Oregon Tavern Age: The Caregiver

It was 10:30 in the morning on a weekday. Rain and gray dominated the landscape. I sat inside an OTA joint, not far from where my dad resides in assisted living, drinking a Guinness.

Should I really have been drinking a dark beer in a dive bar on a weekday morning? Well, it wasn’t my fault! I was reading back issues of the New Yorker in the library but parents would not contain their snot-nosed, booger chomping, ass digging, screaming brats in the library so I had to leave 15 minutes after I arrived. Not a single librarian said anything to the parents or the brats. Those kids and parents needed a good tongue lashing from an old school, blue-haired librarian from the halcyon days of quiet libraries where everyone whispered. The kids also needed a good country lickin.’

I was sitting at a table facing the slot machine and writing in my journal. A young woman wearing day-glo orange scrubs played one of the machines. I recognized her as one of the caregivers from my dad’s facility and had spoken to her on several occasions. She had previously told me Dad is her favorite resident because his room is always ship shape, he always treats the staff with respect, and doles out free candy bars.

My most recent conversation with her had occurred several days before. Dad and I were in his room discussing my encounter with a bicycling homeless man in the early morning under a full moon while walking the husky. It was such an indelible moment that I had written a poem about it (see previous blog entry to read the poem) and was discussing the nature of it with Dad, a fine poet himself back in the day.

As Dad and I talked, the caregiver poked her head into the room and said, “I just had to tell you that you two have the most interesting conversations and that sometimes I listen to them from the hall.”

Far out!

I laughed at her remark, smiled, and briefly recounted the full moon rider story. She said she wanted to read the poem. I told her I would provide a copy.

So there the caregiver was playing slots and I surmised she was on a break from work. She was not drinking.

I see this sort of thing all the time in OTA country.

She stood up from the machine and turned my direction. Her face lit up with recognition and she walked over to me.

For the next five minutes we talked. She indeed was on her break. She had another 20 minutes. Once again, she told me how much she liked Dad and then asked me if he had any memory issues. I said absolutely not and asked why. On Valentine’s Day she had found him crying in his recliner and went up to console him, asking why he was crying. He told her it was my step mother’s birthday and always a special day for them over the 30 years of their marriage before she passed away in 2020. The caregiver wanted to know if that was a real memory and I said indeed it was.

She had to get back to the game and I told her much I appreciated her caring for Dad and other residents. I said her wages should be tripled and I wish I could tip her, but the rules prohibited it. She thanked me anyway and left.

I wrote for another five minutes and barely touched the beer. I got up to leave and then made a quick detour to where the woman was playing. On my way over I fished out a $20 bill from my wallet and crumpled it up.

She turned to me and smiled. I said I’d just found a $20 bill on the floor and that she must have dropped it.

I gave it to her and she nodded. I walked out into rain and went home.