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Losing Keys: A Kubler-Ross Five-Stage Experience

Author, Joann Spears
I lost my keys the other day. Most boomers would chalk it up to a senior moment and move on. Most boomers are not nurses. Nurses can be weird about keys. It was the beginning of a compressed, forty-eight hour, Kubler-Ross, Five-stage experience.

The keys were not lost at all, I reasoned—they had to be somewhere. I rummaged through the garbage, but they weren’t there. Denial being denial, I went through the garbage three times. I only went through the compost pile twice. The resultant spider and worm activity checked any further emotional excesses. I hefted each of the cats to see if one of them had become suspiciously heavier. None of them had. I rummaged the laundry—no keys. I washed the laundry, figuring maybe I could float them out. Uh-uh.

I was less than gracious with the Kia lady who informed me that my replacement car key would arrive in two days, and cost about $20. I felt bad about that, but $20 is $20. I was no nicer to the Home Depot house key lady. Since that key cost only $3, I felt pretty small. When the lady at Food Lion made me fill out a great big form to replace my plastic keychain card, I got pissy. Since she was actually saving me money, there was no excuse for me. I had to get past the anger.

I asked God if getting a metal detector would reveal my lost keys to me. I priced out some metal detectors and realized the answer was, “no”. I thought that if I waited until I absolutely had to leave the house to go get the Kia key, it would give the missing keys an opportunity to resurface. I checked the fridge and I checked the calendar. I could easily stay in my house until 2015, if I wasn’t running out of cat food.

I remembered a nurse I worked with in the 80s, who accidentally flushed a bunch of irreplaceable nurse keys down a toilet. The plumbers went through the pipes till they found the keys in a trap. I asked God if he wanted me to call a plumber. God gave me the opportunity to learn that when you live within ten miles of the Bristol Speedway, all bets are off when it’s Race Week.

My old key ring was fat. It had a disc with a prayer on it, a little flashlight, a bunch of plastic club cards, my car key, my house key, and about fifteen “Jane Doe” keys, with no discernible origin, identity, or destination. My new key ring had…two keys on it. I went to the Dollar Store and tried to buy a key ring flashlight. It was too soon for me to commit to a new one. Flashlight-less, I walked the lonesome valley to my car, by myself.

This week, my Jazzercise class went bar-code, and I received a brand new plastic keychain-card. It’s red and white. It’s new. It makes the scanner go beep when I scan myself into class. I absolutely love it. It made me realize that sometimes, giving up old things and making way for new things go together.

I think the missing keys experience was so profound because of the nurse-key connection. If you ever lost a nurse-related key, you know what I’m talking about. Guilt, reprimands, embarrassment, and even worse, the long walk to institutional Key Central, and the baring-of-soul and putting-of-pride-in-pocket that you know will take place when you face the key-Nazi. Just one more lonesome nurse valley nobody else can walk for you.

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