Being a caretaker is a little like being one of those moving targets  in a sideshow arcade. You’re in motion, you keep dancing, you think “If I can just keep all these plates in the air, everything will be fine,” and then some cosmic marksman comes along and — POW!

It doesn’t take much, particularly if you’re having one of those “off” days, where your bio-rhythms seem out of kilter and EVERY LITTLE FUCKING THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY IRRITATE YOU has occurred.

My day started with cat puke. Not a big deal as a stand-alone thing, but it was only the beginning.  And nothing major, really. Just one thing after another.  And then I went to see Mom.

She was sitting with a bunch of residents listening to a guy play accordion. In fairness, he was an excellent musician, but it isn’t easy trying to carry on a conversation with a woman who’s a) deaf and not wearing her hearing aids, b) has Alzheimer’s, and c) is sitting in a room with a really loud accordionist.

It’s actually pretty funny, writing it out like that. What wasn’t funny, what gave me an emotional bruise, was when I put my hand around my mother’s upper arm, index finger to thumb and could almost reach.

She is now less than 80 lbs. They assume that it’s the occasional water she takes in that is keeping her alive, because it certainly isn’t the amount of food. She’s hardly eating at all. And yet here she is. I’ve asked if she’s scared. No. I don’t think there’s work left to do; we went over that months ago. It just isn’t her time. It’s not that impatient for her to go — hardly — but it’s difficult to see her like this. So reduced.

Which isn’t anything I haven’t ranted on about before.


While I’m venting, let me tell you about my trip to the PT.

I’m having issues with an ankle, so my doctor–the wonderful Susan Buchek–wrote me a script for physical therapy. I chose the facility closest to her office. Guy seemed okay. A little rough around the edges, but I cut him some slack because he’s going through what is apparently a nasty divorce. (Something I did NOT need to hear and SHOULDN’T have – what happened to professional boundaries?)

Second visit, I’m sitting on the bench waiting for him and he says, “I need your sneaker off.” I said, “I was waiting to see what you wanted to do.” He says, “Oh, you do whatever I say?” and BEFORE I CAN SAY WORD, he adds, “Take off your pants.” He had to have seen by my face how shocked I was. He quickly said, “You know I’m kidding, right?”

Yeah, right. I know you’re kidding, asshole. But I worked as a massage therapist and I’ve been trained and I believe in those boundaries. I found him unprofessional and offensive. By the time I got home, I’d found my tongue. I called the office, but they’d already closed for the day, so I left a message that I won’t be back. I’ll find someone else.

Really, I didn’t need that, too.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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