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  • I smell the urine and feces first as I walk in the door. She lies snoring in a soaking wet bed, mouth open snoring, a weekend's worth of food on her unbrushed teeth. She would lie like this all day.

    Her toilet has dried feces down the side and on the seat. Her diaper pail is overflowing and the smell makes my eyes water. It too is smeared with feces.

    Nothing has been put away or washed since I left on Thursday, groceries partially unpacked are all over the sticky and debris covered counter tops. Half finished food is everywhere. Pots from a weekend's worth of cooking lay all over the kitchen.

    Garbage, mostly food and used tissues lay all around her dining room chair and the mostly full garbage pail I left by her chair for her to use. The butter, rancid, is spread across her placemat which is stuck to the table with what I think is spilled coffee, with heavy cream and 5 tsp of sugar, the way she likes it. The sugar granules run in a trail from the coffee pot, across the counter, on the floor, finishing at her placemat.

    She is angry and confused about being woken and washed, tells me to drop dead and to go to hell. As I clean her I find large oozing angry red rashes in her deep skin folds, which she picks at with her already dirty nails. Her hair is dirty and matted at the back. I should take her to get it cut, but she is so unpleasant to people I haven't ventured out with her for any but the necessary errands, to doctor, hospital and dentist, who recommends pulling two of the most rotted teeth from her mouth. These are not my decisions to make, I can only see that her teeth are brushed, and then only when I'm here.

    More than anything I want to walk away, go home and never come back here again. Instead I clean, sort, wash and sweep.

    I make everything nice again, on the surface anyway. I will keep it this way until Thursday when her family takes over her care. When her daughter stays and cooks and cares for her mother. When take out food is ordered and left out all weekend knowing I will clean it up on Monday.

    She shouldn't be in this house, she should be somewhere where they will keep her clean all the time, make sure she takes all her medication, where there will be different people to care for her so one person doesn't burn out. Every Monday I think I will call Senior Services, and every Monday I make another excuse not to. All of these excuses have to do with me and money for myself and family. Few are about her.

    I don't think about this place while I am with my own family. I look for other jobs, in fields I love, and worry what message I am giving to my children when I tell them to go out and pursue their dreams while I am working this dreadful job.

    I think I am a coward.
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