To anybody looking at this picture of a simple coffee mug, it wouldn't seem like anything out of the ordinary except that it's personalized. But it's more than that. To me, it represents 35 years of a big part of my life, my working life. If only a coffee mug could talk. Let us digress...
On Monday, October 16, 1978, (yeah I'm really dating myself!), I started my new job at the Penetanguishene Mental Health Center, or "The Bug House" as we locals sometimes referred to it. It was in fact a provincial psychiatric hospital, one of only a few in the province. A co-worker from my previous job at the Penetang IGA, Perry Leduc, had gotten hired along with me at the PMHC and were set to start on the same day, the same hour and as it would turn out, the same ward. We were both inexperienced, "off the street" (a term I would use repeatedly for years when asked).
When we emerged from the elevator of the Toanche Building onto old Ward 6 that fateful morning, let's just say our eyes were opened wide, an understatement. We were assigned to the geriatric ward, the "psycho"-geriatric ward it was called at that time, where older patients who were either difficult to manage at home or at nursing homes were sent to get them settled with meds, somehow! In that first minute, Perry and I saw patients screaming, some half-dressed, some naked, most seemingly lost as they walked around aimlessly, in obvious and various stages of dementia, many of them angry and hard to control. A few tried to get on the elevator as we got off. Perry and I looked at each other and laughed . . . this was about as far away from the Produce Department of the Penetang IGA as one could get. By a country mile!
That first morning after we had helped with feeding and bathing and yes, some wrestling with those who didn't want to shave, bathe nor get dressed, this was definitely something I had never done in my life. Later that morning, we stopped for a coffee break. The first thing our assigned staff, Ken Sauve, told Perry and I: "Now you have to go buy yourself a coffee mug, and one with your name on it, so that everyone will know it's yours. It'll be your mug to use." That very night I went to the local Zellers store and did just that.
I eventually took the RPN course and became a psych nurse, and that mug travelled many miles with me. For over thirty-odd years, it travelled with me through different wards, situations, different jobs, fights, dilemmas, celebrations, different co-workers and friends, some girlfriends, some who broke my heart, some good times and bad and certainly lots of laughs. But through it all, I still had my coffee mug from that very first day, okay well, second day.
Like me, it got scratched and weathered but never broken. When I retired, my trusty mug came home with me and I still use it today. Who'd'a thunk it? Every time I use it for a 4.00 a.m. coffee, it brings back so many memories. Oh the stories it could tell! I'll have to tell them one day...