It was my turn again, today.
All of us take turns caring for Bonnie. She’s loud, rude and demanding; the patient no one wants to take care of. She finds fault with everyone. Each aide takes care of Bonnie one day, each week.
The first time I took care of her, I went in with Serena. Serena told me: “Just do your job. Let her say whatever she wants to say. Listen to what she says about the way how she wants to be positioned and do that. We’ve all got to take turns working with her.”
Needless to say, I was scared stiff.
My first surprise was Bonnie’s blonde curly hair. I’d heard she was younger than the other residents, but wasn’t really prepared for blue eyes and blonde hair. I didn’t have time to think about it, because she reacted to me right away.
“How long have you been here?” she growled. Her voice startled me, too. She’s got breathing problems, so she gets short of breath when she talks.
“I’ve been here a month,” I answered. Her eyes seemed to size me up. “Well, what are you waiting for?” she demanded. Slowly, I approached her. I put down the towels and opened her nightstand to get her washbasin.
“Do you really think I’d keep my things in that awful place? My stuff’s in the dresser. Go get it.” She growled even more menacingly. Startled, I looked at Serena. She nodded her head; this was what she’d meant.
I walked over to the dresser. I had to fight tears; I wasn’t used to being treated this way. The other residents could be mean from time to time; but none spoke with such vindictiveness. In the dresser, I found a cake of jasmine soap, along with jasmine lotion and jasmine powder.
“You like jasmine,” I blurted, as I approached the bed.
“Well, no kidding, Sherlock; I like jasmine. I also like getting my bath done sometime this year. So, get busy.”
It stung; as if she’d slapped me. I blinked and looked at Serena. There was a shrug in her eyes and I swallowed my misery and began her bath. I love jasmine and might have enjoyed using the scented stuff; but Bonnie kept up a steady barrage of precise instructions which never included a kind word.
By the time she was bathed, lotioned, powdered and sitting in her chair, I knew better than to expect thanks. Bonnie merely grunted and told me I hadn’t messed up too badly.
After that, I took care of Bonnie once a week – just like everyone else. I tried humming while I worked; it hurt her ears. I tried being quiet and following her directions; she claimed I ignored her. I resigned myself to knowing it was only one day a week.
But today, as I was leaving her room, I saw a picture of a handsome teen on her window. He seemed to be about my own son’s age. Before I could think, I asked her about him.
“He’s my son, Kirk,” she growled.
She had a son? “How old is he?” I asked.
“What is this; ’20 Questions’? He’s fourteen. He lives with my parents. End of discussion. Get out.” I did.
In the break room, I asked Serena about Bonnie’s son. She told me she’d heard about him. “I’ve never seen him – or anyone else – visit her.”
Her son is 14; the same as my Andre. She doesn’t want to talk about him –but it must be awful to have to live in a nursing home and have people bathe you and do your personal care; when you want to be out dancing or walking in the park – but especially if you can’t even take care of your own child.
If I couldn’t take care of Andre….my heart melted for Bonnie, just a little bit.
“It must be hard for her,” I ventured. “I mean… having a son who she never sees. That might be part of why she’s so unhappy.”
“Whatever,” countered Serena. “She’s just mean.”
“It feels like being in a battle,” I sighed.
Serena smirked. “Too bad we can’t wear armor.”
But that made me think... I can bring some armor to this battle. The next time it’s my turn, I’ll go in; covered in prayer. It may not stop her comments, but maybe next time; I’ll be able to smell the jasmine.
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