LIX. My Life on Parchment

Sunday, February 26, 2012 — After dinner last night I settled in and watched the movie Anonymous until the scene where the loud meowing occurred.

It was Keats meowing – not the poet, but the cat, in my face. He woke me up.

Anonymous asks who penned the works ascribed to Shakespeare. The story is cluttered with characters; and scenes crunch together oscillating between past and present, actions erupting into writers and players being arrested on stage, their speech censored, stories re-spun, performances cancelled: my life on parchment.

A substitute Hospice aide pounced on me Thursday. She showed up at our door early; I didn’t know she was coming: our regular aide was ill, she said. I asked the substitute to sit and wait while I went upstairs and collected Emma’s bath accoutrements. The aides give Emma a bed sponge bath each morning. I finished my preparations for the aide and gathered Emma’s things, about to descend the staircase. The aide hollered up from the downstairs hall, “Hello! Hello! Excuse me! Excuse me!”

{{{      }}}

I don’t know how to answer this. This – Well, what should I call it? – loud meowing occurred once before, when Emma was agitated and the Hospice continuous care bully nurse stood in the kitchen at the foot of the back staircase one night and shot the same words up at me, in the same militant tone. I find myself dumbstruck.

This time I said, “What did I tell you? I asked you to wait while I gathered Emma’s things. Please wait; I will be right there.” But she didn’t hear me; she talked over me and told me not to shout.

She phoned Hospice; she told them I was rude. I phoned Hospice simultaneously and spoke to our team leader. She said, “Didn’t [the scheduler] call to tell you the substitute aide was coming?” No, she did not. Had she, I would have been prepared for the substitute and for her early arrival. So, the aide and I were set up for this unseemly encounter. The team manager asked if I would like Geri, my social worker, to come. I said, “Geri’s good anytime.” Yes, and it was good she came, because this substitute refused to follow my directions (by which I was trying to ease her job on her first visit here), did not know how to draw Emma into a sitting position in bed so she could eat without choking, and ultimately left Geri and me standing holding bowls and glasses of food, while she maneuvered the tray table into position over Emma’s bed. There was more: it took three of us to do a job readily executed by one.

The fiasco turned serendipitous, though, because Geri had a cancellation and by the time Tess, our nurse, arrived and the aide had left, Geri had picked up lunch and the three of us ate and chatted in the warm sun on my front porch. Our camaraderie alleviated my trauma caused by the aide’s indecorous behavior. Earlier in the week, the team manager took me out to dinner, thus bolstering our Hospice team support. I must say, the excellent margaritas at the Mexican restaurant served as superb attitude adjusters.

This weekend, our state Attendant Services Care aide, Daphne, was invited to stay at the Showboat in Atlantic City and see Guns N’ Roses with Axl Rose perform at the House of Blues there. How could I say no, you have to stick to your normal routine and stay here in Delaware to bathe and feed Emma? A good friend suggested I call a healthcare aide who lives around the corner from us. Violet comes highly recommended and loves what she does. Her performance was a smash hit. I am thrilled to have her. Emma must be, too, for she even gives Emma backrubs. Hmm … I wonder if I paid her a little extra – I should be so lucky. Violet has offered her availability for backup almost anytime. Indeed fortuitous.

I would like to believe based upon this story the truth in Voltaire’s postulation that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Not so likely would the squirrel and the cat, though: This afternoon I grabbed Keats and held him in my lap in the dining room to brush him. He liked the backrub but the brushing got cancelled at his tummy. He squirmed and jumped down. As I went to pick him up, he latched his front claws into the rug. He was slippery. My nose dodging his lashing tail, I finally pried him loose, picked him up and brushed his tummy – hastily, against his will, while praising his beautiful fluffy fur jacket with the stripes and black dots that look like double-breasted buttons down the front. Preened and fluffed, he dashed outside and across the street where I spotted him streaking across the empty lot after a squirrel that ran up a telephone pole, pausing midway to soliloquize a diatribe against ill-mannered cats.

—Samantha Mozart

 

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