The Guy With Lea

Having a social life when you’re a nurse can be a tricksy thing, especially if you’re trying to get together with another nurse. I never worked a set schedule until I moved to Arizona. During the two decades I worked at the VA, I never knew what my schedule would be from one month to the next, save that those two months would not be the same.

Here’s an example: Suppose I wanted to get together with my good friend, Sondra. We worked at different hospitals. Our schedules were different. Finding a date and a time we were both available required a supreme effort on both our parts

“What’s your schedule look like next week? Yeah, that’s no good. No, I’m working Nights on Wednesday. How about the week after that, I have Monday off. You’re working Nights. No, that’s the the only day that week that works for me. How about the week after that? You’re going to be in Chicago. Well, forget that week. What about the next week? The week after that? Seriously! I’m free on Thursday, too!”

Invariably, something would come up and we’d have to reschedule at least once. It took, on average, making plans about six to eight weeks in advance for us to get together for a couple hours. It got worse after Sondra got pregnant and had her daughter, Tanja.

Tanja was a cute baby kid, and she grew into an even cuter kid buddy. And she absolutely adored me.

“Tanja, we’re going to see Mark! The nurse I used to work with!” Sondra would tell her toddler kid buddy daughter.

“Yaaay! Yay, Mark! I love him!” Tanja would shout. It was so cute, so darlingpreshadorbs! I felt incredibly honored.

And then I got married. And I took my new bride to meet my friend and her daughter. And Tanja fell in love with Lea. Things would never be the same.

“Tanja! We’re going to see Mark!”


“Mark, the nurse I used to work with…”


“Yeah! The guy with Lea!”

“LEA! I love Lea!! Yay, Lea!!!”

Uh-huh. That’s right. I didn’t even have a name anymore. I had become the guy with Lea. I’ll admit it, that kind of stung a little, but I soon discovered Tanja’s reaction would not be a singular occurrence. There would be a lots of people that identified me by my relationship to my supermodel wife.

And who can blame them? Which would you remember seeing more? A bonfire, or the blazing flight of a comet?

My nieces and nephews–I had known those adorable brat kids their entire lives–I had been Uncle Mark, for the love of God! And two minutes after meeting my lovely wife, I was suddenly remembered as being Aunt Lea’s husband. And she had become Aunt Lea because she was married to me, goddamn it! I doubt any of nephews or nieces would’ve been able to pick me out of a police line up if I wasn’t standing next to my wife.

Back when Lea was in and out of Fairview Medical Center, we developed a post discharge tradition. Whenever Lea got out of the hospital, we’d drive a short distance down the road to the nearby Perkins restaurant and eat breakfast. On this particular occasion, I looked around as we walked in, and I recognized some of the people seated at the booths and tables. After we were seated, I looked around the room and realized I didn’t know some of the people, I knew all of them.

Everyone at this particular Perkins on that particular day were all former patients of mine from the MVAMC.

“Um, honey. I’m really sorry but you’re about to get surrounded by a bunch of crazy people.” I told Lea. She was incredibly gracious as she always is in those types of situations. One by one and two by two, all of my former patients approached our table.

“Hi, Mark! We don’t want to talk to you, we want to say hi to your beautiful wife!”

At least they called me by name…

Before we retired from the American workforce and moved to Mexico, Lea and I used to live in Surprise, AZ. We used to eat at a place near our house called Nick’s Diner II. Presumably there was a Nick’s Diner I somewhere, but we never ate there.

We were perusing the menu, and I noticed a group of servicemen sitting in the back. I asked Lea how she felt about buying lunch for them. She agreed, so we told our server to bring us their bill, and Lea paid for their meals.

We ate our meal and as we got up to leave there was, I kid you not, a freakin’ stampede of servicemen that almost knocked over three tables in their haste to hug my wife and thank her for her generosity. These guys had been sitting in the back for at least fifteen minutes, watching us. Their server had let them know who had picked up the tab for their meal. They had to have seen me sitting at the table with their benefactor. Did they care that it was my idea? Did they almost knock over even one table to come thank me?

It is as the Bard of Avon said, ‘Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!’ Mere mortals can’t compete with something as immortal as that.

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