FORTY-TWO - An Old Hand

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MONDAY

Mom, Jocelyn and Jett left on the 6 am ferry this morning, and no one was more thrilled about it than I. I even got up early to make everyone French toast and bacon, because I wanted to show them I was a good-natured morning person with a kind heart, even though, if I'm telling the truth, I just wanted to see the back side of Jett. No. Wait. I mean,"figuratively" of course, because the last thing I need to see more of is Jett's athletic gluteus maximus.

Mom was very appreciative for the breakfast, but Jocelyn bacon-shamed her when she took two slices, and then proceeded to douse them in maple syrup. Jocelyn, of course, bypassed the whole breakfast entirely, choosing instead to swallow about twenty different vitamin supplements, with the aid of some noxious green liquid that she made in her travel-sized Magic Bullet blender. Jett ate about twenty-seven slices of French toast (Ok, a tad hyperbolic on my part, but still...) and finished off the bacon. When he was done, he slapped his bicep and said, "Gotta feed these puppies, Myles. Protein, protein and more protein! If you ever want to start bulking up, you let me know. I can help you turn those stick arms of yours into pipes like these in just a matter of months. Betcha Ivy would be stoked about that."

Misty and I drove them to the ferry, and as I stood on the dock, waving enthusiastically at them, inside I was thinking, Au revoir, alpha douche son of Jocelyn's! May our ships never cross again! I know that makes me sound like a really juvenile and whiny person, but honestly, I have enough crap to deal with right now. I don't need someone pointing out my physical flaws before I've even finished eating my breakfast, thank you very much. 

Anyway, enough about that. Here's the good thing: Dad is coming home tomorrow, and in the grand scheme of things, nothing else really matters. Ivy says my eagerness to care for my father shows a real strength of character, which is a way better compliment than saying a person's arms feel like they're made of concrete. And anyway, I love my dad. I would look after him whether the whole experience was going to be character building or not.

After school today, I walked to the Garcia Island Nursing Home to wait for Misty to finish her shift. (She had thought it would be nice for us to go out for Chinese food, just she and I, before we both become full-on nurses for Dad. She's thoughtful like that.) 

Nursing homes are not the nicest places, I've decided. They smell like instant mashed potatoes, urine, cabbage, and old lady perfume. Also, the art on the walls is really bad, at least it is at this nursing home. But I guess it's what the majority of old people like—bowls of fruit, bouquets of flowers, and numerous tacky paintings of a Caucasian blue-eyed Jesus (who looks more like Fabio, that guy that used to pose for Harlequin romance novels, than a first-century Jewish prophet).

Misty came flying around the corner pushing a trolley of books, and when she saw me she smiled and came over to hug me. Misty is very touchy, but I'm mostly used to it now, and I don't think of her in "that" way, anymore. She is simply my father's lover and friend.

She said she'd only be twenty minutes, and could I amuse myself until she was off shift? I asked how one was supposed to "amuse oneself" in a nursing home full of geriatric residents, but she just laughed, pushed a stack of women's magazines into my hands and asked me to take them to a "Mrs. Rhodes in room #108."

Mrs. Rhodes was in bed, slumped against her pillow with her mouth hanging open. There was a puddle of drool on her cardigan, and her hair was nothing more than three or four short white tufts that sprouted from a tiny pink scalp. I tiptoed up to her bed, intending to place the stack of magazines on her night table, and then make a hasty retreat, but before I could even turn around, her bony hand suddenly shot up from the blanket and took hold of my wrist! It felt like an eagle's claw, and for someone who was clearly well over one-hundred-years old, she was strong!

"Where do you think you're going!" she squawked at me. Her eyes were light blue, almost translucent, and she had a large mole on her chin that looked infected. 

"Why is it always you, Philip?" she barked. "Why doesn't Hector ever visit me? Hector is my favourite. Not you! You're rubbish!" I tried to pull my hand away, but the old bat wasn't having any of it. I told her my name was Myles and that I was meeting Misty soon, and then she said? Who? Maggie? You're meeting Maggie? Maggie's a right bitch! Caught her with my John last week. They were out in the pasture, you know the one...the pasture where the horses mate!"

I've never met anyone with dementia before, but I know that you're not supposed to argue with them. You're supposed to go along with things, so I told her that Maggie wasn't anywhere as pretty as she was, and that John was clearly an idiot to go off with that wench! I thought I'd done pretty well and felt extra good about my selfless random act of kindness, but then Mrs. Rhodes pulled me in closer and fixed me with an icy stare and said, "What would you know about it, you pathetic little virgin? You're probably still a pillow humper!"

Thankfully, Misty appeared in the doorway and said, Now, now, Mrs. Rhodes. Are you giving Myles a hard time, but Mrs. Rhodes just let out a super loud fart, and went back to sleep.

Later, over chicken chow mien, Misty told me that you get used to the residents, and that they just need patience and tender loving care and that they can't be held responsible for the inappropriate things that they say. Their brains are addled. I told her I think she's a saint to work there, but she just patted my hand and then unselfishly pushed the last egg roll toward me. 

And while I think Misty is clearly an old  hand when it comes to dealing with the aged, I'm probably going to have nightmares about Mrs. Rhodes and her old hand!

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