This blog continues from the original post.
In-home caregiver, age 21-23. This was one of my favorite jobs. It was rewarding, and, for the most part, not too stressful. Well, except for Jill. Jill was 5’7’’, over 250 pounds, and had exaggerated facial features that made her look younger than 43. She also had the impulse control of a 10-year-old. When she wasn’t angry, she was sweet as a cupcake. But when she lost her temper, she was apt to bite, scratch, hit, kick, and scream obscenities. Unlike some of her other aides, I was lucky enough to avoid Jill’s wrath–except for that time at Goodwill when it turned out she didn’t have enough money to buy a purse she wanted. This led to me getting bonked on the head. And fronting the $5.75 for her purse.
Then there was Jeanette. In addition to down syndrome, Jeanette had hallucinations and was non-verbal. We had to padlock the fridge and the kitchen cabinets because she’d get up in the middle of the night and eat so many yogurts that she’d make herself sick. Then there was that time I woke up the morning after an overnight shift to discover a trail from Jeanette’s bedroom to the bathroom. A trail of diarrhea. I went in to help Jeanette on the toilet, wondering, “Who’s going to clean up this mess?” Then the realization slapped me like a wet towel: I had to clean that mess. I considered quitting on the spot. Instead I pulled on a pair of rubber gloves and got to work.
Hotel front desk associate, age 23-24. I took this job because it felt like I should have a “fun” job where I got to socialize with other young people–and flirt with boys. There I met Cory and Nate, both of whom I flirted with mercilessly. I was single, lonely, and starved for male attention, which made customer service seem tolerable. At least for a few months.
One of the most beautiful blonds I’ve ever seen, Trish, was my manager. She commuted two hours every day from Boscobel, Wisconsin. To work as a mid-level manager at this hotel. Why, I don’t know. Trish was one of those beautiful women who’s also so down-to-earth and bubbly that you can’t hate her. Maybe because Trish was married, Cory and Nate were still willing to flirt with plain old me.
Most interesting thing that happened to me at the hotel? I had a customer, peeved about the over-priced rooms, assure me he’d have his wife peg him on the queen bed.
In-home caregiver, age 24-26. This time I cared for the elderly. Again, like my other in-home caregiver job, it was easy and fulfilling. Mostly, I remember Lillian and Francesca. Lillian was a feisty 95-year-old hoarder who lived on the south side. I tried my best to get her to part with some of her objects–like that fruit dehydrator she’d never used that I would have loved. She was a crafty old lady and made tiny flowers from colored flour that she’d roll between her fingers then display in picture frames. She once gave me one along with a purse made of cloth she’d re-purposed. I liked Lillian.
I also liked Francesca, a stroke survivor who lived at a nursing home. Her workaholic but devoted husband, Chuck, visited nearly every day. I was there because he wanted to be sure–when he couldn’t be there–that his wife was looked after. I’d comb Francesca’s hair, make sure the CNAs attended to her when she had to use the bathroom–or take her myself, read to her, watch old movies with her, and take her to meals in the cafeteria. Francesca told me I was her favorite caregiver because I was nice and quiet.
Because I helped feed Francesca at meal time, I got to know some of the other nursing home residents. Some were permanent, while others were there for rehabilitation. I remember one wheelchair-bound hippie with a brain tumor telling me that I should read Erica Jong’s book, Fear of Flying, because she advocated for the “zipless fuck,” which I think was his way of flirting with me. Then there was that kind widower who loved the camaraderie at the nursing home so much he didn’t want to leave.
I also got to know a married Nepalese nurse who would seek me out in Francesca’s room. Not knowing how to politely decline his advances–and stunned that he’d make them with a resident sitting next to us and the door open–I’d let him sit with me and hold my hand.
There were also many covert Saturday morning missions to steal uneaten donuts from the waiting room. I’d carry them back to Francesca’s room in my pocket or under my shirt, devouring them while she napped.
To be continued