Aging · Caregiving · culture · Death · Family · Humor · language · Money · Relationships · sad · Thanksgiving · Work

Burying the Cat II

JD darted from the church and into his car in record time. Drenched in sweat, he felt like he would pass out. After he’d got a grip on himself, he reached into his front pocket of his stiff new Bi-Mart jeans for the infamous phone.

He stilled his shaky hands and flipped the little gadget open, muttering at it the whole time. 6 missed calls in 2 minutes. It was his elderly client Lynn. He pushed call.

She answered immediately. “Halo JD.”

He could tell something was very wrong. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“It’s not good.” She said. He could tell she’d been crying. “Can you come?”

“I’ll be right there.” He started his car. He raced the familiar 25 miles there and let himself into the house, scared stiff. “Lynn!” he called gently.

She sat on a chair facing away from him and he hurried to her. When he got to her, he stepped back in utter dismay. She was cradling a very dead cat!

She started bawling when she saw him. “He was very sick this morning when I woke up. By the time I showered and called the vet, he was dead.” She sobbed helplessly.

He was aghast. He was tempted to say, “Is this why you called me?” but she couldn’t hear anything over the sobs anyhow. She reached out an arm for a hug. He leaned in and tried very hard not to touch the cat. “It’s okay, Lynn. I’m so sorry.”

She held him for a long time. So long his back started to cramp. Then his stomach started growling again. And that cat, he was certain he could feel it squirming, or winking at him. Or something.

Two hours later, he helped her out to a spot where they had decided Gumby would be buried. He set a chair up by the old magnolia and  scraped a perimeter for the hole. Once she approved it he got to work digging  a hole, 2 feet by 2 feet. He gritted his teeth at having to dig with his weekend clothes on, but he couldn’t very well go back home  to change at this point. The rhythmic strike of the shovel followed by the thud of the moist dirt landing was punctuated by Lynn’s soft sobs. Strike, thud, sob. Strike, thud, sob, sniffle.

He pulled his bandana from his pocket, wiped the sweat off his brow, threw the shovel off to the side and jumped out of the three foot deep hole. Lynn had wrapped Gumby in one of her towels and JD slowly reached out to receive it. He was met with a visceral wail and she clutched tightly at her stiff but beloved pet.

JD stood by trying not to the think of the tamales at his house that his friends were probably devouring without him. He didn’t want to deny her this precious moment with Gumby but he had spent all day yesterday preparing them and his cousin cooked them while he was at church.

He cleared his throat and placed his hand on her shoulder after she wiped her nose on the sleeve of her pink polyester robe. “Honey,” she started, “I don’t that’s deep enough. I don’t want coyotes and racoons digging him up. Let’s make it a little deeper.”

He jumped back in and dug first one foot, then two feet deeper. Unfortunately this also meant he had to make it wider than two foot square. He put his foot down when he was chest deep and she mistook his tear for sympathy. “Gumby always loved you so very much,” she said wanly, rocking him back and forth.

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“Donde estas?” yelled his cousin, Pablo trying to make himself heard over the loud music in the background.

“I’m coming from buying tulips and heading to Lynn’s house,” JD replied. “Hide me a bunch of tamales.”

“Tulips? What about the tamales? Estas loco? ” Pablo scratched his head, sure he’d heard wrong.

“Hide me 6 tamales. I’ll be home soon. I think,” and he hung up, exasperated. There was nothing like missing a tamale fiesta at your own house.

She’d decided she needed tulips on the grave so that she had something pretty to enjoy when she sat by the chair she’d had him cement under the magnolia tree. That had taken another hour and a half but she just had to have those tulips. They were Gumby’s favorites, she said. She had him lay them out, first one way then another before settling on  a third configuration. He buried them then set up some rockery that the tulips would adorn.

He pulled into his driveway at 6 p.m. to find folding chairs, dirty dishes, and beer bottles strewn across his front yard and no one in sight. He was the epitomy of mixed emotions as he stood there his eyes going from this mess to the wad of cash Lynn had stuck into his breast pocket “Please take this,” she said as she hugged him goodbye.  “You’re a better son to me than my own. He’d have told me and my cat to go to hell hours ago.”

JD counted it 5 times. Nine hundred and Forty dollars.

tulip2

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Aging · culture · Health · Humor · language · Relationships · Work

There’s a Dead Duck Out There

Robert was a rough-hewn character. He lived in a nursing home outside of Melbourne where I worked as a caregiver.  We heard him before we saw him. He walked with a cane which he leaned into heavily. “Old injury from the war,” he explained, when I asked about the limping hip. The cane tapped a beat on the tiles on the floor and the metal on the sole of his shoe kept rhythm. 

He wore the same shoes every day. “Worn ’em forty years, mate. That’s a good shoe right there,” he explained academically, tapping at the toe of his right one with his cane. “It’s been there for me through the good and the ill.” They were made of very old brown leather and he meticulously polished them every morning. Even the insides had a high sheen with a dark outline where his toes nested. His room had the distinct smell of the Kiwi shoe polish he used.

It was rough being an international uni student and not only having to work to fund my schooling but adjusting to culture shock as well. The job wasn’t much to speak of. A friend had recommended me for it and I’d decided to give it a go. I was grateful for it but it was certainly grunt work. The hardest part was thinking I spoke English but having to learn a whole new version here.

I tied Robert’s shoe laces, and chuckled as he told he about the ‘deadorse” and “wilted rabbit food” he was served for dinner last night. “Where’s the lamb around here? Or how about some roo for supper?” He complained. I liked this crusty man but would like him even better if he quit scratching his nuts  in front of me. He did it every time he put his shoes on, “Only thing is, these shoes make me itch my budgies.”

He loved to talk about his wife. “We raised chooks up north,” he said,  pointing to a grainy photo of  her in her bathers on his old dresser. “She was always full as a boot on the amber fluid.” She was a good distraction while I helped him get dressed, otherwise he’d tell me to nick off. He called me a stickybeak and a perve when I first started.

I shook my head as I left to attend to a buzzer going off in room 24. “I’ll never get over this place.”

Robert loved to walk outside after brekkie. I’d been there about 4 months when he came clicking by the nurse’s station one day. I was enjoying my job well enough and getting a good handle on this culture.  “How ya going Bob? Beautiful day out out there.” I said, replenishing towels from the laundry cart.

“There’s a dead duck in the parking lot,” he announced, adjusting his hat without looking at me. He kept walking.

“Oh dear.” I said, and went back to my towels, thinking it was a good thing the garbo would be here tomorrow.

All of a sudden, my cart was pushed by a nurse of larger build in a tight uniform, running faster than seemed possible for her size. I was thrown against the wall like a rag-doll. She was yelling orders as she ran outside and my fellow off-siders were running behind her in pandemonium, dodging wheelchairs and their occupants. “What was going on?” I asked after I caught my breath, frantically looking around and wondering if I should run or hide. 

Turns out a female resident had fallen in the parking lot and Bob had saved her hide with his announcement! So much for my cultural competence…

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