“Jesus, it’s time to get up,” Nurse Billings said as she rapped firmly upon the door of a resident room in the Jennings County Care Facility. After a minute, she rapped again, louder. “Jesus. It is time for all good residents to be up and moving.”
Nurse Billings, Jenny, turned to me. “He’s cranky in the mornings.” Then she rapped on the door again, even louder and firmer now. “Jesus, I’m coming in if you don’t open the door.”
Behind the closed door a muffled voice grumbled, “I’m up. I’m up ya’ dang…” The rest was lost.
I was there to follow and observe Nurse Billings, as part of a project for my Human Relations class at the local community college. The assignment was to learn about one aspect of care giving and to write a 2,000 word essay. With permission from the County Care facility and a signed waiver, I had three mornings with Nurse Billings. She showed me how the residents lived, where they ate, how the meals were prepared with care for their varied specialized diets. She explained to me how the medications were dispensed. And she let me follow her daily routine – her rounds, I guess.
“Jesus,” she said again after a period of silence, “Are you up?”
The door flung open. “Yes. Yes. I’m up” the man inside was in his mid-50s, his thinning, grey hair slicked back against his scalp, except for a band of hair that flared up above his right ear. He was dressed in plaid boxer shorts, black socks and scuffed white tennis shoes. A distended gut, and the strangest outie-navel I’ve ever seen, hung over the elastic waistband of his undershorts. His saggy pectorals were pale and ring of thin, curly hairs ringed his neck. “I’m up. I’m going out for a smoke,” Jesus said as he started to push past Nurse Billings and me.
“Not like that you aren’t Jesus.” Nurse Billings stood at the door effectively blocking his way out. “You’re going to put on some pants, or a robe at least.”
“But,” Jesus said, his voice rising in pitch and volume, “You don’t understand. I didn’t sleep well. And the television didn’t work all night. Don’t you understand anything?”
“Yes, Jesus, I do understand. But you can’t go out in your underthings. If I leave you alone for a minute or two, will you be dressed?”
“No,” he said sullenly. “I didn’t sleep well.”
“If I give you five minutes will you be dressed?” Nurse Billings tried again.
“NO!” It wasn’t a scream, but nearly so.
“There’s no need for that, Jesus. I’ll give you five minutes to either put on pants or a robe. Your choice.” Nurse Billings pulled the door almost closed, leaving it open enough that it didn’t latch. Then she motioned me back a few steps. “We’ll give him five minutes, then I’ll go back in and help him put on his robe. It’s usually like this.”
“Why,” I asked curiously, “why do you call him He-soos? He doesn’t appear to be Hispanic.”
Nurse Billings smiled and laughed a short one syllable laugh that was almost a sigh. “Actually, we don’t really know his name. I call him, Jesus – not He-soos – some of the other nurses call him Mr. Man. He came in as a vagrant, a homeless transient. He was picked up by the police department and taken to the hospital. He was discharged from the hospital and brought here.”
“But why, ‘Jesus’?”
Nurse Billings said, “Because, one never knows where that carpenter will show up.”