Paulette and I did not speak to each other until the following Friday morning when she came to my room and asked me to come to her office when I was out and about. Why would she want to meet out of he blue four days after an encounter which well established neither of us had anything to say to the other? There was no way to tell beyond the history of Friday meetings usually ending with bad news. But those had always been during the afternoon. What was with setting this one up as early as possible? I assumed it still would not be good.
I was not thrilled with the idea of going. Who needed more negativity to stew over for a second consecutive weekend? I had the right to refuse. I considered exercising the right, but with a sigh, I decided to go see her mid-morning. My CNA, Ticia, came to check on me as I was tying my shoes. She asked where I was going. She knew about my two previous encounters with Paulette.
“Paulette wants to see me. I don't know if she is gong to be the Warden or the Plumber this time around.”
Ticia laughed. She knew exactly what I meant.
Soon, I made my way around the corners to the hallway on which Paulette's office was located. I ran right up o her pushing a wheelchair bound resident to her room.
“Are you coming to see me?” she asked. She must have been aware I toyed with the idea of refusing to meet with her. Morbid curiosity had taken over by this point. She was making sure I was on the hook. It looked like she was ready to drop this other resident before I could change my mind.
“Yes,” I said without an ounce of enthusiasm.
“All right. Go on into my office. I'll be there in a minute. I have to drop her off.” Paulette tipped her head downward to indicate the lady she had been pushing along. The lady had not given and did not any indication she was aware of her surroundings. Not unusual for Oakhaven residents. Sad reality, that.
I did not say anything myself. I just continued on towards Paulette's office. I sat in one of the two chairs in front her desk and waited. She arrived after about five minutes of my fidgeting alone in anticipation. I wondered if I was going to need an Ativan afterward? The agitation resulting from the previous Friday's meeting merited one. I was certain my pulse and blood pressure had shot through the roof. But I did not ask for one. Hopefully, I could avoid medication again this time around. She sat down, so here we went.
“I think it's pretty clear that you have a problem with me, and it's interfering with our ability to work together. So I thought we could meet to talk about it. This is my idea. I haven't talked to Brock or anybody else about it,” she told me.
Mentioning Brock knew nothing about this meeting raised a red flag. There was nothing that went on at Oakhaven Brock did not know about. If she ever found out something like this meeting had happened, she would assume she had been the topic of conversation, and there would be hell to pay for any staff involved. So, yeah. Brock knew about this meeting. Whether the out of the blue nature of it meant the meeting was prompted by Brock or Paulette's fear of making Brock anger meant informing her of everything about it now, and was going to get the lowdown once it was over. Weird but true.
I was a bit shocked Paulette wanted to discover the source of my animosity for her when I had made it clear back in January the day after the Caligula incident—she was an awful social worker. Maybe she thought I had been in the throes of high emotion back then, so I did not mean it. Or maybe she simply gave it no thought whatsoever. She could be awfully callous. Recent events had certainly demonstrated her capacity to dismiss serious problems with which she had no interest in dealing. I guess we would have to go over the issue again.
“Yes, I do have a problem with you. You are not my advocate, particularly when my best interests go against what Brock wants,' I said.
“Okay,' she said slowly. “Can you elaborate?”
“Caligula. You ignored every concern I had about him and his violent, unpredictable behavior. He expressed dark fantasies about being stabbed with a knife. He grabbed Ashley and Courtney and requested sex acts from them. You couldn't even tell him he was moving to a new room for him grabbing at your breasts!” I told her.
She sat in what I could only describe as stunned silence when I stopped to let her comment. I aised my back turned left hand and mouthed 'Well?” to prompt her to say something. To say anything.
“I'm absorbing what you're saying,” she finally said.
“You just plain didn't care. You called m into your office the next day, but you didn't mention a word about it. No 'I'm sorry, Jamie.' No 'Are you okay, Jamie?' nothing. You don't even have to be the social worker for that. That's just basic decency. The handyman asked me if I was okay, but you didn't even when I was sitting right in front of you!” I told her.
I stopped to let her respond. Thinking about the whole Caligula affair again was making me angry. Paulette's previous refusal to say anything made me angrier still. We had three heated discussions at this point. They all degenerated into arguments. Surely this one would, too. So we could get it all out there. Raw emotions did begin to gush from Paulette, but not like I expected.
She burst into tears.
Not just crying, but an inconsolable torrent of tears mixed in with nearly incoherent, but brutally honest rambling. The only thing I could compare it to was a confession of sins from an emotionally devastated, lonely child. I looked down at the floor when I saw her reach from a box of tissues. I scratched the back of my neck, which I have been told is a nervous habit when I am feeling intense anxiety. I had hoped she would compose herself. She did not.
Paulette apologized for failing me. She assured me she had objected to the idea of rooming me with Caligula, but did not scream and shout over it. She said she had been fired from a previous job for forceful advocacy of that sort. She was confessing she sold me out to protect her job security. I had to hand it to her for being so honest about her motivations. Most people would have spun an admission like they to make themselves look good. But then she turned things more personal. She told me she knew I had better relationships with others at Oakhaven, but thought we had a bond. Her train of thought troubled me. Maybe I was reading her wrong, but I interpreted her as saying in the name of friendship, I was expected to sympathize with need to sometimes screw me over for the sake of her job security.
I had a difficult time with this line of thought. In the legal profession, I was trained to separate my personal feelings from my professional obligations. A good working relationship with a client is not and should never be a friendship. Emotional attachments should not exist. I assumed social work was similar, particularly considering the vile type of people often run across in both professions. I needed a professional relationship, not a friendship. Paulette named two people in particular—Ellen and Marlie—as close friends. This was true. However, Ellen and I did not socialize until after I was out of occupational therapy and Marlie was the healthcare planner with whom contact was exclusively social. Neither of these two were current, continued advocates. Paulette was, and I needed to push her in that direction away from the personal.
“Paulette, this is a matter of professional advocacy, not bonding. What I need for you to do is properly your job. When I asked who had made the decision about Caligula, you refused to tell me. Something DHEC said you cannot do. You more more interested in covering yourself than full disclosure for me.”
“Brock and Nicole [T] made the decision. It was sloppy,” she blurted out.
I was taken aback on two levels. For one, I had not expected her to tell anything. She certainly had not been keen on exposing the higher ups in the past. For the other...Nicole T. I had been given the heads up the day after the Caligula incident it was Brock and Kendra, the latter probably motivated by my less than favorable response to her 'We are not here to baby you” declaration when I asked why the sitters were being moved across the hall. It was not a big deal at this point, but interesting never the less.
“Sloppy is a bit of an understatement, but whatever,” I said. 'What abbot Denise?”
“You blame me for you not having a relationship with your sister?”
“No. You made promises you had no intentions of keeping. You said you would be aggressive in making contact with her.”
“I tried everything I could!” Paulette snapped.
“You said you would go to her office, if necessary,” I reminded her.
“I thought that would be too aggressive.”
“With the prospect of rotting away in a nursing home the rest of my life, I don't think being there to hand her a towel as she steps out of the shower is too aggressive. Remember, you said you'd call Gerald Malloy, then didn't want to do that, either.”
“I ultimately called him!”
“I practically had to yell at you to do so.”
“Nothing came of it,” she pointed out.
“You didn't know that would be the case until you tried. You were even going to do that,” I immediately retorted. It was becoming obvious our relationship on the social worker/resident was not working on the professional level, either. I knew that already, which is why I always went to other people rather than Paulette. I was beginning to wonder how to exit this mess, though. We could go back and forth with accusations and defenses all day with neither budging. The heart of the matter was Paulette hid behind obligations to Oakhaven as an excuse to not advocate. Understanding, I shrugged and circumvented her for help from other people. Maybe she did not like me doing that, it could not be helped. I guess she noticed we were going in circles.
“You keep pointing out what I've done wrong, but you're not saying whether we can work amicably from now on,” she said.
Paulette opened the door I needed. I quietly said “Fine” and headed out of her office the first instant it was polite to do so. Nothing was going to change other than she would get off my back while. After confiding in Ellen, I was assured I could address issues with anyone I wanted, thereby circumventing Paulette. I had already been doing so, but at least it was not legitimized on some level. The weirdest thing was Paulette wanted to play Words with friends again. She claimed resigning our game was an accident, but I would never believe that was true. She is right. I did not believe it. But I agreed to play again. Maybe a continuing game would be enough to maintain her idea of a bond.