Tuesday, January 1, 2013


To read the first part of ZELDA, please click HERE.

Now that I understood Zelda was lonely, I needed to find out more about her life.

I sought details from the charge nurses.

"Her next of kin is her son," Donna, the night supervisor, told me. "He's a pastor at a church not too far from here."

Zelda had a son who was a pastor? I had never seen him.

I asked other staff members about him. No one knew what he looked like because no one had ever seen him.

Evelyn, the charge nurse who was usually on South Hall on Saturday nights, said that two of Zelda's four daughters lived nearby. "The two agreed to take turns spending the day with her so that one of them would be with her part of every day," Evelyn said, "but only one kept her part of the bargain. The other one never comes in anymore."

I'd had contact with the daughter who kept the deal. When I was still a hospitality aide, I'd helped a GNA move Zelda from her recliner to her bed. Zelda was in isolation at the time because she had a staph infection. Because of the infection, she had diarrhea, which we accidentally got on her chair during the move. We wiped the smear of feces off the chair as best we could, but it left a stain.

"I'll watch for her daughter tomorrow," I told the GNA. "I"ll explain what happened to the chair."

I did indeed see the daughter the next day. She was very pleasant and friendly and told me how nice I looked. I thanked her and told her what had happened to the chair.

"I"ll have it cleaned," she said. "No problem."

So, this daughter was nice. She spent every other afternoon with her mom, but when her mom got angry and screamed, her daughter's words to her were "shut up." Not "You need to be quieter, Mom." Not "That's enough of that, Mama. I'll solve the problem."

No. Zelda's daughter told the family matriarch to shut up. I felt confused by the daughter's devotion to her mother, that seemed mixed with hostility. Could it be that the daughter's self-imposed devotion led to her anger? She probably didn't want to spend most of every other day with her mom. And I wouldn't be surprised if she were pretty pissed off at her sister and brother, who somehow couldn't find the time to visit their mother in the nursing home.

As I gathered information about Zelda, I continued to care for her most of the nights that I was on duty. And I continued to see her as my "problem child." I still couldn't satisfy her, and she still pushed the button on her call light every five minutes, except for the rare occasions when she she slept for an hour or two.

Then one night I was working with my good friends, Carol and Michael. As we strolled down South Hall to check on a patient, Zelda's call light lit up and buzzed.

"Stay here," Michael told Carol and me.

Michael then put a sheet over his head and slipped quietly into Zelda's room.

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"I am a ghost," Michael hissed. "Stop turning on your call light all the time. The people who work here don't have time for you."

"Get out of here," Zelda said wearily.

I'm surprised she didn't scream.

As Michael left the room, Carol and I began to giggle. When Michael joined us, we moved away from Zelda's room and practically rolled on the floor, laughing.

Yes, God help me, I laughed. I knew this woman was lonely and in pain and miserable, yet I dared to laugh. Yet another person had told Zelda that no one had time for her.

I vowed that night that if I couldn't change Zelda's behavior, I had to change my own.

More of Zelda's story coming soon, I hope.


  1. It's always easier to change your own behavior than it is someone else's. A great read. happy New Year.

    1. Changing me is usually the obvious answer, but sometimes I still think other people should change to accommodate me.

  2. I had to go back and read the first part of the story, wow, what a family. You gotta tell us more about Zelda and her dysfunctional children, did anybody ever come to see her besides the one daughter? I gotta know...:)

    1. One person from her congregation visited once on a Sunday afternoon. He was the only person I ever saw besides the daughter. The rest of the story is really about how I changed my relationship with Zelda.

  3. It is almost impossible to change someone else's behavior--we have to change our own!

  4. The last line says it all Janie. I watched my younger brother die at 35 from the choices he made. It's a hard lesson to learn, but in the end, the only thing you have the power to change is yourself.

    1. I'm sorry you lost your brother so early, Rick.

  5. Zelda must be a brave woman not to be frightened by a ghost!

    1. I'm sure she knew it was just another idiot staff member. Plus, I gradually learned that Zelda was a woman of great faith. She had too much love for God to believe that a ghost was in her room.

  6. I am reminded of the old saying that the one who needs the hug the most, is the one you least want to give it to.

    Seems Zelda fits that quote.

  7. First - you are such a wonderful writer. I think I take that for granted during my visits here. Yet this time I noticed that it doesn't even feel like I'm reading - and before I know it, I've reached the end.

    Poor Zelda - and poor everyone who was put in charge of her care. But lucky her for having someone put into her life who cared enough to change thier own behavior. How could a friggin' pastor not visit his own mother? Apparently he wasn't paying much attention to that scripture he was supposed to be preaching from.

    1. Thank you, my sweetheart. You are so kind. As for Zelda's son, I know absolutely nothing about him other than he held a job as a pastor, and I won't say what kind of church it was other than it was fairly mainstream. It wasn't a church I would choose to attend, but I feel very uncomfortable away from my Lutheran home.

  8. More! Write More! I love a good story, especially when it's real and told by you.
    I've been thinking of you lately,and hope you are doing well. I spent 3+ days pretty much bawling all the time,but am feeling stronger now.


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