The Homesick Minivan With Justin Grimbol: Angry Old Men
THE HOMESICK MINIVAN
I work as a Home Health Aid. I visit old people in their homes and help them with daily tasks, like cooking and cleaning and bathing. This can be awkward, because as soon as the clients and their family see me and how sloppy I look, they know I am not any good at any of these life skills. I look like a stray dog. Not a professional. I’m surprised people don’t complain.
The agency I work for gives me the clients that are considered difficult. They are usually men with bad tempers. They yell and curse too much. Some people respond to anger and cursing like its pornography. I’m very suspicious of people who are like this. I find these old men endearing. I love their easy anger. And their cursing.
Recently the agency sent me to a guy living in Burtonsville, VT. This man had a real knack for cursing. He told me he was originally, which meant he was not a Vermonter. I am also from Long Island. I had migrated to Vermont for college and got attached to all the syrupy hippy women, the muddy roads, and the diners.
“You ever miss Long Island?” I asked.
“Too crowded right?”
“I don’t like that kind bull shit.”
“You like Vermont?”
He waved his middle finger around and mumbled something that involved a lot of curse words.
“Why did you move here?”
“A fucking woman,” he said.
Then he laughed.
“So what do you need help with today?” I asked.
“I don’t fucking know.”
“You got any laundry?”
“Fuck laundry,” he said. “I don’t care about that shit.”
I asked him if he wanted me to make him something for lunch.
“Fuck no,” he said.
He pulled out a large hunting knife and cut open a box of cookies and ate a few.
I sat down and relaxed. His apartment was barren. There was nothing on the walls. Just a large window.
“You got a nice view here,” I said. “Look at all those fucking trees out there and that creek. It’s beautiful.”
“It is,” he said. “It’s very good.”
He offered me a cookie. I told him I was on a diet.
After some light cleaning, I headed home. It was snowing so I had to drive slowly.
I kept thinking about his cookies and how badly I wanted to dip those cookies in coffee and eat them until I grew stretch marks.
My grandma used to have cookies like that. She kept them in a round tin. I miss my grandmother terribly, even though she hated cursing. She especially hated curse words that referred to sex. She also hated cold weather. And she hated money. “The rich keep getting richer,” she would say. “And the poor keep getting poorer.” I’m glad she did not live to see a Trump presidency. The perfect storm of money, greed, and foul language I’ve ever seen.
Towards the end of her life, my grandmother had become bitter and worn down from being blind, living in federal housing, and having her husband die so slowly and so sloppily.
“You can’t tell me this life is blessed,” she’d say. She would bitch about things and drink Miller High Life with me. She wasn’t a drinker. But during my visits, she would allow herself a few beers. Sometimes she’d even curse and laugh. When I was little, she was a lot of fun. She’d give me gum drops and twizzlers and soda. Sometimes she’d get really goofy and start singing to me in Danish. And I would dance naked and giggling like I was being tickled by hundreds of guppy-sized ghosts.
As I drove through the messy Vermont roads, I thought about my grandmother and I missed her and I wondered why I cursed in front of her so much. I felt bad about being so bratty and rude.
Eventually I got home. My driveway was too steep and slippery so I parked at the bottom and had to walk up to my cabin. I was surprised to see that way my wife and dog were outside. She was sitting in a rocking chair we had left out all winter.
“Hey baby,” she said. “Can you believe this weather? When is spring going to get here?”
“I know,” I said. “It’s lousy.”
“No, it’s not actually that bad. I mean it’s snowing like a motherfucker. But it’s not that bad.”