As I look for the next work opportunity that God brings me to, I am treasuring my time as a caregiver. Honestly, this job has some jewels and a lot of not very glamorous moments; however one of my favorite aspects is how often my clients make me laugh and smile. Sometimes I need to suppress the giggles and save it for later when I relate the story to my husband and we both crack up.
One of the laws in healthcare is that we are not allowed to share any stories about clients using their real names so I have nicknames for each client that I use only when relating stories about them. Currently I care for 3 ladies in their 90’s. I refer to them as Mrs. Sweetcakes, M’lady, and Mrs. Drama. I think that Mrs. Drama makes me laugh (and also sigh in exasperation) more than any of the other clients I have cared for during all the time I have worked as a caregiver. Today I want to share her with my readers.
I think she puts it best when she says “I am 95 pounds when dripping wet, and five feet tall with shoes on.” Don’t be fooled by her size though; what she may lack in stature, she more than compensates for in personality. She has a mood for every minute of the day, a song for every occasion, and an opinion about everything under the sun. She has a sharp tongue and a ready laugh. She loves to tell jokes. She has a pretty face and eyes that sparkle with mischief. She is twice a widow to men she loved very much, and is now determined to meet husband number three. Mrs Drama is quite a character.
She has plenty of money and she feels that people ought to treat her with an extra measure of respect because of it. When they do, she rewards them by bringing them a cookie or a piece of candy next time she is there. She remembers their name and what they said last time she spoke to them. She tries to make them feel appreciated. However sometimes people aren’t quite as accommodating of her entitled attitude; for example, if a checker at the grocery store asks her wait in line with everyone else , she quickly informs them “I am quite Wealllllllthy (she always draws out the ‘l’ sound in wealthy….I still wonder why) and I am accustomed to being treated accordingly! I don’t have time to stand in line!” I am constantly surprised at how many people actually give her preference because of this announcement. I treat her respectfully because she is a human, but I am not impressed by wealth and I never have been. I am eagerly awaiting the day that one of them tells her to get her fanny back in line immediately or go shop at a store for ‘weallllllthy people’ where they don’t have waiting lines. I know she will make a scene when it happens, but I will personally go back to that store after I get off work and thank that checker. Sometimes entitled attitudes just need a reality check.
I don’t think Mrs. Drama used to be as demanding as she is sometimes now. She raised a passel of children by herself because her husband’s work often took him away from the family. What I have gathered from the stories that she tells me is that during the years she was raising her children, she found that she had to be extremely organized or complete chaos reigned in their home. She said she sat down one day and wrote out a schedule of household chores, cleaning tasks and errands for each day. As it became an established part of her life she decided that she would follow it until the day she dies.
Now in her 90’s she lives alone with her two cats, and she feeds them at the same time she fed her children each day. She still has a weekly shopping trip on Tuesdays even if she has a full fridge and pantry. We usually go to Safeway, where she chooses one small package of cookies, cuts in line by shoving her walker in front of other patrons, tells the cashier a joke that I would deem inappropriate for most audiences, and laughs loudly as the checker looks somewhat baffled. If she was allowed to cut in line and she likes the cashier then she gives the package of cookies to them and tells them what a dear they are. I simply stand on the sidelines and watch the drama unfold. It doesn’t make sense to me, but in her little world there is peace because she shopped on Tuesday and she was treated with extra preference. Sometimes these excursions amuse me and sometimes they grate on my nerves, but always they remind me that elderly people are adults with freewill. As caregivers we are not responsible for the actions of the individuals we care for. We can encourage appropriate behavior and present reasons for it but as long as our clients are in their right mind, they have the right to behave in whatever manner they choose.
Mrs. Drama is currently using the internet to meet a new man. She wants to be married again. I never realized just how complicated online dating could be until I saw it through the eyes of a ninety something year old lady. She created a profile stating that she is only 60. The pictures that she used are from at least 20 years ago. She thinks saying she is 60 is believable. She has aged very well and she does look younger than she is, but 43 years is a pretty big lie. I have encouraged her several times to list an age that is closer to her real one, but she refuses. She says nobody wants a ninety year old. I tell her that if God has another man for her then he will want her at her true age. She agrees with that but still keeps her age listed as 60.
There are a number of qualities that are very important to her in her next spouse. He has to be very tall: over 6ft at least. He has to have a moustache and preferably a beard too. He has to have brown eyes. He has to be a certain astrological sign. He must be wealllllthy. He must possess his own teeth (honestly I can’t even type that one without giggling. I guess as a young person I took my husband’s teeth for granted. Evidently in the elderly that is a real selling point!) He must have history as a serviceman in a branch of the US military. Additionally, he must be willing to put her first on his priority list as soon as they have met.
Each week when I arrive at her house she has a new man to tell me about. She always leads with the teeth. “I have a wonderful man! We just got together! He has his own teeth! He is very wealllllllllthy, and he is very intelligent. He is a captain.” (often they are not captains of anything, but in her mind being a captain makes them seem important, so she states that they are hoping I will be duly impressed. I am not.) I always ask her the same thing. “What about his character? Is he a man that would serve God with you?” She usually doesn’t have an answer to those two questions and so she changes the subject to some obscure part of the emails she has sent him.
Last week she informed me that she told him she is original. I said “Oh, ok. You mean you sent him an email saying that?” “No, of course not!” she replied. “I went to the place where his picture is and it had a button to click that said ‘IM me.’ I thought to myself hmm…. ‘I’m me’ why yes, I am me! I am myself! An original! So I clicked it to tell him. Now he knows that I am unique.” She looked very proud of herself. Then she added as if a second thought “after I told him that there was this annoying white box that zipped up in my picture (she calls the computer screen a picture) and I couldn’t get rid of it. It kept saying it was waiting for him to chat. Maybe he wants to call me. That must be it. I better send him an email with my phone number!” No amount of explanation I gave her could convince her that IM means instant message. She was sure that he was asking for her phone number, and thought I was stupid because I didn’t know what that IM is a contraction for I am. I pointed out the missing apostrophe, and she said it’s because his grammar isn’t the best that he didn’t add one there. I just smiled at her and told her I hope he calls and that I was going to go vacuum while she emailed him.
One day she told me one of the men she had been emailing with who was about 65 had said something about being a cougar, and she couldn’t figure out what that meant. She asked me what a cougar was. After a moment of careful thought I told her that a cougar was a large wild cat. “Well I know that! What else could it mean?” I admit that at that moment my no-lies policy was questioned, but it held true. I smiled at her and told her that sometimes it is a term that is used to describe women who are attracted to younger men. “Oh no no no! That couldn’t possibly be what me meant! I told him I was a bit older than I said in my profile, but my pictures look so young! I am sure he meant something else! I will figure it out.” I said “oh, ok” while excusing myself to the other room so I could laugh. She called me later that evening after I was home to tell me she had it all figured out. “You see” she said “He must have read my profile and discovered my astrological sign. My sign is the one right next to the leo. Leo is a lion, you know. Lions are pretty much large cougars. He must have meant that by being next to the leo I am like a small lion. A cougar. You see? That’s what he must have meant.” I could barely keep a straight face until I hung up the phone. I have no idea why some people are so hung up on age. Either we get old, or we die. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Mrs Drama is certainly a character. She makes me laugh almost every time I work with her. Many of those times I want to scream by the time I leave too. She often tries to manipulate me, and it never works for her. She had told me more than once that she has adopted me as a daughter. She often gets in a huff because I won’t agree with her when she is being unfair. Then she gives me chocolates when she is happy with me again. She sometimes yells at me and being yelled at is one of the things I despise most in life.
She surprised me with a beautiful handmade handkerchief with hand tatting around the edge for my birthday. Her hands have limited movement and I knew it took her hours and it probably caused her pain. I don’t really have any use for a lace handkerchief, but it was a gift of love so I treasure it. And I really don’t have any use for all the emotional turmoil that comes along with this dear lady, but she is a gift and I love her so I treasure these days with her while I have them.