Usually when I deliver a hospice meds package, it's signed for somebody who identifies themselves as Patient X's wife/husband/sister/caregiver/son/daughter/in-law. Today was different. I actually had the same stop yesterday, and the patient herself signed for them. She was basically a skeleton covered by skin with a shaved head. I had no idea of her age, except the new hair growing out was dark. I got a better idea tonight. Tonight the woman who answered and signed was just a bit younger than I am, by her appearance, and identified herself as Patient X's mother.
I realize that my delivering all those hospice meds makes my job sound depressing. It's usually not, even on those runs, and those are just a tiny part of the day, perhaps more memorable as they tend to be how the day ends. Today, again, is a good example of the opposite end of the spectrum.
On Tuesdays I do a route collecting from a chain of day care centers, or on alternate weeks, delivering to them as well as picking up, and taking the whole bunch to headquarters. What I see are blue canvas bags. What's in the bags? I don't know, but I can make an educated guess: payroll records, curriculum items, company-wide bulletins, miscellaneous records. One of the stops in particular is in a strip mall where most of the rooms have exterior doors, though not in use generally. All have locks and a security alarm way up high that must be turned off when the door opens. Where I go at that stop is the room with the toddlers in it, and the last few times a particular little girl was curious enough to come to the door as the staff person does the hand-over to see who this strange creature is. Today she was wearing a cute sundress and was holding the skirt up over all of her face except her eyes. Adorable! Last week we both had to be sure her fingers were clear of the door before it started to close. Yep, still adorable.
I noticed today something very unusual: all the bags were flat and light. Usually one or two weighs about five pounds and has something bulky in it. Not today.
Have I mentioned that my imagination can occasionally be macabre? Or that I can entertain myself during an otherwise boring, routine workday by giving it free reign?
It started by the question springing into my mind of what was in such flat bags? And what popped up was "squished babies." I could even imagine a conversation with some inquisitive child asking me that question and the conversation heading off from there. I can just see eyes widening in shock, tears welling, jaws dropping and quivering - along with a month of nightmares, screams and tantrums before getting hustled off to day care each day, and years of unresolved therapy where nobody can identify the originating trauma.
"It's why they call it 'babysitting'. Haven't you ever heard some grownup talking about a naughty child and saying they have to go sit on them? You, well, it might hurt a bit. But babies get squished when we do that. So they have me come in and take the squished babies away before they start to smell.
"I'd behave if I were you!"
Late in the afternoon at the end of my route, most of the staff are in back or even outside with the kids getting fresh air. With doors being locked, this means it can take a full couple minutes before somebody answers the doorbell for the bag hand-off. Today a father answered it and then went to get a staff person to take care of me. While the staffer and I were involved in our jobs, he was finishing packing up his daughter, a four-year-old curly redhead in a pink print dress, busy watching us instead of paying attention to her Daddy. They exited just behind me, and I heard her ask her father, "What's in that bag?"
I thought about it. Really, I did, for just about half a second. The whole scenario played through
my head. I saw again that sweet face, those welling eyes.
How adorable she was!
How wicked I'd be!
How angry Daddy would be!
And I didn't even have to imagine the part where I lost my job.
I just coughed, choking off that top thought, and replied, "It's paperwork."