Guess how old I am here? 21. Scary!!! LOL I was working as house staff at the hunting lodge in Scotland. I'm wearing my Dad's trench coat that he sent me via mail as I didn't have extra $ to buy myself a raincoat. Do you know I still have that hat and wear it? I don't remember where I got it from. I don't have any photos of myself when I worked looking after the elderly. At that time there were no digital cameras and taking photos meant spending more $ to get the film developed. I only had a very small camera. I think it may have been disposable. How I regret not having more photos. Onto my story…
When I lived in the UK I sometimes worked for an agency looking after the elderly in their homes. I was exposed at an early age to so many of the things that people don't discuss about growing old. It was an enlightening and terrifying experience.
One of the ladies I looked after was massive. She towered over me, not only in statue but also in character. She was arrogant and difficult…reminded me of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey,
without the wicked sense of humour.
She made it clear that she didn't care for "the help" (me) and that she'd only explain things once. I need not bother asking her to repeat herself since she was above any such nonsense and would simply refuse out of principle.
She had broken her hip a few months before and apparently had waited several days before her son had found her lying on the floor alone in her grand old estate that resembled a small castle. Thus, why she was now forced to have someone stay with her even though she despised it, because as she put it, "Everyone knows all the foreign workers and paid helpers are thieves."
She complained that she had to fire the last two helpers that came before me as she suspected they had stolen from her. She had no proof, but she was sure they had.
She walked with a large heavy wooden cane with a molded black iron handle which she would use as an appendage of her already too-large body to gesticulate with. She could reach half way across a room by just extending her arm and cane.
The walking stick made a recognizable thud… thud… thud… noise on the wooden floors as she made her way throughout the old house that came complete with stone turrets.
When she showed me her bedroom while explaining the list of daily chores she expected I complete she made a point of showing me the grand sword that she claimed was from WWI which she slept with.
I am not joking!
There it lay, on top of her blankets within easy reach of her right hand. She told me it was for her own protection as someone had tried to break into her home a while back. Should he show up again she would be well prepared. She further explained that she kept the blade well sharpened and claimed that the weapon had in fact killed people during the war. At this point I remember she made me take it in my own hands, to prove what a heavy formidable weapon it was.
She also explained in great length about her silverware. It would be counted regularly and she would know immediately if I had stolen some of it. This wasn't back in the late 1800's folks…this was in the mid 1980's!
She explained that her breakfast would be served on a tray each morning. She showed me exactly how the tray should be presented and where each item should be placed. Upon serving breakfast I was to run her bath. After she had bathed and dressed I was expected to clean out her bath and tidy up her room before starting on the list of other chores, of which she had an endless supply.
It must be said that from day one I didn't like her, and I didn't care for the job. I had my doubts that the other people had stolen anything from her and I thought more likely they had quit. She was very high maintenance with an abrasive character.
During the time I was with her no one from her family ever came by and no friends dropped by.
On the up side she did let me borrow her car a couple of times. But that couldn't mitigate all of her other issues.
She listened in on my personal phone calls. I'd tell her to hang up the phone but she wouldn't. I could hear her breathing on the other end. No one had mobile phones at that time or the internet. I know it was waaaaay back in the dark ages kids!
She made me spend hours weeding and working her flower gardens on my knees while she watched over me like a wicked step mother pointing out which areas I had missed. I seriously remember thinking, "So this is what it was like for Cinderella!"
She talked down about every country in the world but England and was very rude about "the colonies" as she referred to them, Canada of course included.
She monitored what I ate. She didn't want me pilfering any of her good stuff apparently.
I can't remember exactly how long I stayed with her, I doubt it was more than two weeks, but it felt like an eternity.
It all climaxed one frightful night that I still remember with the clarity reserved only for moments that scare us so much they become etched on our brains.
I'd been sleeping in my tiny servants room down the hall from hers for several hours. It must have been around 2 am. I was woken up by an ominous
slowly but deliberately approaching my room.
The floorboards by my door in the old house creaked with her weight and the door handle made a small click as she ever-so-slowly and quietly swung open my door.
She stood there. In the doorway.
If I listened closely I could hear her breathing. Her overwhelming presence filled the tiny space.
She hovered there in the doorway, blocking my only exit.
She didn't say anything.
She didn't move.
She just stood there, like a ghost.
I didn't move.
I didn't look up.
I laid perfectly still,
covers pulled up around my chin,
praying with all my might that she would
I don't know if she had her sword at her side, but as I lay there, not moving, my eyes glued shut with fear,
telling myself it wasn't real,
she would go away,
that long heavy metal sword was pictured clearly in my mind gripped by her massive hand.
I don't know why she came.
I don't know what finally made her leave.
It felt like she stood there forever.
Eventually the door creaked shut.
I could hear the
of her cane as she made her way back to her own room and closed her door.
I finally exhaled.
I was in a bad horror film and I didn't want to know the ending.
Nothing was mentioned about the matter the next day.
She didn't bring it up and I was too scared to say anything.
I made an excuse to leave the house, went to nearest phone booth, rang my agency and told them that I needed to leave as soon as possible. They didn't seem surprised. They sent along another gal from Australia the next day. I didn't tell her the whole story ( I don't think she would have believed me anyhow) , but I did tell her to lock her door at night. I wished her luck and felt a wave of relief spill over me as I headed back to London.
It was so bizarre that it seems like I made it all up.
But I didn't.
That was the last job I took looking after old people in England.
I'd been scared straight by a 75 year old sword toting Amazon Brit.
Next time do you want to see me doing a fashion show dressed as a traditional Berber woman in Tunisia or read about the time when my sister and I were run off the road in Portugal while riding mopeds?