Saturday, August 3, 2013

You are a Slot!

Years ago, I worked with a large Pilipino population, in Hawaii, who provided foster homes for geriatric folks in need.  The care provider was required to be a certified nursing aid as was a designated backup and the expected abundance of state rules and regs were in play.   The care providers were generally women, English as a second language, and in addition to providing foster care, managed to care for parents and/or in-laws and children and / or grandchildren.

I can’t imagine, at my age, trying to move my kids to another country, learn the language, go to school and get a certificate, spend the money to buy a home with ample space for four foster grandparents and hope everything turns out.    

The majority of these ladies were also fantastic cooks (I could move to the cooking district in Paris and live on a cot in one of the kitchens and still not be able to cook.) Per tradition, leaving a home without having a serving of something was, well it was just NOT going to happen.  You could plead not hungry, too fat, don’t go to the trouble, etc.  Nothing doing.

The few exceptions were younger girls breaking with tradition (and good for them.) One caregiver who couldn’t cook and usually offered a store bought snack that was typically Asian, like mini freeze dried shrimp.  Fortunately, having food in a package negated eating it in the home, but I always felt some solidarity with her.   
One caregiver would make enormous meals involving elaborate dishes and sides and that was a house to plan some time for. Because, like I said, you are not leaving until you eat. Even then, we would end up taking tin foil covered plates of delicious food. My favorite and the girls’ favorite were Pilipino pork ribs and more often than not, that was part of what I brought home.  

The caregivers were also very kind to me. I told them I was going to be quitting and over the next visit I had a stack of little gifts for my kids and lots of well wishes. They also coordinated a good bye lunch for me. I am sure this was a logistical nightmare and not at all an expectation. (My boss and co-employees were entirely separate from the field so this was much more of a genuine expression of kindness than obligation.) I still am touched that they went to all the trouble.

A few months before I left, one of the caregivers, who was friends with several of the others but a bit of a trouble maker, quit unexpectedly and there was a little buzz of scandal for several weeks.  She focused her wrath on one of the caregiver in particular.  This caregiver (the focus of wrath) was actually one of my favorites.  In her early 30’s, she was able to buy two additional houses to use as foster homes and pay to staff them.  She also watched my youngest daughter while I worked and, frankly, she was fun to be around. 
One day I came to pick up the kid and the caregiver was crying. The former caregiver of wrath had sent her a nasty letter outlining why everything was her fault.  She ended by saying “and you are a big slot!”  “Well,” I told her, “at least we know you aren’t a slot.” “That is wrong isn’t it?” So slot and slut were clarified and, not being either, things didn’t look so bad.

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