Chapter Six ~ Joe Visits His Fiesty Gramma
Joe pulled his black BMW into the Loving Care Assisted Care Facility. His stomach hurt. He knew his mom would never place her mother here. He felt a flash of anger toward his aunt Estelle, then backed off. Maybe his gramma failed since he last saw her, he thought. He kicked himself for being a poor grandson. He got out of his car, took in the finely manicured lawn, and saw a smattering of gold and red maple leaves on the lawn. He love autumn. He loved everything about it, the turning of the leaves, the cooler crisp air, and football. He loved football, especially Ohio State football. Today was almost to good to do anything by play golf with Tony instead of visiting his gramma. He felt an instant rush of guilt, took a deep breath and walked up to the building entrance. The entrance was under a portico in front of an automatic double door. The double doors slid open when he was still five feet away.
Joe walked through the entrance. When Joe entered the assisted care facility, the smell hit him. It was a strong, institutional cleaning smell, strong enough to make Joe start breathing through his mouth. He noticed the entry hall. The floor was polished granite tile, three large red vases of synthetic tropical plants were placed against the walls. There was a small, polished cherry table with brochures and forms to his right. In front on him, twenty feet away was the receptionist. She was staring at a computer screen and paid no attention to him. He walked toward her. There were three long corridors one in front of him, and one to either side of him. He saw a man wearing green scrubs, pushing a small table with some food and meds on it down the hall in front of him. Joe assumed the man was a nurses aide. The nurses aide and the receptionist were the only evidence of life. Joe knew something was seriously wrong with his gramma.
Joe walked to the receptionist’s desk and stood silently for a moment. The receptionist was chewing gum, and looking at her Facebook page. He cleared his throat. She turned slightly toward him and said, “I’ll be with you in a minute. I’m busy.”
Joe’s face turned red, and he felt his jaw clenching. He said, “I want to see my grandmother. Can you tell what room, she’s in?”
The receptionist rolled her eyes, closed her Facebook page and said, “What’s your grandmother’s name?”
Joe said, “Teresa Rigeri.”
The receptionist turned back to the computer, and said, “How do you spell it.”
Joe said, “The first name or the last name?” He knew he said it sarcastically. He wished he hadn’t answered so quickly.
The receptionist made a slight turn toward Joe and said, “Last name?”
Joe spelled his gramma’s name. The receptionist blew a bubble with the gum and popped it while she typed it in. She turned back to Joe and said who are you?”
Joe said, “I’m Joe Astore, her grandson. She was my mother’s mother.”
“Who’s your mother? I don’t see any Astore on the list of approved visitors,” said the receptionist.
“My mother was recently killed in a car crash.”
“Oh. Give me your driver’s license.”
Joe snapped, “What are you going to do with it?”
The receptionist gave him a look and said, “Are you serious? I don’t have to let you in here if you have an attitude.”
Jack said, “I’ll show it to you, but you can’t have it.”
The receptionist said, “Then you can’t come in.”
Joe said, “You are creating major issues for yourself. I’m sure you’re aware of State Statute 101.322.6 that says, and I quote, ‘No one has the right to make a copy of another’s driver’s license without the permission of said person. Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison.’ You don’t have my permission and I’m going to report you to police if you don’t let me see my grandmother.” Joe felt pleased with himself and how he crafted a lie on the spot as if it were the truth.
“Hey, I’m cool. You’re grandmothers in room 110 C. The C stands for center hall,” said the receptionist. She pointed down the corridor in front of Joe. Then she added, “I’m only doing a job. They don’t pay enough, there’s no insurance, and …”
Before the receptionist could continue her litany of work related grievances, Joe was walking down the center corridor searching for room 110 C. The odd numbered rooms were to his left, the even numbered rooms were to his right. Ahead of him, he spotted the nurse’s aide coming out of one room and pushing his cart. The aide stopped at an even numbered room half way down the corridor.
Joe realized the aide went into room 110 C. Joe was about to enter the room and stopped when he heard the aide say, “Teresa you have to take your medicine. It’s on your sheet.”
“I don’t need no medicine,” Joe’s gramma said.
“Will you drink this juice for me?” said the aide.
“I not gonna drink your juice. You trying to drug me like you drug everybody else in this place.”
“I’m going to report you to the nurse and they’ll make you take your medicine,” said the aide.
Joe opened the door, the aide turned around. He looked at Joe and said, “You’ll have to step out until I’m finished.”
Joe’s gramma said, “That’s my grandson, he can stay. You get your skinny ass out of my room before I tell my grandson to smack you. And take your pills with you.”
The aide stood up, and said, “When I finish my rounds, I’m putting you on report. You’re in big trouble.” He turned, ignored Joe and pushed his cart out into the corridor.
Joe walked over and kissed his grandmother on the cheek and hugged her. He stepped back and said, “Gramma, what’s going on?”
“You don’t wanna know. Joe, let me tell you something, growing old is hell. You think your kids gonna love you and take care of you, it’s a big mistake. When your grandpa, Patrice, died, God bless his holy soul, I lived on my own, in my house. I don’t need nobody to take care of me. Annette always comes to visit me. Your mother is a saint, she’s talking to Patrice now telling him about the hell I’m living. Estelle, she’s not like Annette. She’s different. All she thinks about is money. I spell it for you C A S H. She never bought me a present. Never once. Annette, never forgot my birthday or Christmas. Why God took Annette and not Estelle I have no answer. Estelle talked me into coming to this place, says it’s going to be nice for me. Your mom told me not to go. After your mom and dad died, Estelle begged me to try it for two weeks. Okay, I try anything once. I’m here and Estelle tells me I’m staying here. She going to get power of attorney for me to sign so she can control everything for me. She told me if I don’t sign it when she brings the papers she’s going to a judge and the judge will give it to her.”
Joe said, “She can’t make you sign what you don’t want to sign. You’re competent.”
“That’s why I don’t want to take no pills. They drug you up and you don’t know what day it is.”
Joe said, “You want to get out of here?”
“Do I wanna get out of here? You don’t have to ask me twice. You gonna help me?”
“Get dressed and get your things, we’re going to walk out of here and you never have to come back.”
“You just like your mother, Joe. Just like her. God bless you.”
“Actually, Gramma, that’s why I came.”