When Brenda arrived at the old triple-decker house she went straight to the back door. She was there to see Mrs. Angelo, but Sonny, the nephew who lived upstairs had to meet her. He looked like he sounded on the phone, muscle shirt with muscles to match, lots of rings, edgy. It couldn’t be easy for him to look after a frail and demanding aunt.
“She never lets anyone in unless they’re family,” Sonny explained.
Mrs. A. was not pleased to see a nurse at her door. It took some doing to get her to agree to a blood pressure check, and unfortunately there was yelling-
“If you don’t let the nurse take care of you I’ll have to put you in a nursing home!”
“What did I ever do to deserve a nephew like this? God, take me now!”
Mrs. A. got so worked up she forgot her walker and paced briskly around her tiny apartment, with good balance as Brenda duly noted. She grabbed a mason jar of something off her pantry shelf and declared that she would eat it.
“You can’t eat that!” Sonny cried, “You’ll get food poisoning.”
“Better than living with this excuse for a family!” Mrs. A. shouted back, in between mouthfuls of preserved something.
Brenda didn’t know what to do. Her agency had no policy on snatching food from the elderly, and her instincts told her that the old woman had been eating her home canning since the Great Depression and was clearly still alive. So she did nothing.
Which turned out to be the right call, Mrs. A. is still with us.
Sonny, may he rest in peace, was not so fortunate. After having a home-cooked dinner with the woman he was planning to dump for a girl he met at Hooters, he was suddenly stricken and died. Some suspected he was taking more than vitamins at the gym, but no one was ever charged. The official cause was sudden heart failure.
Mrs. Angelo, standing in the receiving line at the wake looked tragic and regal. Black had always been her color.