Thursday, September 3, 2009

Good work if you can get it

Picked up a little work recently helping to take care of an elderly neighbor. For a frail old lady of 88 years and 75 pounds, she's a feisty one.

If I turn my back on her for a couple minutes, she'll be out the door to weed the flowerbed or in the kitchen pulling heavy cast iron pans out of the cabinets to cook lunch. I'll ask her if I can do it for her but she'll always reply "No. But you can help if you want."

I used to be able to keep track of her by the sound of her walker scraping across the floor. Now she's got those tennis ball things on the ends of it and it's much quieter so I have to get visual confirmation of her whereabouts more frequently. I keep telling her I'm gonna put a bell around her neck.

I'm basically there to make sure she doesn't fall or hurt herself. It also gives her family members a break from having to watch her all the time. And I work a helluva lot cheaper than a real in-home care provider. I'm being partially paid in literal chickenfeed - I get to keep the old food I clean out of the refrigerator and cabinets. For the record, chickens don't really care for Froot Loops.

I do some light cleaning and take care of the ironing (she does the laundry herself). I let her do pretty much whatever she wants (as if I could stop her) and just drop whatever I'm doing when she decides she wants to weed the flowerbed/get something from the storage building/deep fry some okra.

One time she decided she wanted to sweep the carport. I followed her out, explaining that I'd be happy to sweep it. "No. I need the exercise. But you can come keep me company."

So while this tiny old woman held onto her walker with one hand and a broom with the other, I was smoking a cigarette and driving the motorized scooter around in circles, thinking This can't look good.

Sometimes we sit and talk. She tells me stories of what life here was like here when she was a little girl in a flour sack dress. She tells me how horrible it is to grow old and become a burden to your children. I remind her of all the dirty butts and runny noses she's wiped as well as the three days of labor she endured during the birth of her daughter and tell her They owe you. This makes her smile. "They owe me."

We take our blood pressure together and then compare results. Her last reading was 208 over 90 and yet she gave me shit for my 127 over 84. But I don't mind because this is the closest thing I have to health care.

No comments: