Farewell, Mrs. Fossilfuel
No, no, my friends. Old Mrs. F. did not die.
She fired my ass.
Let us go back to mid-February for a recap:
Mrs. Fossilfuel's precious, worthless, moneygrubbing 65-year-old son came to call from Seattle. In order to safeguard some more of his coveted inheritence, he cancelled most of the caregiver hours for the three weeks he was in town. I didn't care, since I welcomed the time to work in Scottsdale for the incredibly nice couple instead. But one of the regulars on the Fossilfuel team, Sherrie, a single mom who worked 4 overnights a week at the crypt, pretty much had her job wiped out. She had to take on a whole different client from the agency.
My 4 days a week were reduced to Fridays only. On one Friday, things were Fossilfuel as usual. Her son was at his Mysterious Herbal Shindig way across town, trying to find out how to stay alive long enough to outlive his mother. That was the day I had to leave him the note about the "protein smoothie" ingredient that had expired in 2001.
The following Friday, I finally met him in person. Oy vey. Try as I might, I could not draw any personality out of him. He radiates all the warmth of a silverware tray. And his presence in the house had brought about some changes. Since his mother adamantly refused protein shakes, he was sneaking various potent voodoo powders into her oatmeal, scrambled eggs, etc. As a result, her strength improved. Which is a good thing, right? Unless of course, it restores her to her original personality: rotten nasty bitch-corpse.
I was an odd accessory in the house on those final two Fridays. Instead of taking Mrs. Fossilfuel to her radiation treatment, I stayed behind as a sort of maid while her son took her. I was fine with that. He should take her. He should make his sorry ass useful. The twisty part came when she started to insist that he take her both today and tomorrow. Tomorrow being Saturday. When there is actually no treatment because the doctor's office is closed. When he explained that to her, she shouted "John! Don't you dare let me down, John! You will take me to that treatment, John! It's the most important one!!! Don't you even think about letting me down, John!" (She repeats his name ad nauseum, and I began to suspect that this relationship dynamic has been in place for at least half a century. She berates him; he snivels.)
He and I locked eyes for about two seconds, and I thought perhaps there might be the glimmer of a human connection between us. A mutual frustration with the hostile senility floating through the room like stale cigar smoke. But no. He was blank.
I took care of his mother's personal needs, dressing, bathroom, etc. and got her ready for her appointment. When he brought her home, I got her changed back into her sleepwear, put the rigor mortised possum of a wig onto its stand, and busied myself with any detail that would keep me from interacting with John and his dead gray eyes.
The whole thing was creepy.
On my last Friday there, when I arrived, Mrs. Fossilfuel was in rare form. Everything pissed her off. Today was to be her final radiation treatment, then she and the fruit of her loins were to go to the bank to fondle some money together. There were forms to fill out, accounts to adjust and notarize. I didn't know the whole story, but it seems that she and Johnny were extra antagonistic with one another. I was like an awkward marmoset watching two warthogs kick turds at each other.
During one little scene, John hid back in the guest bedroom while I was left alone with the newly strengthened beast. I noticed that she still had the giant birthday cupcake brought in my her next door neighbor two weeks earlier.
"Shall we throw this away now, Mrs. Fossilfuel?"
Wrong thing to ask.
"NO we will NOT throw that away. I would die of embarrassment if my neighbor came to visit and that cupcake was gone."
It was right then I realized she had turned a corner into a reason-free zone.
"Honey, bring me some scissors. We need to trim these dead blooms off." The dead blooms she spoke of were formerly 18 glorious pink cut roses, given to her by the oncology nurses on her 99th birthday. Trimming them would be pointless. But I played along.
"Where are your scissors?" I asked her.
"They're in THERE in the DRAWER."
"OK. In WHERE?"
She jabs her crooked finger toward the bathroom. Fine. I go look in the bathroom drawer. No scissors.
"Mrs. Fossilfuel, there are no scissors in that drawer," I dare to utter.
"Oh HONEY, yes there ARE."
"No. There aren't."
By this time she is in a full snarl. "You just help me get up and I'll. Get. Them. Myself."
At this point I wanted to say "Oh yeah? Well what if I don't help you up?"
But I locked arms with her and began to escort her as though she was the Twilight Zone gremlin walking in from the wing of the airplane. She doesn't go toward the bathroom. She goes to the family room. To her desk. And she sits down and pulls open the desk drawer and takes out a pair of scissors and SLAMS them down on the desk and turns to me slowly and has the ugliest glare I've ever seen. You know how they say that people look so much younger when they smile? Well, take a 99-year-old hag and make her glare like that, and her head implodes into a chunk of bituminous coal. I glared back and I hoped she could read my mind, which was carefully enunciating "I'm going to put those scissors into your throat now, Mrs. Fossilfuel. Say your prayers, bitch."
You're perhaps wondering where my compassion for her has gone. Well, it was ground off of my heart after about 15 little episodes like this one. And the fact that she had sweet, oh-I-just-appreciate-you-so-much-Candy moments in between only made it worse. Suddenly I was in an after-school special and I could never bring kids home to visit because we didn't know if Mom had been in her special sleepy medicine.
I get it. She's old, she's feeble, and she's unhappy and she's losing cognitive skills. She is to be pitied. But I needed to start pitying her from afar.
When she and her son were at the bank, I got on the horn to the agency and told them that her son was going back to Seattle (he was) and that he had asked me to start coming 4 days a week again (he had). But that for the sake of my own sanity, I would only come one day a week. She was getting too pissy for me. OK, they said. One day a week.
Twice during the bank appointment, they had to come back to the house to retrieve some official document or other. John came running into the house, frantic, his big lanky body turning corners like a startled ostrich. Run run run! Find the right paper! Momma and her powerful signature are in the car seething! I watched all I could take, which wasn't much, since I have a low, low tolerance for a man who acts like such an extreme pussy, and then I walked outside to visit the matriarch in the car.
"I just can't get that John to do anything right, honey. Not one thing. He fouls everything up."
When finally they took off again, I sat on the floor of the laundry room and pondered it all. They were the perfect pair: two little magnetic dolls of resentment.
Skip ahead a few days. The agency calls me and desperately needs me to take care of Mrs. F. on Friday AND Saturday. Please. Just this once.
OK, I say. And then Fridays only.
Half an hour later, the agency calls back. Mrs. Fossilfuel doesn't want me to ever come back. "I don't like Candy," she told them. "She is bossy. And my son doesn't like her either." WHAT?! The very last time I saw her, she was hugging me and telling me how much I meant to her.
BOSSY? Oh yes, I can be bossy. Even agressive. But never in the 7 week tenure of my adventure with Mrs. Fossilfuel did I ever once let myself snap at her or be anything other than gentle. I barely even knew how I was managing it. Had I been bossy, I'd have held her down and poured the rest of the bottle of castor oil into her old gullet, and watched her innards jettison from her like Roman candles.
Had I been bossy, I'd have beaten her to death after this particular exchange:
"Should I change my pad, Candy? How does this one look?"
Imploring my gag reflex to hang in there long enough for me to critique her "Poise" urine leakage pad, I said "I think you should change it, Mrs. Fossilfuel."
"Oh, I think it's still good," she says. (Then why did you ask me, you shriveled mole rat.)
"Well, OK. Whatever you think. I just think doctor's are more willing to cure you if you don't stink."
Silence. She pulls the old pad off of her underwear, in all its disgusting glory and opens the bathroom closet and puts it on a shelf inside. "We might want to use it around the house." Oh yes, by all means, let's polish the tea set with it.
Bossy, my ass. Oh, and as for what your son thinks of me, Mrs. Fossilfuel? He barely thinks at all. He's too busy looking forlornly at the tiny scrapbook where he keeps his testicles. Those ones you chewed off for him the first time he displayed a rebellious side. Like "I would rather not have gravy on my roast beef." They're on the page right next to his spine.
And don't worry. It would never occur to me to dress up as the Grim Reaper tonight and stand outside your bedroom window with my scythe saying "Soooooon..., soooooooooooon."