30 hours in Greater Boston: An elder care odyssey

“Jesus Christ, I turned you OFF!” — me, too early.

6am EST, Waltham, MA.

I whapped the alarm clock next to the bed, which despite my careful efforts the night before, was blaring at 6am. I ripped off my sleep mask, put on jean shorts, my Star Trek 2009 grey t-shirt (so comfy) and a blue bandana wrapped around my head, like we did at camp all those years. This is my “hard day ahead” outfit, complete with comfortable sneakers. Today there would be lifting. So much lifting. By 6:30am I was in line at Dunkin’ Donuts. Or at least I thought I was.

“Everything bad happens in threes, but I don’t got no family, so it only happens to me.” — Tobacco Santa.

8am EST, Randolph, MA.

When you live in Los Angeles, but your aging parents live in New York, New Jersey and two different parts of Greater Boston, solving their problems becomes an exercise in planning, logistics and patience. But sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get a hard fucking slap that reminds you to be grateful that you still have family at all.

“I have twenty-five years of experience fixing things...” — a man fixing a washing machine.

Me too, I thought.

9am EST, Randolph, MA.

The laundromat is a waiting and thinking place. It’s a place where not much happens, but something always could. There is a lot of process. First, you must wrangle forty dollars in quarters. Then you slowly give those quarters back to various machines with old-fashioned quarter slots. You pull knobs and turn dials and all that is before you start shoveling filthy clothing into four washers. I was wearing blue plastic gloves, a mask and wishing for safety goggles, because what exactly ARE those dried brown flecks wafting up from the bag? The coffee soured in my stomach but I kept going. I reminded myself that I saw much worse shit as a C.I.T., doing the boys side laundry.

“You the daughter in law? I need to talk to YOU.” — The Woman in Charge of Cigarettes

12p EST, Newton, MA.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in any closed system, the people on the inside will develop a cigarette-based economy. I know this because I used to work on a radio show about the economy. I mentioned this to the Randolph veterans home manager who was asking me about my work and he got all excited. “You mean the show with Guy Ryssdal?!?”

“Who’s ya sista in lawr?” — The young woman who broke me at the sub place.

5p EST, Waltham, MA.

We’ll skip the part where I fled the nursing home for my mother-in-law’s tiny apartment, because it was a very necessary retreat, but also because I ended up meeting a ninety-year old Soviet emigre, teaching my mother-in-law to use a Chromebook and carrying a microwave down the stairs. Each of these events are their own epic Medium post. Many hugs later, I was done with the in-laws, and I was toast.

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Jennie Josephson

Jennie Josephson

Stories told in audio form, but words are my first love.