. Water started to freeze fifteen degrees higher.
When I got to his house, he had his two quads outside. I’m thinking, “This doesn’t look good.” and it wasn’t. To get back to the area the deer had bedded down, we had to drive along an abandoned logging road, across a small stream, up a better dirt road, and then down an abandoned farm lane. It wasn’t too bad except on the dirt road when we could pick up speed. The wind from driving soon had my cheeks stinging and cold. The sun was behind us and our faces were in our own shadows making it seem colder.
Once we got to the farm lane, we slowed. I felt warmer the sun was on my face and the speed had slowed considerably. Parking the quads, we hiked across a partially grown pasture. Ken pointed, I saw one buck. Bang it was down. It ran a few steps and collapsed. It was a nice sized animal. It had antlers of two tines on the left and three on the right.
Ken and I gutted, and tied the buck to the back of the quad. I am so thankful that we didn’t have to drag it to the house from where it was. When we were younger, we didn’t have a choice. You dragged it from where you shot it to the nearest vehicle.
I am planning of butchering it myself. I know if I should find a hair who to blame. I cut the meat from the bone to avoid the bone splinters. I don’t use a slaughter house because I don’t know how clean their facility is, I know that it is the deer I shot, I know that it isn’t left without refrigeration, and I know that I am getting all of the meat that I turned in.
We now have meat for the freezer and to cold pack in jars. I will make some jerky as well. It makes me think of my mother-in-law. She always wanted venison and the fat to make mince meat pies for Christmas. I miss you Retha.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Flush With Excitement
One of the nursing assistants and I were making our rounds on our medical/surgical unit during the night shift when we smelled the odor of bowel movement. The smell was emanating from somewhere in one of our four bed rooms. Following our noses, we tracked the source. It was coming from the bed of a short, thin elderly lady. While the nursing assistant went for clean linen, I pulled the curtain around her bed and turned on the light. I wakened the woman by tapping her arm and saying, “We need to change your bed. You’ve had an accident.”
The aide was back by then and we pulled back the sheet and blanket. What we saw was not only totally unexpected, but it was astonishing.
This petite, white haired lady was curled on her side and behind her was a large formed bowel movement and it was HUGE. It was almost the size of large can of tomato juice. It was marked along its length with striations. The striations were actually indentations that her anal sphincter made as she passed this colossal turd.
We changed the bed with minimal effort by lifting the bowel movement into a bedpan and changing the bed pad beneath her. I carried the bed pan into the soiled utility room and the aide followed with the soiled lift pad we had removed from the bed. I eased the feces from the bedpan into the hopper with a plop. I pushed the flush handle to dispose of the bowel movement. When the swirling stopped, the turd was still there. It had wedged across the drain of the hopper, holding on like it had claws.
I said to Mona, “Would you look at that!”
We both started to chuckle.
Mona reached out and flushed the hopper again. When the swirling and bubbles ceased, it was still there. Mona and I looked at each other, amazed. We could scarcely believe that it remained there, wedged tight. We started to laugh. We were loud enough for the people in the nursing station to hear us.
“It’s your turn.” Mona said.
This time when I pushed the handle, amid the swirling froth, the turd stirred, shook once and disappeared down the opening of the hopper.
Mona returned the clean bedpan to the woman’s room and I returned to the nursing station.
One of the nurses asked, “Why were the two of you laughing?”
I explained what had happened. It didn’t seem to be as impressive or as funny as it had been for us. I guess the old saying; “You had to be there.” rang true.

Friday, December 6, 2013


It was a chilly December morning, very early and it was still dark. The sky was lead hued and dull. I made my way into the woods behind my old home place to a favorite spot. Settling into the dried leaves between the roots of an immense beech tree, I rested my back against its smooth bole. The sky brightened into the color of skim milk smoke. The air was still; no noises surrounding me in the predawn light. From the tangles, small ticks and fluttering of wings from subtle hued chick-a-dees sounded as they searched for seeds. Several dun colored tufted titmice joined the morning foray.
There were bright splotches of vivid green ferns, moss, and ground pine scattered about. Patches of snow still dotted the brown leaf covered forest floor like spots on a young fawn. The sounds of soft scurrying under the leaves said a filed mouse was looking for its breakfast. It popped out near my feet, scampered across the leaves and then disappeared a few hops away.
In the small valley behind me gurgled a meandering stream hurrying to the warmer climes of the ocean before the grip of frigid weather could freeze it beneath a coat of icy armor. It was a special time of relaxation for me; my breath rising in wispy clouds to dissipate into the chilled morning air. Quietly waiting for the sun to rise and to see the shafts of light slide through the bare branches and dance on the leaf littered floor.
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat----tat. I was jerked from my reverie by the loud staccato pounding of a downy woodpecker. Its black and white body was topped by a white head and a red cap. The knocking on a hollow branch above my head echoed like gunshots as it searched for grubs and insects.
Pale wan spears of light shot through the melancholy billows of gray: the sun had risen.
It was time to leave. Little else would change. Perhaps some more of the snow would melt or a chipmunk would poke its head out, lured by the sunlight and warmer temperature.
I walked back to my car, my footsteps lighter, my head clear, and my spirits lifted.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Breaking the Habit
One evening when Bill and I were working in the emergency department, three nuns were brought in from an automobile accident. The ambulance crew delivered them one after another. The nuns were of the old order and were dressed in the long, black full-length robes. They wore chains, ropes, head piece, mantles, etc.
Let me say this. Anyone who would decide to rape a nun either has no idea of what he is getting into or has all the time in the world to achieve his goal. I could not believe the amount of clothing these women donned everyday of their lives, until I started to undress them and get them into hospital issue gowns. It was a full fifteen minutes before I saw any kind of bare flesh.
It was peeling an onion, but it didn’t make me cry, layer after layer. Underneath the robes were folds of binders, tee shirts, ropes, and safety pins galore. It was crazy. After much diligence, they were out of their habits and into our gowns for examination by our doctor.
One of the registration clerks was offended that men were undressing and doing a cursory examination of the nuns. I told her, “I am a professional” and that I could “undress and examine a woman without me seeing anymore than if she was wearing a bathing suit.”
I would loosen and undress down to the top of the patient’s chest Place the hospital gown over her and then finish removing the blouse, brazier, etc. I would slip the gown on then start the examination to the top of the thighs. I would fold a blanket or sheet across her middle to examine her chest, abdomen, and pelvis. I would remove the slacks and skirt. It was up to the physician to finish the evaluation. The woman was covered at all times and I would preserve her dignity.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I was working in the fast track area of the emergency room. It would now be considered a clinic area for treating simple maladies, suturing, etc. There were several new patients brought in by the triage nurse all at once and the doctor got ahead of me seeing the patients. He started to see a patient with a facial rash while I was placing a bandage on a patient he had just sutured.
I glanced up when he started to tell the woman, “I think you have a case of contact dermatitis.” Contact dermatitis happens when people touch something to which they have an allergy or the offending item has caused an irritation to the skin. He was asking her if she had recently switched soaps, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc.
I hurried to finish the woman’s dressing and to discharge her so I could evaluate the woman with the rash.  As I took her vital signs, I could see that it was not an allergy. So I said, “It’s so unusual to have the rash only on one side of your face.”
The doctor missed my cue, either he was ignoring me or he hadn’t heard what I had said.

I said again a bit louder, “It is so strange how the rash seems to be on only one side of your face.”
Again the doctor was busy working on the chart and missed what I was saying.  I pushed the lady’s hair back from her forehead and said, very loudly, “It’s so unusual that the rash is all on one side of your face and even up into your hairline.”
I saw the doctor pause in his writing. His head swiveled around and he looked at the woman. He came back over to her and said, “Forget what I said about contact dermatitis, I think you have the shingles. Are they very painful?”
She said “Yes.”
He went back to her chart and crossed out his notes on contact dermatitis and charted the woman’s illness as shingles. It was indeed shingles.
I went back to finish cleaning the mess I had left behind from the suturing. I smiled. I had seen that the woman had shingles from across the room. I saved the doctor from embarrassment and I didn’t even get a thank you.