I can’t remember much new these days. Names. Oh my goodness, names. It’s not like I was ever much good with them, but now, it’s ridiculous.
I’d like to remember the names of the lovely nurses who come and get me up and ready and bring me my food and my cups of tea. They work so hard. I’d love to be able to say, ‘Thank you, Cathy’ or ‘Thank you, Rose’ but I can’t remember who they are. It might be the same one every day. I have no idea.
Still, I’m nice to them. Very grateful. I was a nurse once, you know, so I know just how hard nurses work.
I worked in an aged care home first. I remember that. I put my time in during the ageing crisis where during the night shift we had one nurse for 45 people. You were run off your feet then. There was no way that you could look after all those beautiful people. I had people begging me to stay with them so they had some company during their painful nights and I just couldn’t – I had to go and give Mr Forsyth his medications, or take Mrs Hamlin to the bathroom. It was heart breaking. I did the best I could.
Day shifts were better, but just barely. There just wasn’t the time to get it all done. I remember it so well. There just wasn’t enough time to look after everyone. It was exhausting, but it wasn’t the old people’s fault that they’d been born into the baby boomer generation. That there were so many of them, and so few of us Gen-Xers to help them out. We all just had to struggle on.
But yes, I was getting to the end of my tether when I was offered a special job. Just one client. One man. Mr Jones, I was told his name was. I was to nurse him, and to clean and cook. General housekeeper and nurse. The work was pretty constant, but the pay was very good. I was told that he was a billionaire and that he had put money aside for his final years. So that’s the job I took on. I worked for him for nearly fifteen years until he passed away.
My mind often goes back to those years now. I always felt there was something off, you know? But I didn’t have time back then to think it through. But now, all I have is time. Time and old memories. It’s like going through a photo box in my mind, a box I’ve dragged down from the attic, all dusty and covered with spiderwebs, but I look at the memories and they become crystal clear.
And now as I have time to think, I’m putting the pieces together.
I’ll never forget (or who knows, maybe I will in time) driving up to the front door of what would be my new home. A huge place, out in the country. Two storey, pale blue, the kind of stately country home you’d expect a billionaire to have. And out the back, his own personal golf course.
He loved to play golf. Every day he’d get out there. And then, as he got older and more frail he’d have to cut his time short. And then eventually he was reduced to putting practice. Poor guy. Getting old is hard on everyone.
He played golf and he watched TV. But just movies, and reruns of old programmes. We didn’t let him watch the news at all, or anything about current affairs. His doctor said it was bad for his blood pressure. Well, the news is bad for everyone’s blood pressure, isn’t it?
He was very thin, really very thin. Like he’d had a serious illness, or a lot of surgery. And he had the obvious signs of plastic surgery on his face, but he was a billionaire, right? Even male billionaires had plastic surgery to try to keep their looks. It never works, but it’s was worth a try I guess.
We kept his hair clipped very short, and he wore comfortable clothes – tracksuits and such. I was told that he wasn’t much for suits, that he’d worn enough of them in his public life. And speaking of public life, he didn’t have any. I did all the shopping. He didn’t leave the grounds at all. He had very few visitors. Very few. Just his lawyer, really. His doctor, of course. And maybe his stock broker. I can’t really remember anyone else.
We just got into a routine, just like in the nursing homes. I mean there are people in all nursing homes as old as he was who get no visitors. It’s really sad, no grandchildren popping in giving life. No children, or siblings, or friends of any sort. Lonely, lonely people. So I guess I didn’t think much of it. But I’m thinking about it now.
I think he was hiding.
We all know that one president who went into hiding once everything turned south for him. I mean, I didn’t like all of his policies either but boy, no one deserves to be hunted down like he was. The internet was more than unkind to him, and if he was seen in public a cry went up and he was mobbed, people yelling at him, screaming at him. Do you remember that? People didn’t bring themselves to throw rotten tomatoes at him but maybe that’s just because of the price of tomatoes. The price of any fruit or vegetable made them so precious that we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw them away.
And then he disappeared.
Again, I thought nothing of it. Fads come and go and he just dropped out of our consciousness. But now I wonder. As I look through the old memories I just wonder.
In fact, I think, I really think, that I nursed a president.
I tried to tell my story to a nurse today, Lucy her name was, or maybe Cheryl. The one who brought me my tea and cookie. I tried to let her know what I’d done in my past. The important job I now know I had. But she didn’t care. Or maybe she did, but she didn’t have time to sit and listen.
So I guess I’ll take my dusty box of memories with me to the grave.
We come from dust and to dust we will return, and I can feel the dust creeping up on me. I guess, in the end, all that matters is how we each lived our own lives, and what God thinks of that. Whatever that president did or didn’t do, I’m happy with how I looked after him at the end of his life. If I had the chance, I’d do it all the same way again.
I trust that I’d care for anyone the same way, no matter who they are. President or pauper, it’s all the same. Every life is precious.
Now where did I put that cookie?