I work for a retirement community which for obvious reasons I won’t actually name, and something crazy, sad, hilarious, disturbing, upsetting, weird or uplifting happens just about everyday. I never intend to be disrespectful of the senior citizens that live where I work, but in order to stay sane in this sometime house of madness, I have to find the humor in every situation. One such incident occurred just a few days ago with a resident that I will dub Mr. Screamer.
I was heading back to my office, late for my next conference call, and as I rounded the corner just a few steps away from my office, I hear him. Mr. Screamer is cussing and hollering up a storm about something. I pause right outside my door, and that was my first mistake. I should have made a beeline directly for my office, not passing go and not collecting 200 dollars! But I paused. And my co-worker (I’ll dub her Ms. BusyBody) took my pause as an opportunity to pounce.
“Something has to be done!” Ms. BusyBody says to me with a curt nod in the general direction of Mr. Screamer’s apartment. I pretend to play dumb, hoping it will buy me an out. It didn’t. “He’s been cussing and yelling at the RA’s for half an hour, and no one can find the director and this just has to stop, I mean how much are we supposed to take! These poor RA’s having to deal with this verbal abuse day in and day out, well something just needs to be done! What are we going to do!” She finally takes a breath in which I interject that the director is downstairs in the main dining room, so I mean really how much effort was really put into finding her (I didn’t actually say that last part, but I thought it). With a sigh, I make the unfortunate mistake of getting involved.
Squaring my shoulders, lamenting the conference call I am now going to miss, I make my way to Mr. Screamer’s apartment with much trepidation and angst. I look behind me to say something to Ms. BusyBody and she has of course POOFED! Gone. Nowhere to be seen. Everyone knows a Ms. BusyBody. She’s somehow always in the middle of everything without actually ever getting involved. It’s a talent really. One I envy at the moment as I walk down the hall, the screaming and yelling getting louder. Is it just me or is this hallway getting longer? As I draw closer, I can make out certain words that cause a bead of sweat to break out on my forehead. Words like “bowel discomfort, feces all over, diarrhea”. My brain is shouting “ABORT! ABORT!” But my feet keep moving, it’s like they have a mind of their own! I’ve come around the corner to his front door, and OH NO now he’s seen me!!!!
“HEY YOU MISSY, COME HERE!” Oh shit. No pun intended. On a sidenote, I love being called Missy. Not.
“Hi, Mr. B (to call him Mr. Screamer here seems rude, so I’ll shorten his name and reserve Mr. Screamer for the conversations in my head).” “How are you doing?” “HOW AM I DOING! NOT GOOD I CAN TELL YOU THAT, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE NIGHT I’VE HAD AND WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT!” Oh boy. “Well first of all, Mr. B please don’t yell a—-“. “I’M NOT YELLING! I DON’T YELL! I DON’T CUSS EITHER! BUT I HAVE A SITUATION HERE AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE GONNA GODDAMN DO ABOUT IT!” “Well, I’d hate to see what you consider yelling and cussing.” ” WHAT WAS THAT!??!!?” “I was just asking if you could please tell me the problem so I can figure out how to help you.” “I’LL TELL YOU THE PROBLEM!” (oh goody) “THE PROBLEM IS THE NIGHTSHIFT GUY IS TRYING TO KILL ME! HE GAVE ME TOO MANY PILLS (he went into more detail here about the kind of pills and what the pills are for but I kinda blanked out for a minute) AND I’VE BEEN UP ALL NIGHT WITH A HORRIBLE BOWEL CONDITION. I HAD TO PRACTICALLY SLEEP ON THE TOILET, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT’S LIKE?!?!? HUH? IT WAS SO BAD I HAD TO USE TOWELS TO CLEAN MYSELF. IT WAS EVERYWHERE. I GOT IT ON MY CLOTHES TOO!” I mutter something unintelligible here in what I think is a sympathetic tone, and I must have come across as nice and caring because he did ask me to sit down. Sit down? SIT DOWN? I don’t even want to breathe right now after the horror story you’ve been telling about your irritable bowel and its volcanic eruption. I decide ignoring his invitation to sit seemed like a good idea, and I continued to try to placate him. I will spare you the details but the next few minutes I was giving a very thorough description of the state of his under-carriage during which I felt a bit dizzy and light-headed and had to remind myself to breathe (through my nose of course). After another very descriptive illustration of the contents of his toilet, I started eyeballing his oxygen tank, and he must have sensed my line of thought because he said “AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE! HE COMES IN AT NIGHT AND TURNS OFF MY OXYGEN TANK, HE’S TRYING TO KILL ME AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING ABOUT IT! AND IT’S NOT THE FIRST TIME SOMEONE HAS TRIED TO KILL ME WITH MY OXYGEN TANK! DO YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF I HADN’T WOKEN UP AND TURNED IT BACK ON, YOU’D HAVE FOUND ME DEAD MISSY! DEAD! HOW WOULD YOU LIKE THAT TO START YOUR DAY!” I realize his question is rhetorical, and my thoughts are veering to the uncharitable. I. Must. Stay. Focused. I think I smile sympathetically and make the appropriate noises, arranging my facial features to convey feelings of concern, but to be honest, at this point I can’t even feel my extremities, everything’s gone a bit numb.
Of course, I know about the other incident where someone tried to “do him in” with the oxygen tank. He was on one of our trips to the grocery store. We all shudder when we see his name on the list to go to the store because there is always an incident. He drags his oxygen tank up and down the grocery store aisles screaming at poor unsuspecting shoppers to help him reach this or that or to complain about something or yell about how the world is out to get him. Between him and Mrs. G who knocks over things and people with her scooter (including a whole display of spaghetti sauce in glass jars), it’s a wonder the local establishments don’t ban us from their properties. Anyway, on the bus ride back, Mr. Screamer puts his oxygen tank on his walker and then forgets to put the brakes on his walker. So when the poor driver of the bus has to stop at a red light, his walker rolls to the back of the bus making his oxygen tube strangle around his neck. She did pull over as quickly as possible to help him, but to be fair, it might have seemed like forever to him since he was choking, but clearly it wasn’t an intentional abuse or effort to kill him. Anyway, back to the present.
After another round of yelling, in which I can’t stop myself eyeballing his oxygen tank again, and wishing for a hole in the floor to swallow me up, and cursing myself for THE PAUSE and committing Ms. BusyBody in my mind to the Ninth Circle of Hell, somehow my continued calm in the face of the poopstorm reaches somewhere deep within Mr. B and he visibly begins to calm down. His voice is naturally loud because he’s deaf, but it now doesn’t feel like screaming. We even spend a few blissful moments discussing the wonderful classical music he’s playing in the background. I assure him that I will immediately go and find the director so that he may voice his concerns, but all I ask is that he please stop yelling (he yelled at me again telling me he doesn’t yell) and give the director the chance to listen, investigate and respond. He finally relinquished his maniacal hold on my time, and I’m able to run back to my office (okay I didn’t run, but I did walk very fast).
It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to his problem. I mean who hasn’t experienced an intestinal problem of some kind during their lifetime. And I know that most times the anger stems out of the fear, frustration and impotence the elderly feel over their health, their circumstances and their lives. However, only one thing is certain and that is death. We are all going to die. I personally believe that growing old is a privilege, one denied to many. So, I pray that as I age, I am able to do so gracefully and with as much dignity as possible.
Until next time on Tales from the Village….
P.S. I never did give up anything for Lent.
Interesting Fact of the Day: Rats multiply so quickly that in 18 months, two rats could have over a million descendants.