Where the hell am I?
I should have stopped to ask for directions but I was on an unmarked dirt road and the only sign of life was an electrified fence with two signs: One said, “No Trespassing!” The other said, “Protected by Smith and Wesson.” I have lived around these sorts of people all my life. They really DO have guns and they are NOT posting about them to be funny…
(This was before GPS changed my life.)
Waiting in the car for a few more minutes in an attempt to gather courage did not really help. I gave up and hopped out, slinging the giant red leather computer bag with all of my equipment over one shoulder. I pushed open the gate with a sturdy stick just in case. Getting electrocuted before I even introduced myself would have been awkward.
How could this be the right place?
She was so sweet and kind when I saw her at the office. She had begged me to see her mother, to get her on hospice. They had to have a doctor’s order, but there was no way she could get her to the office and I could not write an order for someone I had never seen.
I trekked up the driveway. It was littered with debris. Tires. Half of a car. Rusted metal oil drums. Sweat started to run down my back. Was it the heat? I had goosebumbs…. Why did I ever agree to this? I don’t DO housecalls.
“Never again!” I muttered under my breath.
As I approached the house, which was in an advanced state of disrepair, a large dog began a deep, gutteral bark/howl and threw himself against the door. He sounded BIG.
At least the snarling brute was on the inside.
I tried the doorbell. No sound. I knocked. No response. I knocked again, louder. Still nothing. As I was turning to walk away, there was a series of noises that signaled a lock being turned. Then another. And another. One more. The door cracked open.
The wrinkled eye peering warily through the crack, just above the door chain? I recognized it. Thank God! I breathed a sigh of relief.
I WAS in the right place after all.
“Give me a minute to lock up Bruce,” she said, closing the door again.
Shouting, scrabbling, and more growling ensued. Then I heard the door chain being removed and the door opened all of the way.
“Sorry. Since Frank died, I have to be careful.” She leaned in close and whispered, “There are people who would rape someone like me…”
I was ushered across the matted shag carpet through the entryway. Her mother was lying in a hospital bed in the living room, TV blaring. A pile of angular bones and skin. Advanced dementia.
I calculated her age. She was 98.
“She barely eats.”
I started to examine her. She groaned as I shifted her arms and legs looking for pressure sores. There were none. She was well cared for.
I paused to survey the cluttered surroundings.
There were dozens of breathtakingly beautiful paintings tacked up, covering the walls from floor to ceiling. Landscapes. Portraits.
“Who did these?”
Suddenly, the woman in the bed was no longer the wordless body with the thinning white hair, unseeing eyes, and skin that hung off of her like speckled drapery. She was an artist. Her voice was all over these walls.
And that is why I love house calls. No one is ever who you expect them to be.