I have been in the cleaning business now for 23 years; and have had the opportunity to meet people of every race and religion. I worked for young and old and learned life lessons from them all; but one person impacted my life in such a way that I would never want to see any man suffer his fate again.
I met Bob in my early years of housecleaning; in fact he called me to come clean his house from a ad I had in PennyPincher Newsletter. As a worker I went in and did the usual housework, got my pay and left; no thought of him again until the next schedule cleaning date, which would be the following week; and this went on for month or so. He was just another person I worked for; not really a person I would call my friend, or even someone I would want to get close enough to to want as a friend. Just another paycheck in my bank account; so on to the next job.
It was Bob’s cleaning day; and having my own key to his house, I first rang the doorbell to let Bob know I was coming in, and proceeded to unlocked the door. Bob was in his 80’s and he had a dog that seemed to be about the same age; so it would be to much for the dog to just bark once, then he would drop and fall back to sleep. Bob laid in his bed most of the time, still in his pj’s watching court tv; and would yell for me if he needed anything specific done in the house. We would talk a bit while I cleaned his room and as I finished he would have me bring the check book to him, fill in my name, amount and he would double check, then sign it. Everything was done in this order every week; but not this day nor the days to come until Bob died.
One day I did the routine, ring the bell, walk in and yell, “Bob, it’s me, Lisa, I’m coming in” He then would respond, “You again, come on back!” So I would laugh at his humor and head back to his room to recieve instructions before beginning my duties; but this time, he did not respond. I slowly walked back calling his name and as I got closer to his bedroom door, I smelled a aweful smell and could hear Bob’s very weak voice moaning as if he were in pain. I rushed in and found Bob laying in his in his own mess. He was very weak from not eating; nor was he able to get out of bed to go do his business in the bathroom. I asked him if he needed to go to the hospital, I would call 911; but he insisted that he had his own dr. and I should call him. I did, I called his dr, I explained what happened and if I could bring Bob to his office. The Dr. said, “No, Bob is fine, he’s drunk.” I put the reciever back on the hook in disbelief of what I just heard. I then asked Bob if he had any realitives I could call to help; I knew I was going to have clean him up; but that had to be my last resort. Bob gave me his next door nieghbor’s phone number, he said she was the one who takes care of him. She manages his finances and brings his food if he can’t go shopping, so I was relieved to know that he had someone to care for him; only to find her voice unconcerned saying those words I just heard only a minute ago, “Bob will be fine, he’s just a drunk, do your job and move on.” In other words she was saying, “Do your work and mind your own business.”
I sat on the bed; and did the best I can to lift him up and get him to the bathroom which was only a few steps away for me; but a mile for him. We got his soiled pj’s off and I helped him in the shower, where he was able to wash is own body. As Bob was in the shower, I striped his soiled sheets, put them in the washer and as I was walking past the kitchen, I smelled a rotten smell on the stove, there was a pot of rotten food on the stove. I was numb, I couldn’t understand the horror of being left to live this way. Me, I have relatives everywhere and they were all just a holler away. Bob had a wife that passed away just 5years prior and no children. He had one living relative; location unknown, a dr. and a nieghbor, and a dog.
From that point on Bob wasn’t a paycheck to me, he was person, a living person that laid in bed just waiting for someone to come and help him up. My routine changed from being just his cleaning lady to making meals that would last a week, separate small serving plates and freeze them so he can just microwave. On someday’s I would bring him over to our home and watch him laugh at my crazy kids or dance with them to music he didn’t even understand. I seen a man being raised from the dead. Bob waited expectantly for me to come by; and I found him dressed most of the ready to go!
It wasn’t long though that I recieved the call; I had just been let go, his nieghbor called and told me that they had found another cleaning service; so my services were no longer needed. A few months passed, I recieved another call from the VA Hospital, a nurse called, she said she found my phone number in Bob’s belongings, he died. I asked her what happened, she said, he was left alone in his own mess, he had a bacteria infection. She asked me if I knew what was going on and why didn’t I report it. I said, I tried, but they said, “He’s fine, he’s just a drunk.”
I learned from Bob that life is precious in the little things. When I seen him laugh, he laughed loud. When I seen him laying in that bed, I didn’t see a drunk, I seen a person crying out for help. When I seen Bob smile, he did it on purpose. When Bob gave for his country, he did it with dignity and on Veternan’s Day, I seen him dressed in his uniform, he dressed in the full suit of armor proud to be a servant for his country. I had the opportunity to know Bob the person, I didn’t see Bob the drunk, who died alone and that is the fate I wish for no man.
I learned to love people, laugh more, reach out beyond myself, and give what I have now, not what wish I had. Do it now, do it for the sake of love, no other reason, just love!