Home Aide, Homeopathy and Immunology (Part I)


My day started with a greeting card pushed under my door by a friend. The card said—

No matter how crazy my life gets,
I know you’ll be there.
And when it’s your turn to lose it,
You can count on me.

We’re so screwed if it happens at the same time.

Well, this is just about the best card I’ve ever received and I want to go out and buy a whole box of them, but my new aide is coming.

Two days ago, All Metro Health Care’s manager came to my home with a middle-aged female aide. We did all the interviewing stuff, including reviewing the Care Plan and the aide’s schedule. All of this went fine and didn’t raise my blood pressure, so the manager left and the aide and I went to work.

First, we put a load of laundry in the washing machine, while she tells me that she knows all about my apartment building—she knows it really well. How’s that, I ask? She replies that she’s had another client here four hours a week for the past year. Hm-m-m, I wonder to myself: an eight-story building with 176 apartments—is it possible for her to have learned everything in 208 hours?

But I don’t say anything because earlier in the day I had spent some quality time with one of my health care providers. She was on a major roll—left-brain science, right-brain intuition, Christian theology, guided meditation—and she really had helped me move to a good place, so I was looking at the aide as if she were my daughter whom I really loved, and who I really wanted to have a good experience, and I really wanted to help her learn the best ways to take care of me.

So I just let the “I know everything” attitude go by without comment. Then we hang up all the clothes on the chair—doesn’t everybody have a bedroom chair that accumulates clothes?—and she puts clean sheets on the bed, which have needed them for a couple weeks. And she tells me how everybody in this building (of 176 old, poor, sick people) is so nice and so friendly and so funny (funny?) especially the little old gray-haired woman named X.

Well, everybody who’s lived here more than 12 weeks knows that X is a royal pain in the butt. She’s also an officer in the Tenants Association and has a lot to do with why fewer than ten percent of the tenants will go anywhere near the Tenants Association. As one past-president remarked, “Her problem is that she’s never been laid,”—never surrendered control to the hot, juicy passions of physical ecstasy. And she is a good Catholic, which ruled out masturbation.

So I just let the “aren’t they all wonderful” attitude go by without comment. Apparently the aide and I see things from different perspectives, but that’s okay. She tells me she has lots of friends in this building, then we go on to washing the dishes—and she empties down the drain the garbage in the sink strainer, and I scream. WTF? What does she think a sink strainer is for if not to keep garbage out of the drain pipe? And, in this building, the drain pipes are particularly susceptible to backing up.

So we go around on that and other dish washing issues. And what I am learning is that she doesn’t do what she’s asked to do—a hearing problem? A paying-attention problem? Might she have a learning disability? Is there a failure-to-process issue? Is she just stupid and obstinate? It’s an open question, but one thing’s for sure: she is extremely argumentative about everything.

The aide has said that she can’t measure things, which is alarming because the single greatest portion of my assigned hours is for cooking. She says she only can cook things from boxes, and my heart sinks. Then she goes on to demonstrate her lack of competence. We are making iced tea and I ask her to put ¼ cup of sweetener in the pot. I tell her where the ¼ measuring cup is. She fills it half full, holds it out to me, and asks, “Is this all right?”

I ask her to fill it to the top and wonder how a woman who has fed a family for a quarter century can not know how to measure one-quarter of a cup. Then we have issues with the laundry: she counts one plus one plus one and insists it is two. When she leaves, she does not take her ice-and-water bottle with her. I gently put it in the freezer.

Now it is morning. I have read the greeting card. I have gotten the water bottle out of the freezer to thaw somewhat. I get breakfast, fill out the history for the immunologist I am to see in the afternoon, and get dressed and all ready to go to the market. Two days ago I told the aide that we would be going to the market by Call-a-Bus and she assured me that she knew all about that, too.

She arrives at 9:31 a.m. I give her back her water bottle. She asks what we are going to do today. I remind her that we’re going shopping by Call-a-Bus. She asks when. I tell her 9:52 by Blue Chip bus (which is a subcontractor of Call-a-Bus). We start downstairs. On the elevator, I tell her that I have to go down the block to pick up some papers from the lab but I’ll only be a few minutes. In the lobby, I ask her to wait out front. She declines, saying she’ll sit down inside. There are some perfectly nice benches outside, but—oh, well. Whatever.

She asks me what time Suburban is coming. I remind her that it is Blue Chip that’s coming, look at my watch, and say “fifteen minutes,” then I take off for the lab. It is 9:45 when I get back.

Blue Chip arrives at 9:48. The aide does not come out to join us. I go inside and wheel around the common areas. She is not sitting on the stones that surround the koi pond, nor is she sitting in the Community Room. She is nowhere to be found. I think of her remark about having so many friends here and wonder if she is sitting in the living room of one of these friends, oblivious to the time.

I go out and board the bus. The driver does the semi-complicated business of tying down my wheelchair and belting me in. Still no aide. The pickup time was scheduled for 9:52. Call-a-Bus runs on a schedule. The regulations require that the bus cannot wait more than five minutes beyond the scheduled pickup. And the aide assured me that she knows all about Call-a-Bus.

At 9:57 the driver shifts into gear and we pull out of the driveway without the aide.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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