Disappointment is another enemy. If you are cruising along in your reality, how you see your ‘normal’ situation is a comfort. I had formulated a reality based on my work experience and how I would earn my living. And it took so many months of applying, interviewing, following up; I refused to understand that something was happening that I could not change.
I stumbled on. I raged and blamed and threw responsibility to an unseen force that was out to ruin me. And another thing: was I not entitled to some sort of positive karma for caring for Mom for all of those years? The pride I took in getting through that experience was held in my pocket like a lucky charm. I simply deserved to have an uncomplicated and positive future.
By this time my dear cousin was helping me to make ends meet. It filled me with shame; I felt so worthless. I received a bit of unemployment, for the second time in my life, which also helped. But where I was living would not work: the place was too expensive (a decision based on a salary that was no longer there), it was cold and damp with wind that sucked whatever heat the little wood stove threw out. So I moved. To a charming and remote little cabin in the woods. But if I did not find work soon my only option was to pack up and go back to Sacramento to stay with my dear cousin. I love her so much but it would have been a huge adjustment for her and her little old pupdog. The Boof would quietly go mad in her tiny yard. So I answered an ad in the local paper from a family seeking someone to assist their father, Harvey, in his home. He had early-onset dementia/Alzheimers and I accepted the position.
Harvey is also notable as being the only other human who received the Boof’s undying affection. From day one she allowed head rubs and scritches from Harvey. Unreal. He was eminently lovable, an ex Ferry captain who knew everyone on the south island. When we drove somewhere Harvey was quick to point out stories of island lore: that is a cranberry bog, they used to raise game birds over there for hunters, I used to pasture my horses over there. He was a font of knowledge that was fascinating to me. But in next 8 months Harvey went downhill. He stopped talking completely. Harvey became a mess, needing total care by this time. And his family were dolts. This poor man was incontinent, confused, unable to dial the phone and they expected him to be fine at night. They did not want to pay for overnights but on some evenings when he was restless I stayed. They changed my hours, shortening the time Harvey had help. My paychecks became unreliable, a few bounced. One chilly morning I found him outside, in his bare feet leaning against a brick wall. He had gotten out of the house, walked around and could not get back inside because he forgot where the spare key was. He was shaking so badly that he could not stand. I called the fire department and we got him onto a guerney and off to the island’s only hospital.
And the family was furious. Why? Because the social worker at the hospital was onto them. And since I was the one at the hospital most of the time it was up to me to answer the questions she posed. And therein was the dilemma. I had allowed this situation to go on far longer that it should have. Harve needed much more help at home, not less. This was under-the-table income, my favorite kind! And it had been so difficult to find work that losing it was terrifying. But Harvey’s face on that morning that I found him was devastating. He remained in the hospital for about three days. During that time I received advice from many sources, friends and family. Some suggested that I keep that job no matter what. When I was home, I worried about Harvey. When I was with him, I was consumed in keeping him safe. We walked every day and I had to be prepared for any bathroom emergency. Yup, I had an entire change of clothing and cleaning supplies in the back of the car because there were accidents. Plenty of them. This was not a fun job anymore but I could not abandon Harvey! Could I?
But I did. I sang my song to the social worker and she acted. Harvey’s family had to find appropriate care for him or he needed to be moved into a home. For the first time in months I slept through a night, at home, without worry about his safety. It was done. And I was unemployed again. And that blasted family made me wait for a week before paying me. But I felt better. I knew I had done the right thing, and his welfare trumped my need for a job. The old money worries returned with a fury. Savings would be depleted, gone.
I was at Harvey’s shortly before he was taken to his new digs, collecting some of my possessions I had left there. I stopped at a coffee kiosk and was chatting with one of the gals serving. She had a friend of a friend who found work cleaning vacation rentals on the south end. NEVER, I thought. Cleaning? Me? But I stopped and picked up an application and sent it off, forgetting it almost immediately.
Two weeks later I got a call. Was I still interested in working, cleaning vacation rentals? It was very nice weather outside, this was late spring, and I accepted with defeat. My old reality was almost gone now. I had lost my zeal for pursuing office work. And the reality in living on a small island is that many are faced with a change in attitude toward work if staying is their wish. Well, this would not be forever; I could at least make enough to travel back to California in late summer.
Since I had hardly any money I prepared a ‘cleaning kit’ composed of a couple of spray bottles, a few sponges, some paper towels, a soft scrub product and lots of vinegar. I was now a cleaner. And I was beyond humiliated.