Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Back to Work

On many of my workdays, I have the opportunity to meet new people. I usually spend a little over an hour with each one of them. The majority of them are elderly, today’s was no exception. What amazed me the most when I finished our interview, was that even though the woman talked for most of that hour, and the conversation skipped all over the place, I was able to follow her, I was able to understand everything she was talking about……below is a small sample of that time we spent together. The funny thing is, a part of me was asking myself---could this be ME in 35 years? When I left her, I told her, “I like you”, and gave her a hug. And I do, I like her. She replied, “I say what I think”, my mom always told me “If you think it, you might as well say it.” I thought, hmmm that isn’t what my mama told me, but it seems to work for her. I kept sneaking glances at her daughter, expecting to see a look of exasperation cross it, but it never did, she was completely patient, there to just be there, to add to her mother’s feeling of comfort.

Mom: I don’t know if I need this kind of help or not, it was her idea (pointing at her daughter sitting on the sofa).

Daughter: Mom, I told you, remember, that someone from the agency would be coming by, to talk about getting you some help with dad for you?

Mom: I am 81 years old, I have had two knee replacements, and I have a pacemaker, I suppose I could use some help. Especially now that he is the way he is (jerks thumb toward husband sitting in the recliner next to hers.)

Dad: He smiles, and goes back to dozing.

Mom: What exactly will these folks do for me, and who are they?

Caseworker: Each homeworker is trained to do things your way, even though they may have their own way of doing things, they are asked to listen to our clients, and do things the way you prefer. They can help you with light housekeeping, laundry, errands, some personal care, to give you a break, time away from caring for your husband.

Mom: laundry? I can still do my own laundry, one thing I don’t like piling up is laundry. I not real picky about most things, my grandson helps me do a lot of things, but he doesn’t have so much time anymore, he is graduating, going to get a full time job this summer, but he sure has been a good helper. Does the lawn work, washed and rehung my drapes for me, I asked him, why should I pay someone else when I can pay you?

Daughter: Errands? That would be useful.

Caseworker: It sounds like he has been great help, and the housekeeper will only do what you want her to do, nothing more. And yes, they can run errands, trips to the supermarket, the drugstore, the post office, things like that.

Mom: In my day, I did it all myself, I had six kids, took everything I had to take care of those kids. I am a nurturer when it comes to kids, babies, but I tellya, not him, I just don’t have it in me to nurse him. I wanted to do things, I mean we traveled, but I am not done yet, I have still have to see Alaska and Hawaii.

Caseworker: they are not going anywhere, you still can.

Daughter: true

Mom: nods

Mom; this pacemaker, I was passing out, that is how they knew I needed the pacemaker, but these doctors, they don’t know anything, those doctors over at the clinic, they can’t figure anything out. They can’t figure out why he is wetting the bed, he doesn’t have accidents when he is awake, only when he is asleep. How come it is only when he is asleep?

Caseworker: perhaps it is a medication he is taking.

Mom: they say no, but I tell you, that is what caused my stomach problems, these doctors, they don’t know anything. That medicine they gave me for pain, when I fell and broke my hand, it was so strong, it made me fall asleep all the time, I am not a sleeper, it wasn’t normal, it was too strong, that is what caused my stomach problems, it was too strong. These doctors, they just don’t know anything. Now the doctors over here (points vaguely south) they know things, I have heard they know what they are doing.

Daughter: I can call them Mom, you can switch doctors if you like.

Mom: these doctors, they don’t know anything.

Mom: I don’t know, I could use some help, I used to have a woman come in to help around here, why can’t I just call her

Caseworker: why don’t you think about it, give her a call if you like, then let me know.
You have a lovely home, I can tell you like to keep it nice, having some extra hands might be nice.

Mom: I didn’t want to live here, we sold our home, this was just a place to use when we came back up here to visit the kids, we bought a place in Florida, I didn’t like this place, I should have said no (she shoots a sidelong glance at the Dad) but I didn’t and now we are here. I don’t really like this place.

Mom: I used to work, in a factory, 12 hour days, he was layed off, and I needed to get a job, I was gonna quit when he went back to work, but well, I was getting paid for what I did at home for free, why should I quit?

Mom: I had six kids, one died, now I have 5, 10 grandkids, each kid only had 2 each, got 8 grandkids, and 6 great-grandkids. These are them (pulls out some pictures) they live out west, they took them around Christmas time. They went somewhere so the kids could play in the snow. They were in my mother's day card. I get so many cards, the neighbors used to say I got more cards than anyone else.

Caseworker: they look very nice, lovely families.

This was also another one of those times when I wished I had a tape recorder with me, so I would be able to remember everything that she said. She rambled, sometimes it was hard to follow her from the next thought to the next, but somehow I did. She made me laugh, she made me feel sad, and even though there were times when a bitterness seemed to shine through the most, I still came away with the feeling that she is fairly pleased with the way she has lived her life, although she still wants more, but in a way that is not depressing, not angry, so many of my clients of that age range seem so depressed, like their lives had no meaning, like there is still something they need to do, but underneath it all, she has a sense of …….perhaps contentment. Which is what I hope I end my life with, not bitterness, not depression, not wishing I had done more, but a sense or feeling of contentment. Knowing that I did everything that I could, perhaps not everything I wanted, just everything I could at a particular time in my life, whether for myself, or for someone else.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Your stories about your work are always touching. It must be wonderful for an elderly person to have someone like you on their side.