XVII. The Help

My friend R was walking down the alley next to the historic building housing his place of business the other day when he stepped on the metal cellar door in the sidewalk and fell through onto the dirt floor below. The hinges, worn, gave way. I knew he had fallen, because I got an email hailing “Help!” in the subject line. He had lost his cell phone in the fall and needed someone to call him so he could locate it by its ring. Although he finally found it, he did not find it that way, though, because the ringer was turned off.

Besides body abrasions and fracturing the big toe bone and metatarsals of his left foot, he ripped the pad nearly off that left big toe. He drove himself, depressing the clutch to shift gears, a mile to the emergency room where the staff dressed his toe, took x-rays and prescribed a $20-a-pill antibiotic. Today, entering a convenience store, he ran into his landlord, whom he had phoned after the accident, exiting. The landlord, no doubt seeing a lawsuit coming at him head-on, barely acknowledged him.

Our July weather here in Delaware has been typically unbearably hot and humid this week. It finally rained yesterday, the 18th, after two weeks. Today we have a hazy sun, and when you step outside it smells like mildew.

I am feeling cellarish. I am having trouble shedding the residue of the situation with our Hospice aide arising Friday, the 15th, spreading over the succeeding three days, and culminating yesterday, Monday, the 18th. Trying to seep through my body’s ethereal layer, it drips from it like the raindrops lingering on the dogwood leaves outside my window this humid Tuesday morning.

We ran out of toilet paper Friday morning – two squares to spare –, so while Emma was still in bed, I walked to the store towing our shopping cart to gather necessities and get home before she awoke. When I got home, I found a note stuck in the door from the aide saying she had been here at 10:30 but couldn’t stay because she was ill and therefore would not return later that day. She wasn’t due until 1:30. Had I known she was coming, I would have waited. Friday. I had pressing urgencies needing attention; I was overwhelmed. So I called our former healthcare agency aide of nearly three years – the one whose aide the agency cut off on a recent Friday night because I’d run out of Medicaid funds – and asked her if she would have time to get Emma up, bathed, dressed, fed and exercised, that I would pay her. The aide came in 15 minutes, thankfully.

Monday, the Hospice aide came, completely healed, at her usual time, 2 p.m. Two weeks earlier, for a week she had been caring for two extra men, substituting for a vacationing aide. She asked me, therefore, if she could come to our house earlier than scheduled during that time. I said yes, if it would help her, and that it would help me because she could get Emma up in the morning, a chore. Emma likes to turn away from me and roll all around in bed, ever so slowly, like a breakdancer in a sweet potato and prune puree. Now that the vacationing aide had returned, I assumed that we were back on schedule as usual, that she would not show up arbitrarily to accommodate herself, whether or not I had plans – you know, like sitting around finishing the last of the bonbons while watching Oprah reruns and trying not to get the remote all chocolaty.

A few years ago, I got my keyboard all buttery while lounging at my computer writing my novel and eating popcorn. I love this keyboard. I’ve had it for years, since way back in my PC days. Now that I have my Mac, I was thrilled to be able to connect this, my buttery keyboard, to it in addition to my Mac keyboard used for specific Mac commands. I emailed R to find out how his toe was and told him I needed to spend the day writing a new post for “my glob – er, blog” – a genuine typo, glob, for which I blamed my buttery keyboard. It types things like that sometimes. Yet the term is apt: many blogs are unabashed globs. I therefore will get back to my subject before this becomes one.

Monday I asked the aide if she had used Emma’s little footbath tub to wash her feet. She was sitting at the dining room table tilting Emma’s lunch bowl so Emma could spoon out the last of her soup. My question and subsequent reaction launched her into a protracted song and dance that made me glad I had time out on the historic Maggie Myers oyster schooner on the Delaware Bay on the fourth watching the fireworks and Chinese lanterns float across the night sky. Her performance played like this:

Aide: Well, I do that on Tuesday.

Me: On Tuesday?! She hasn’t had a bath since Friday. And besides, you owe me twenty-five dollars [I didn’t expect her to pay, but I thought I’d lob it out there] because I had to hire another aide Friday to take your place since you showed up in the morning while I was at the store instead of coming at your usual one-thirty time and I couldn’t do all I had to do by myself.

Aide: Well, I came in the morning instead of the afternoon because I was doubled over sick and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

Me: Yes, but–

Aide: Don’t interrupt me. Let me finish. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Me: That’s it. Leave. Just leave.

Aide: (To Emma) I’m sorry you have to listen to this.

Me: {{{{   }}}}

Her superior, the nurse, when I told her later: {{{{   }}}}

Twisted and finessed as a breakdancer’s moves. Anyway, why would you come to take care of an elderly person if you were doubled over? Not only are you ill, but what if you gave that to the elderly, 96 year old, person? Why not double over an arm at the elbow and make a phone call saying you’re too ill to work?

I sent her packing. She told me not to treat her like she’s my daughter. Well, she’s not, and my daughter didn’t act that way. Nor did I when I was growing up – not if I wanted to keep my teeth.

I didn’t care whether the aide ever returned. If she did not, that meant I would have sole bathing, dressing, feeding and toileting duties for Emma. So be it. Rather that than taking the stress.

Now it is Thursday. The Hospice nurse spoke to the aide and told her to arrive on schedule and just say yes when asked to do something and not argue. She returned and she has been compliant.

Today I’m to meet here at home with the funds administration organization rep for explanation and paper signing for the 30-hour-a-week state Attendant Care Services program. We will see how that goes. I am hoping that in fact does mean that I will have Medicaid-paid help 30 hours a week.

–Samantha, July 21, 2011




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