The Caregiver

caregiver

 

 
I worked in two different nursing homes during age16 through 22 and they both left many lasting impressions on me. I started out in the kitchen but quickly found myself on the floor flirting with the nurses and the aides, which earned me jobs like vacuuming and helping wherever. I did any shit work the nurses could find for me, like helping with enema’s. That wasn’t the end of the shit either. I was given caretaker charge of a man confined to a wheelchair who had a severe stroke. Bathed him, shaved him, and dressed him. He was young enough to be embarrassed having female aides do the chores so I became the best part of his morning when I worked that shift.

 
Archaic living statues
Wearing ancient masks
Reflective and forlorn
Performing aimless tasks
Not conscious of the world
But conscious of their fate
They have nothing to do
So they wait
Its all they do
All night, all day
Its all they have left
Even the memories begin to fade
The tears they paid
So they wait
They wait for me
The caregiver
For sustenance
For medication
They praise my dedication
All they have left is to wait
To be told what to do
They wait for me, caregiver
The one who holds their heart together
Informs them of the weather
They wait for me forever
Sometimes I come in the morn
Wake them from their sleeps
Change the wet sheets
Dress them for the day
Give them their pills
Chase their blues away
The way in which we planned
Breakfast tray in hand
Sometimes I come in the afternoon
Put on their favorite show
Just let them know
Someone cares
Then I wait to go home
To a life so removed
From the pain and the heartache
Of the aging machine
The horrors I’ve seen
Time can be so mean
Memories broken like in a dream
These grand folks I cherished
I watch as they perish
But each day I come back for a little while
Covering profound sadness with a smile
Knowing what’s on their minds
Though they really can’t define
They just wait
But its not the food, medicine or even me they sit in anticipation of
They’re waiting to die
And that makes me cry

 

The nurses told us not to get emotionally attached to the patients but we had so many favorites, cute old people who were left up to our care because fore the most part their families abandoned them. I was struck by how much they looked forward to our shifts as though they were visits, how we brightened what little life still sparkled behind their eyes, and I realized we were more than caretakers of their health, we were caretakers of their hearts. Ironically they in turn helped to fill our hearts up with love and gratitude. It was like having 20 of my grandma’s back, and I would give anything for just one more day with my Grandma. I would be happy to be her caregiver.

How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down On The Farm After They’ve Cooked Puree

cook

the continuing adventures of J T Hilltop’s Potsink Diary
From pots and pans to rakes and snakes I took to landscaping fairly well. Sun burnt arms instead of grease burnt arms, just as hot as a kitchen, and about as physically as taxing yet still I missed cooking. It‘s been three months since the restaurant closed and fate stuck its fickle finger in my life interrupted my path to culinary enlightenment. Leaving me to care for the property of a nursing home and placing me every day at lunch just outside of the kitchen where the sounds of culinary exploits pounded out a rhythm of longing. It stirred inside of me making me miss working in a kitchen with all my soul. Aware of that fate wasn’t done tossing curve balls at my life because on one Monday I learned just what a practical joker fate can really be. Apparently destiny is equipped with a bag full of tricks containing an abyss of irony and has a knack for playing emotional table tennis with me. Like a ping pong ball I got paddled back and forth hard forcing me out of the restaurant across the net to a field of hard labor, then smashed back into another kitchen. Fred had driven me to Mimi Dee’s early in the morning to manicure the lawn while he ran about town “performing” some chores. Popular belief growing on the rumor vine claimed those chores he performed were for one of the nurses at the Huntersville location. Whatev, not my business and besides it was fine by me as it left me alone to work the property at my own pace.
Left to my resources, my new tools of the trade, and a cheap lawnmower I set out to give the yard a neat trimming and edging. A mani-pedi for the acreages of land. An hour and a half into my solo performance was the moment fate chose to sneak an ominous looking dark cumulo nimbus cloud slithering across the horizon setting up cloud camp above my head. One loud crack of sneering thunder and a few seconds later I was the focus of a drenching downpour. Not a dipping of the toe in the pool, but one soaked to the bone bucket full of rainwater followed by another. The skies blushed dark crimson as if foretelling the twisted new path fate had in store. Having become somewhat intimate with fates and destinies I had to assume that this new path would be lined with irony. “Jesus Christ this shit’s really coming down. Can’t get anything more done here so I guess I should go inside.” I mumbled it to myself to validate it was proper for me to stop work an seek shelter. As soon as I entered the back door a very familiar sense filled the room. The clanging of pots and pans as they jockeyed for position on the stove, plates chattering while being pulled and stacked from the dishwasher, and a general sense of culinary atmosphere called me by name. A private culinary symphony all for me supplied by that devious enigma called fate. The air was full with the smells of a variety of meats and vegetables with wafts of consommé memories from a large pot of chicken infused liquid hoping to one day soon become a soup. The smells and sounds were the familiar frantic state of culinary urgency shortly before service. The aura of intense pressure was reminiscent of Cavalieri’s restaurant, my one time Mecca. It was crunch time even in this institutional kitchen and I was so taken aback by my memories I shook off the rain and blurted out to the Nurse in charge of the kitchen, “Can I help? I know a bit about food.” Without a smile a very attractive Jamaican woman in a not very sexy nurses uniform yelled “I need zeese onions peeled and cut, tink you could a’handle dat?” Nary a word more need be spoken as I rushed over to the table with the onions, grabbed a familiar feeling knife and pulled out a cutting board. In a matter of minutes I had peeled, cored, and diced the onions. “What else do you need?” The Nurse stopped in mid stride and asked “You gotta all dem onions done?” I could tell she was doubting me so I held them up and said “Yup, where do you want them?” She smiled at me with a huge open mouth and I noticed a small gap in her front teeth. Suddenly something seemed more sexy about her despite the uniform. As I looked closer I realized the uniform fit pretty tight allowing me a gratuitous view of her shape. She was in her late twenties or early thirties, slender and very pretty with firm looking curves in all the right places. Her skin was smooth and silky with an exotic ebony glow. She looked at me approvingly with dark brown eyes that twinkled sweetly in contrast to the sharp authority she normally displayed on the staff. “Put day inna pot dare witt dee carrots.” When I asked her if she wanted a mirepoix I thought she was gonna run over and kiss me full on the lips. Maybe I hoped she would but either way she flashed me that huge tiny tooth gapped smile. “You do know your way round de kitchen. My name is Margie and yes, I needa celery in dare too. Tink you canna hanel dat?” Time to respond with my innuendo laced charm, “I can handle whatever you got Margie. My name is JT.” She teased back, “Zhay Tee huh? What kina name is dot, can‘t afford whole name? ” It was feeling good, cooking and flirting again, “My real name is Justin, but my friends call me JT because I am Just Thrilling to be with. It seems we are friends now so I guess you should call me JT.” “Yes indeed it do Mr. Trilling. I tink maybe we work well togetter.” She punctuated her statement with a suggestively tender wink. I won’t tell you my thoughts at that moment but they would make a beet blush. It felt great as I assisted Margie in the kitchen getting lunch together quickly and efficiently while the rain continued to pound on the back door just begging to come in for a visit. I smiled at how great it was to be back in a kitchen cooking and flirting again.
After lunch I helped clean up then went outside to put away the tools I had abandoned in the storm since the rain ended as abruptly as it had begun. As I was surveying the yard deciding what else I could do before Fred got back when I heard someone yelling my name. Margie was calling me from the front door of the mansion. When I got there she smiled a huge smile saying to me “I got some good news for you Zhay. I jus talk ‘a Misser Viero an him say you canna work here wit us inna de kitchen and aroun’ de home full time. We canna use the help and you no have to work inna da rain no more. What jew tink Jussa trilling?” There it was. Right there fate dangled its fickle tickle of decision in front of me chuckling at what ominous repercussions would come of my choice. But was it a choice or had fate already made up my mind for me? If I say I would love to Fred will be mad but if I say no I will be saying no to old man Viero and who says no to an owner? Yes also means no more shit spreading, being back in a kitchen, and the chance to do some more serious flirting. Round the clock nurses aides as well as a kitchen job. It really had felt awesome working in the kitchen with Margie. I could definitely see myself working with her and her crew of nurses. Not to mention all the young chicks who help her which I would be working with. Okay, go ahead and mention it I know I will. True I have a steady girlfriend and all, but like my Mom says, “You can look at the menu as long as you remember what your entrée is.” Not sure exactly what she meant but give her credit for trying to speak restaurantese to me. Decision was made while fate laughed. “I think I would really like that Margie, when can I start?” She looked as excited as I was and told me I should finish out the week with Fred and start next Monday. Once school starts we will work out a weekend and afternoon schedule. My new job would be to maintain the inside of the home, help in the kitchen and whatever assistance the nurses may need. All in all it seemed like it was nothing but gold, at least until I learned what new adventures were in store for me. I neglected to remind myself that things were not always what they seemed but that’s okay, I would find out in good time what new tricks fate had in store for me to tickle its devilish funny bone. As intimate as I thought I was with fate I never realized it was planning to teach me about some new adventures which would include urine stains and enema’s. I still had a lot to learn.
TBC

Hope I Die Before I Get Old

nu

A Potsink Diary Reflection
Cooking at a rest home was not especially challenging but I’m still in a kitchen, at least sometimes, and I had fun working with Margie and Flo. Margie was not only the big boss but a favorite of the owner so she called all the shots and since we worked together much of the time we became fast friends. I got my kitchen responsibilities done faster and faster so I could have more time on the floor to hang out with the nurse and the aides. We laughed and joked a lot, I was one of only two males working there, but it just never dawned on me that nurses could not only tease with expertise, but they are also practical jokers.
One day as I was flirting with one of the aides Margie snuck up from behind and said to me “Jhay, you afinish so faust today dot we got spayshal job for a you.” A shot of adrenalin started coursing through my central nervous system because the sound of that had an eerily similar ring to it. It sounded too much like the “downtime” Chef Jimmy was so adept at. I thought back to all the mindless tasks the chef assigned me that not only bored me to tears but drained what little sanity I had left in me. In a sheepish voice I inquired if it was in fact anything like downtime but Maggie assured me it was just a small job and she needed help with an SSE. I started to feel a little relief, SSE didn’t sound like it was anything horrible. But an uneasy feeling did come over me when I saw the dastardly dog smile on the other nurses. “Meet us up inna Miss Lemcows room upstair. We meet you dare Jhay.”
When I walked in the room I began to get a tad concerned. After all, this place was loaded with some of the most extremely senile people to ever observe the Civil War. At the very least they read about it in the “Recent History” books. I was called into the bathroom where they had poor Mrs. Lemkaugh sitting naked on the toilet. It was an embarrassing sight for me but Mrs. Lemkaugh never even took notice of me. She wasn’t in control of her faculties and as I would soon find out not in control of bodily functions. I tried to look away but its like a car accident, the harder I tried the more I looked. I was depresses at how depressed the old woman’s body was. Any muscles or tendons in her breasts had long ago lost any of its substance and hung like deflated balloons. Her whole body just seemed so frail and wrinkled. I felt very uncomfortable, as though I were violating her privacy. I guess I was but she was completely unaware of my existence let alone my embarrassment at that violation. I looked away choosing to focus on my Jamaican boss who I was beginning to develop a crush on. In Margies hand was a metal can much like a flour sifter with a red rubber hose attached to it. “Here Jhay, I need a you hole dis can up over da heyd ofa Miss Lemcow.” Totally confused and wondering what the fuck was happening I stared blankly as I grabbed the can. Flo, the sexy forty something nurse leaned up to my ear and whispered “Is this your first Soap Suds Enema honey?” It took a minute for the words to sink in. Now the SSE took on an entirely dark aura. I had heard all three words before but never in the same sentence and certainly not as a single concept, but there it was. Soap. Suds. Enema. Innocuous as three words, I use soap, I bust suds, and I know what an enema is but how in the fuck can all three become one? Pondering the concept it can only mean one thing. I was holding a can of soapy water, so there’s the soap and suds, but where does enema fit in? I looked down at Margie grabbing the other end of the rubber hose and in an instant it hit me. Oh my fucking god in heaven that’s where it fit in, literally. She is sticking that hose in….in..oh my fucking god in heaven she stuck the end of the hose in Mrs. Lemkaugh ass!! “Okay Flo let off de valve.” Flo, the not so sexy anymore forty something nurse, shot me a smile usually reserved for Karmic retribution. She reached up and released the valve. In an instant the can emptied its contents of soapy water and went directly to Lemkaughs ass, which apparently mixed in the contents the Mrs. Lemkaughs gastro-intestinal system was holding on so dearly to. It made the stink carousel of decayed horseshit from my old landscaping days seem like jasmine incense. I gagged as I tried desperately not to breath. At least not through my nose although inhaling that stench in my mouth did not seem an acceptable alternative. I could tell they were enjoying my pain and Flo let out a chuckle. They had gotten me good on this one. “Am I done here?” After I managed to utter my request, I held my breath and very quietly offered a “Jesus shit” mantra “Of course Jayh, you canna go backs de kitchen.” With that I put down my soap suds enema can and left the room. I could still hear the ladies laughing and all kind of sloshing and flushing. I gagged once again as I considered a despicable thought. I feared this wouldn’t be my last SSE and my job around the nursing home was evolving a bit too rapidly.
I was to learn quickly that playing jokes was a way for the nurses to keep their sanity in check. Everyone says don’t get involved with the patients but you really can’t help it. It’s like being surrounded by your grandparents and all their alter egos and they are all so cute. One of the darkest jokes was when Margie sent me into Old Mrs. Carrols room to check on her because she never showed up for lunch. Mrs. Carroll was a staff favorite because she was funny and didn’t seem to have any family. At least none that came to visit. She was kind of in her own little world but she was funny as all hell when she got rolling on shit. “JT? What the damn kind of a name is JT? Whassa mattah, your Mom and Dad couldn’t afford a whole name so they just gave you initials? Where are you from anyway, N Y?” She would say shit like that with deadpan face and so sarcastically accurate it could make a sack of onions cry in envy. Anyway, I went in to see how she was and she was like motionless in bed with her eyes closed. It was eerily quiet in the room which smelled strongly of stale urine. Another aroma I had become accustomed to! Many of the patients, the old folks, had lost control of their body functions. Every room had a cloud of urine stink to one degree or another and the carpets had faded stains everywhere if you looked close. But today the urine cloud was unusually aggressive. It snuck out from the corners of the stained and worn carpet and like a stench poltergeist dancing about merrily in search of an olfactory gland to haunt. And haunt it did. With the unappealing fragrance of rotten eggs soaked in ammonia the cloud of stench creeps into your nostrils and looks for a place to hang out. Sometimes it teams up with the century old shit stink. After decomposing in a ninety year old set of intestines remnants collect in the bowels to congregate. I looked over at Mrs. Carrol who was just lying in bed. But I mean JUST lying! She wasn’t moving at all. I called her name and no response. The silence in the room was the most eerie silence I had ever felt and as I got closer to Mr. Carrol her face was purple and lifeless. I damn near shit myself. I began to shake and knew in an instant that the smell today was so strong because its the smell of death! Something I never ever want to smell again. I was overcome with emotion. Profoundly sad because someone I care about is lying dead in front of me, confused because what the Hell is death anyway, and angry because why did she have to die. I wondered who her family was, if they cared. Had she known love? Is there anyone from her life who’s going to miss her. Then I started thinking how I have to break the news to Mar….Wait! What!! Son of a bitch they knew when they sent me in here! My anger shifted its focus.
When I got back to the lounge they were all laughing hysterically like it was one big god damn joke. My emotions were boiling until I looked at the ladies. They were laughing, but they were crying too. They were trying to cope with the loss the only way they knew. I walked up to Margie, looked her right in the face and said, “Oh yea, laugh now, cuz when I get you back you gonna forget how to laugh at all.” She glared back at me then we all started laughing, and crying, and this weird hugfest started as we all tried to put Mrs. Carrols death away to somewhere. Deep in some mental attic filled with cobwebs so it won‘t effect us. Like I said, we’re not supposed to get attached but it sure is hard when you lose a patient you’re attached to. Real hard.
But that was life at Mimi Dee’s. A mixture of emotions and never knowing what the day would bring. I was cooking again, flirting tirelessly, but had become a fixture. Something had to give. All the young ladies, some from my school, some from other schools, and the nurses. I flirted like it was part of my job. And let me tell you I really dug it. I did feel some degree of guilt because Carrie and I were very serious about each other. Flirting wasn’t exactly cheating, but it wasn’t complete faithfulness either. But still I dug the shit out of so much attention from so many females. Margie would tease me relentlessly about taking me home to her ‘Garden Apartment” when hey boyfriend Bob was out of town. It felt so good but I worried a little if I would ever take it too far. I want to be faithful, but between my raging hormones and insatiable sweet tooth for dancing on the edges of life I had to consider I may one day get too close to that edge. On top of that I knew life was getting stale for me here. I knew I needed to get out of here and get back to proper cooking but I was just so comfortable here, and comfort isn’t something I’ve had much of in my short life. So what do I want to be, a chef or a cheating boyfriend with a job but no career. Something has to give.

Time To Settle Down.