My Tale Tues is late because I’m taking care of my mother this week. There’s no one else to get her meals, help her with showers, laundry and to cut her toenails.
After my mother fired the last aide, she has sworn off agencies. But I’ve been making my way through an old list of non-agencies aides I discovered beneath piles of old charitable solicitations.
Either the list is so old, the aides are in need of aides themselves, if not already dead. Only one called back.
At nine o‘clock at night. From the beach – she was fishing.
“It’s a habit I picked up and got hooked.” She laughed, at once a giggly and deeply cavernous laugh. “Hooked! Like I’m hopin’ to hook a bass tonight, they’re jumpin’ alright….”
She launched into a story about one day wandering into a tackle shop, and next thing she knew she’d bought out the place.
Who just wanders into a tackle shop? The most I know about fishing is that lures are in short supply, having become the latest earring rage:
“Oh, you should be here,” she said, as if I were an intimate old childhood friend. “It’s a full moon, so bright you really can see them, jumpin’… “
She was out at the lighthouse beach in Montauk:
The moonlit-jumping fish is all lovely imagery, but I am sick to death of the finding-the perfect-aide quandary, so I interrupted her moon-and-fish reverie to ask about her availability.
Presently, she is employed only on weekend nights, to change diapers for an alzheimer’s patient –
We lost connection.
She called me back. “Sorry. The connection out here on the rocks isn’t so great. Probably because I’m on the point.”
She was on the point? Those slippery rocks at the very tip of the Montauk peninsula?
“You alone out there?”
“Ah…yeah, think so…there’s a couple of guys but down a ways, on the beach….”
A fishing aide alone on a slippery, rocky slope at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. I prayed that she was “hands-free” cell-phoning.
We kept trying to reconnect and despite my impatience, I felt a connection to this said-fishing aide; after the last ultimately dull aide who donned dishwater-gray scrubs, who could resist an aide who salt-water fishes?
So we planned for her to meet my mother – whom I knew would get a kick out of an aide who fishes, as she had out of her favorite aide who would fling back her neighbor’s dog shit at their windows.
“What should we serve her?” My mother asked. “We have any iced tea?”
This made me cranky. “It’s just an interview, Mom.” For a damn aide.
Said-fishing aide appeared next day, thankfully, in bright colors – bright scarf, turquoise earrings. Fuchsia pants, albeit, a bit too tight considering her enormous bulk.
My mother insisted we sit in the sunroom where she likes to entertain “guests,” and after we were all too-comfortably settled, my mother initiated some polite conversation: “So I hear you fish!”
Fishing aide gushed: “Oh, I do indeed, and guess what! Would you believe last night I caught my biggest fish ever? A 37-pounder!”
She showed us a picture on her iPhone of her holding the truly enormous hefty bass. “One of those guys on the beach took the picture…” Although they evidently hadn’t bothered to help her haul the fish in.
I was genuinely stunned. How does one woman alone on slippery rocks haul in a 37-pounder?
“You don’t haul it. You drag it. Up between the rock crevasses.”
She guts her own fish too. “It’s not my favorite thing, but hey, neither is changing diapers…” She laughed that giggly cavernous laugh.
I was suspicious now of colorful clothing, as the last aide had shown up in an equally colorful outfit for her interview. I’ve also learned to get straight to the point: “You don’t wear scrubs do you?”
“Oh, you mean those hospital things? Oh, god no, how depressing. I wear my waders mostly…”
“Well, it’s a night job, and often I go back out fishing.”
She explained about her alzheimer’s client’s diaper-changing routine: She stops in for “seven minutes” of diaper changing before heading out fishing. Then she returns around midnight, and as not wake the rest of the household, she uses her fishing headlamp. Usually she’d be heading back out to the rocks, so she’d still be in her waders…
I could see it: the spotlight of this wader-clad woman’s headlamp wavering around a darkened room as she changed an out-of-her-mind lady’s dirty diaper.
This fishing aide has a huge heart; I could tell. She also has four jack russell terriers who have shredded all her rugs, but she doesn’t care about “such things”; nine siblings, herself being the eighth; a wasp’s nest just like the one she’d spotted in a corner of my mother’s window: “Just mix liquid dish detergent with an ounce of water, and pour it over the bugger.”
I wasn’t about to tackle a wasp nest with detergent. And huge hearts can be challenged by huge talkers; and this huge-hearted fishing aide wouldn’t shut up. I watched as my mother’s initial amusement began to wane. She was glassy-eyed.
I felt glassy-eyed myself, especially as the sunroom was boiling; even though it was 80 degrees out, my mother gets cold easily and she’d asked to have all the windows shut.
Beads of sweat trickled down said fishing aide’s nose. She was using her bright scarf to wipe her neck. Still she seemed happy to stay. All day.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked my mother, as if we were the actual guests, or perhaps switching into aide mode: “Iced tea perhaps?”
“I’m not thirsty,” my mother bleated. Her daily ounce of energy was already spent.
Said fishing aide caught me glancing at my watch, and I caught her crestfallen look. I realized, underneath the bright fuchsia-and-teal facade, underneath all the laughter, she was lonely. That perhaps she only had this night job because no one wanted to be awake around her endless giggly cavernous laughter and chatter.
The cold hard truth is, I must face up to my mother’s own loneliness, and that is enough hurt in my own life. So I pulled a shade down on that lonely image of fishing aide standing all alone out on moonlit slippery rocks.
My need to escape the boiling hot sunroom, the situation, all of it, made me shoot up off the itchy couch sticking to my sweaty thighs.
“I really need to get up to the store.” I did! My mother was completely out of cat food.
I felt a bit badly abandoning my glassy-eyed, now exhausted mother to the mercy of this lonely non-stop talking fishing aide whom still seemed to have no intention of leaving. But I also was looking forward terribly to the air-conditioned grocery store.
Are we picky home-aide pickers? Maybe. But there has to be a happy medium between the dirty-dishwater gray aides and the too-colorful ones whose own loneliness may suffocate the already too lonely.
Oh, another aide has actually called me back. We haven’t met her yet, but for twenty years evidently, she pursued a career in retail management running an athletic shoe store, until she found her “true calling” as a certified home health aide. Changing diapers, spoon-feeding, cutting toenails.
She also plays James Taylor on the guitar for her clients, and I can just see it as clearly as I could the fishing aide changing diapers in the middle of the night: my mother sitting there glassy-eyed, listening to the very possibly out-of-tune strumming of Jame’s Taylor’s Here Comes the Sun.
Actually, I just can’t see it at all. Because finding the perfect home aide can be as hard as…Sorry. I’m at a loss for the perfect metaphor.