It’s 2:30 PM and I am taking a nap. I am sleeping so hard and deep that I am slobbering on my bed pillow.
Here is why I have slung myself across the bed and slammed into sleep in mid-afternoon when I should be working.
It’s because today I went to lunch at the local Senior Center.
Why? Because the lady who took care of my mother when she was ill, is between jobs.
“I’m scared,” she says. “I need a good Care-Giving job or I won’t be able to keep living in your mother’s house and I am even having trouble buying food.”
One of the problems with Care-Giving is that the old people you care for, often die. Then, you ‘re out of a job.
But, guess what.
I have a ‘Brilliant’ Idea.
“Let’s go to the Senior Center for lunch,” I say. “Mom went there and she had friends and I know some of the people. We can talk to folks and tell them how wonderful you are and that you’re looking for work. They may know someone who needs your help.”
Sonja thinks this is a terrific idea.
However, she can only go this Friday and that is the day they are having beef tostadas, rice, beans and a kiwi. Ugh. Oh well. I was hoping for a fried chicken day with mashed potatoes and fancy iced cake.
“OK,” I say. “They have generally great food and it’s only $4.00. Let’s do it.”
It is 80 degrees and Sonja wears a pink fluffy coat that pleases her platinum blonde hair. She is from Michigan and it’s winter and in winter you wear coats.
Sonja is a very pretty woman.
The lady at the desk in the Senior Center takes my $4 for Senior Lunch and says to me, “Are you a Senior?”
I fall in love with her.
I almost want to pay her the extra dollar for the Younger People’s Lunch.
We survey the room but are directed to a table at the back. The bridge players get the best tables.
On our way to our table I introduce Sonja to the Man Who Runs The Place. I mention that she is looking for a Care-Giver’s position. He asks for her card.
I whisper, “He knows everyone here. He can get you work.”
When we get to our table it is our misfortune that we are sitting with a man who yells every word he says and slaps every sentence with a blistering laugh and a holler.
I get a headache almost immediately.
We introduce ourselves to our table mates and mention that Sonja was my mother’s Wonderful Care-Taker and that she is now looking for work.
A woman I happen to know at the next table, over hears me and trots to my side.
Grabbing the back of my chair, Kelli leans toward Sonja and says, “You’ll never get any work here. The Guy Who Runs The Place is having a ‘Thing’ with Carrie Smith. She gets all the work.”
“Who is Carrie Smith?” I ask.
Kelli hisses and points to a plain, older and stooped lady at another table. She doesn’t look like a vixen to me.
“She’s a Bitch!” Kelli hisses. “She’s dumber than a sack of rocks!”
Sonja and I get up from the table and get in the soup line. Kelli trails us.
“You’ll never get any work here,” she repeats. “That woman gets it all. She’s that man’s favorite! She’s a Total Bitch! Dumber than a sack of rocks!”
Sonja and I finally get back to our table. Kelli ambles off. I pick up my soup spoon.
A woman at our table is saying how she wanted to go to the local restaurant by herself for lunch and a woman in her neighborhood told her that people would think if she went alone that she was looking to pick up a man.
I say, “Oh! That’s just not so. If you’re single and you don’t go to lunch on your own, you will never go to lunch.”
The woman who is to my left at the table, launches into something about a couple she knows who are doing wrong and it looks bad, and something needs to be done to stop them.
I look at Sonja, lean close and whisper, “What the heck is this place? All these people must be in their 80’s at least and some are in their 90’s. Doesn’t it ever stop?”
Kelli comes back and leans over my shoulder.
“I’m licensed as an EMT,” she says. “But does That Man ever give me any work or credit? No. It’s always That Bitch who gets it. One day a man fell out of his chair here and hit the floor. Carrie came over and put a pillow under his head! A pillow! You never put a pillow under their head. I yanked that pillow out and slung it across the room and tipped the man’s head back and gave him air.”
The loud man at our table is still yelling his thoughts, throwing his mouth open wide and showing his teeth full of hamburger particles and gummy, refried beans.
My head seriously hurts.
My seat neighbor says she is angry that the meal now starts at 11:30 instead of noon. You now get the soup at 11:30 but the real meal doesn’t come until noon! Noon!
The Man Who Runs The Center stands and takes a microphone to make announcements. My seat neighbor waves her hand around in the air like it is held up by balloons in a brisk wind. She has something to say about the lunch time change. The man ignores her.
“Let’s get some coffee,” I say to Sonja.
We walk to the back of the room and the Man Who Runs The Center sidles up beside us.
“Can you talk with me a minute in my office? ” he says to Sonja.
“Be friendly and charming,” I whisper.
I notice that I am whispering a lot, today.
I wait for Sonja outside the building. My head is hurting because I can’t take the intrigue inside, anymore! I feel like I have been through a high school meat grinder.
Now I understand what Mother was talking about when she would come home from the Center with all the stories about her boyfriend of the moment.
‘Certain People’ didn’t like him and kept trying to kick the old fellow off the Lunch Menu Planning List; a job he had held for years. Finally, they did kick him off and it was a major lunch room scandal.
When Sonja comes out of the building after speaking to The Man, she says, “Oh my.”
“What?” I say. “Can The Man give you work?”
“He wanted to know,” she says, “if I give people baths. I said, ‘Well, when I have to, I do.’
And, then he asked me, “Do you wash the men, too?”
I’m just looking at her.
“What the hell was that all about?” she says. “How creepy. Why would he want to know if I bathe men?”
Well, gee. I don’t know. We can only guess.
“I’m utterly drained, ” I say. “When I went into this place I was fine. Now, I can barely function. I’ve been drained of all my fluids. I’m sucked out.”
Sonja helps me to my car. We sit for a few moments inside the car and we breathe. Then, we leave. We leave, maybe and probably for good.
So much for my ‘Brilliant Idea.”
…..This is why I’m now taking that long, deep, slobbering nap.
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