Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart. You get verbally abused, shit on, (literally), and the only thanks you get is taking home an hourly pay that is the same equivalent to the job you endure. And on the best occasions, we walk in prepared to do our best just for the client to take one look at you and demand a new person. In my experience, I noticed that petty luxury to be reserved for those who are too bitter and old to say hello. I like to think I know how to talk to them, provide them a companion with a dash of bitterness and a twist of wisdom while we wait for their death, and that's why I never seem to get a break. I get it.
I was new to hospice care, and I assumed that I would be caring for bedridden people, like the family members I remember visiting as a child. And, growing up, when you hear a family member going to hospice the situation is less than desirable, and last Christmas is probably the last time you'd see them; it was true for her, Miss Gray Hair. She was as bitter as they came, and I learned if you go without talking for 12 hours straight, your swallow turns to painful dust before it hits the back of your throat. She'd snarl at me for pursing my lips, glare at me with condescension, curse me out, and every so often she would begin to tell me a story. She started telling me these stories after I'd been with her a month, but she never finished any of them. It kept me on my toes though throughout the day, and I needed that to get me through the long days.
After realizing we were stuck with each other, till' death due us part, I started to find her complete distaste for this outside world amusing, and that's how we progressed in our gesture-only relationship. She was just as disappointed with life as I was in that moment, and she started to treat me like the daughter she wished she had. I often wondered how she was back in her prime; was she always so hateful? Or did she once enjoy a smile for the photo worthy moments? Maybe she was always the sort of person who kept their joy to themselves. We enjoyed each other's company surprisingly, and we would regularly discuss the people we hated. Miss Gray Hair never talked ill of her husband though. Whenever she would glance at his picture, some tears would flood her face and she would fall silent, memories filling her mind. I envied that and felt only in my gut, that we were the same in this aspect.
I enjoyed learning all that I could about Miss Gray Hair. She was dying slowly, praying for death, and I couldn't help but pray for it as well. She was suffering, and the closer she got, the more angry and bitter she became. Towards the end she would ask me to bet with her on what day she'd "kick the bucket." I would be doing the same though, especially if I had someone way younger than me constantly by my side.
We went on in relative peace every day, and I always sought to make her laugh. And, when the time came, (and I knew), she grabbed my hand with what fingers she could still control, and thanked me. It's words you long to hear but never are prepared for. She had no energy left to even move her head, and with me and the apparent ghost who came to take her, she closed her eyes and waited to pass.
"I can't wait to die." She said.
"I hear there is a much better place than this one."
"Yeah, I heard that too."
I watched as she looked away and I could tell she was trying to think of something specific.
"Oh, not until after Sunday though."
"Why not before?" I asked.
"Because it's my daughter’s birthday."