I had clear expectations as to how this would unfold. I was going to deliver this lonely elderly woman’s lunch to her, in her sweet little granny room at the nursing home. She’d smile when she saw me – a youth – walk through the door, interrupting the sound of the ticking grandfather clock – a family heirloom. She’d just be grateful for a little companionship on this sunny afternoon. I would gently touch her arm and say “Hi Mrs. Featherbottom! I’m Lauren. And this is your lunch for today,” smiling, as I laid out the delicate angel hair pasta, the healthy vegetable, and the chocolate bread pudding. We’d chitchat about her day and how I should live every moment to its fullest, she’d say. She would know. She’s so wise and wonderful.
I’d say I should go and let her enjoy her meal. She’d ask if I’m coming by tomorrow. I’d say I hoped so! I’d gently touch her arm to reassure her that we’re all in this together somehow. And we’d knowingly exchange twinkles in our eyes, as I waved goodbye and lovingly closed her door, sort of tucking her in, for the afternoon. I’d walk away, my heartstrings tugging with thoughts of my own Grandmothers. One who is in a nursing home, and the other who is probably reading this story right now. I miss them so much.
And then, the opposite of that happened.
“Mrs. Featherbottom” is not her real name. And these are not actually photos of her. I’m not a monster.
What I knew going in, was that Mrs. Featherbottom’s son had bought her lunch for the day. I thought “AH, so sweet!” I never really get to deliver food to the “needy”, per say. It’s mostly the wealthy, entitled, luxuriant not-needing-anything type. I excitedly prepared myself for the serendipity of this moment.
I had visited nursing homes that smell like creamed soup, where residents lurk behind doors, like curious zombies. I expected to be smiling and waving at everyone, like Princess Diana, reincarnate. “Hello, Mr (read his room tag)! How are you today!” “Mrs ___________??? More like Sophia Loren!”
I approached Mrs. Featherbottom’s room and arrived to see her private caretaker (we are in Beverly Hills, afterall), vacuuming her room. I knocked on the open door. Mrs. Featherbottom waved the vacuum away. I appreciated the formality I was perceiving, as she received her lunch.
“Hi Mrs. Featherbottom!”
MF: “YOU’RE LATE.”
ME: “……….. (uh……)…. So, here is your lunch!” I smiled brightly and checked in with the caretaker to see where to put the bag. Then I would go.
MF: “WHAT IS IT!”
ME: Alright — Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. I pulled out the first thing in the bag. “Well, we’ve got Brussels Sprouts with pancetta—”
MF: “I HATE BRUSSELS SPROUTS”. In her defense, so do a lot of people. In defense of brussels sprouts, they are delicious. Especially when they cost $12 and they have bacon in them.
ME: “Well, your son bought you this lunch today —”
MF: “JACKSON?!?! HE’S AN ASSHOLE!!!!”
I was struggling to keep up this peppy façade. And I got nervous and awkwarded-out, so I started laughing more. To keep it light, and also because WTF was happening??? I was supposed to be in and out of here! WHERE WAS OUR MOMENT!!!
MF: “WHAT ELSE IS THERE?”
ME: I pull out the pasta, which is next in the bag. “Angel hair pasta! With tomatoes and fresh—”
MF: “WHAT ELSE!” Ok…
We needed chocolate salvation. I pulled out dessert and said “CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING!” like she won a new car. Her son Jackson knew her favorites, right?? She loved bread pudding, RIGHT???!?!?!?
MF: “THIS ISN’T ENOUGH FOR ONE PERSON… THIS COSTS A LOT OF MONEY, AND YOU — YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE JACKSON VERY ANGRY!”
I laughed and said “Well, you need to tell him you don’t like Brussels sprouts!” It was a joke.
MF: “WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING????” I looked at her. I hate when people point out my laughing. WHY ARE YOU BEING SUCH A BITCH! “THIS IS SERIOUS!! YOU ARE ALWAYS LATE AND THERE IS A LOT OF MONEY BEING SPENT HERE. I’M 93!”
Your age excuses nothing!
She wanted to try a Brussels sprout, so she took one from the container as I held it, and put it in her mouth, like a rock between her teeth and said “I CANTH EATH THITH!” I held the container under her mouth and said “Just… put it back.” She spit it out.
Then, she stabbed a fork into her angel hair and picked up a huge glop of pasta and said “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS.” The caretaker threw up her hands like she had no idea what to do. WHAT?! OH COME ON! SHE NEEDS IT CUT UP LIKE A LITTLE BABY! I grabbed the knife and fork from her and basically minced her lunch.
She took a bite.
“NEEDS SALT”. I was her personal chef now.
I sprinkled some salt out of the little paper packet. “– MORE”. I dumped the rest out on top of it. She waved the fork around the top of the pasta to… mix it in.
MF: “WHAT’S FOR DINNER!”
ME: “Oh. I don’t know actually, I’m just responsible for lunch today—”
MF: “WHY DON’T YOU KNOW!” Ugh, nothing gets past her… “DON’T BE LATE. YOU’RE ALWAYS LATE ALL THE TIME! YOU JUST LEAVE ME HERE STARVING!” I was backing out of the room, making eyes at the caretaker who seemed to be “on break” while I was there.
ME: “— OK, Mrs. Featherbottom…” I reached forward and tapped her arm like it was an electric fence. “See you later.”
In the hallway, an overly nice woman’s voice came over the intercom: “Attention residents! Lunch is NOW being served in the cafeteria!” —- LATE?????!
Having reported back to my boss that Mrs. Featherbottom was a raving lunatic who might have a case of the Dementia’s, I was confident that would be my last visit with her. But my first delivery the following night involved an order of “asparagus, well-done.” Who, but a toothless devil, would want their asparagus well-done??
ME: “OH no. Is this going to Mrs. Featherbottom?”
Ugh, God. Not again!! I braced myself. I would walk IN with this dinner delivery of salmon, key lime pie and WELLFUCKINGDONEASPARAGUS – yet ANOTHER questionably agreeable vegetable – and walk OUT immediately. Like an interrogator. Do not engage with the criminal.
I approached her door and a new caretaker answered. “Hi! Come in” she said. NO! Just take the bag!!
I walked in and saw Mrs. Featherbottom completely passed out, on the sofa. I checked her eyes to make sure she wasn’t just slouching, before stepping in. I put the bag on the table, quietly.
I turned to go and the caretaker stopped me “So, this is her dinner?”
ME: OMG, shhhhhhhhhh! I whispered “Oh. Yes. It’s salmon, asparagus and key lime pie.” I smiled and tried to get around her.
Caretaker: “So, will she be getting dinner every nite?”
ME: UGH LET ME OUT OF HERE! “Yes! I think so, for like the next week possibly–” I pushed my way around her, to get to the door. HURRY, LADY! LET ME OUT! MRS. FEATHERBOTTOM MIGHT NOT BE DEAD!
Caretaker: “Thank you! See you next—”
ME: “– YEP!” I yell from down the hall, as I’m making a break for the stairwell.
I got outside without so much as a peep from Featherbottom. A success. I’d let her caretaker add the salt, and pre-chew the pie, and explain what a salmon is, and why it’s arriving so late for dinner.
I thought about my own Grandma who has Alzheimer’s and Dementia. And how sweet she is, even though she doesn’t make sense and can’t remember much anymore. And here was this woman, who I was assured was “clear of mind”, getting $50 meals every day, with her private caretaker, in a nursing home that I assume feeds its residents, in Beverly Hills. Being a total bitch.
I silently added to my mental “last will and testament”, that if I get the angry-Dementia, someone be responsible for shooting me with a horse tranquilizer while I sleep. Probably the same person that’s responsible for deleting any browser histories, favorites, and bookmarks, as well as Pandora “thumbs-ups”, should it exist, any digital files with the title “me” in them, and for sealing my journals – to be read upon the 100th anniversary of my death. When all participants shall be deceased.
And unable to defend themselves.