The audible sigh of relief from corporate/Oakhaven faded into a silence from the Tuesday I talked to Michelle to the following Friday when an opportunity fell into my lap—Sonya showed up to Oakhaven. She was on a routine stop in her capacity as Chief Clinical Officer of Wilson Senior Care. It was not the first time I had seen her working at Oakhaven since this whole mess began. But in all those previous times—three or four, I imagine—she steered clear of me in opportunities when she would previously have greeted me. Keep in mind we chatted friendly in the past about writing, movies we enjoyed, etc. so I am talking about a genuine odd snubbing. Considering what I was about to do, giving me a wide berth might have been a wise thing to do. Hindsight is 20/20, folks.
On this Friday, Sonya was using the Wet Wing nurses' desk for paperwork. As our custom for a month now, we avoided one another as I walked by the desk. I requested to speak with her via Chrystal on two occasions with no results. I was not expecting Sonya to honor my request, either. Chrystal had been the sacrificial lamb corporate sent as emissary since placing me with sitting and plotting my exit. It was clear to me Sonya was not interested in entertaining any questions I had about this whole mess. As I was labeled aggressive and badgering, wisdom said for me to not to take the initiative.
Jennifer, one of my favorite nurses, was sitting at the opposite end of the desk. She greeted me and we chatted for a few minutes. Inevitable, the subject of the assisted living facility popped up. Unexpectedly, Sonya interjected into the conversation, “It's a nice place.”
These were the first words she had spoken to me since December 29th. We were now in early February. Between then, I had only received two faux smiles from here. One was the fake sympathetic look as she shoved me out the door after presenting the official visitation rule I was objecting two in the first place as a special compromise. The second was as she held the door for me to leave the conference meeting at which corporate/Oakhaven was advised they would be fined for improper discharge if they pursued their current action, and the whole threats on Facebook accusation was unfounded. So...surprise.
Jennifer an I chatted a few more minutes, but my mind was squarely on Sonya. I walked away from the desk, turned around, walked towards the desk, and turned around again before committing to approaching her. Jennifer later told me she watched me go through the whole Marx brothers routine and wondered if she should ask if anything was wrong. I was internally debating the wisdom of talking to Sonya. It was made clear to me no one wanted to discuss anything other than my quiet departure and any attempts to do otherwise would contribute to the fiction I was a sociopath or psychopath or whatever they wanted to label me this week. But Sonya had opened the door. Opportunist that I am, jammed my foot in before she could close it.
“Sonya, do you mind if we talk for a minute?' I asked.
“Uh...sure.” Judging by her tone and expression, she regretted speaking to me in the first place.
“Oh, good. I've asked to speak with you a couple times, but it has never happened.”
“Really/ no one told me you wanted to see me,” she said.
“An innocent oversight, I'm sure,” I said as I followed her into a more private office off to the side of the nurses' desk. I use the term private loosely. For whatever reason, she opted not to go to the unit supervisor's office directly across the hall which had a door on it that could be closed unlike the one we were in. Or maybe it was not a poor choice from her perspective. Who knows what was running through her mind.
Before I relay our conversation, keep several things in mind. One, I was not expecting anything to come out of the meeting. I wanted to voice my objections to the way I had been treated. Two, Sonya is a terrible liar. When she is not telling the truth, she cannot look you in the eye and she shakes her head in an exaggerated manner as if to overcompensate for the absurdity of what she is attempting to pass off as valid. Finally, Sonya was part of the legal team. She had been an expert witness many times in the past, which baffled me considering the second thing I requested you keep in mind. Frankly, I just wanted to cross examine her myself out of personal curiosity. Which one of us was better?
“I was curious why, if I already agreed to be discharged, was I personally attacked?” I asked after we sat across from each other. I made certain to look her directly in eyes knowing they were the key to gauging her honesty.
“I don't know why they attacked you,” she said.
“'They?'” I asked, noting she was attempting to separate herself from what were certainly unknown, but nefarious forces with whom she had no association. “The allegations are the corporate position?”
She nodded yes.
“You are the Chief Clinical Officer?” I asked.
She nodded ye again.
“To my knowledge, you have not disavowed any of the accusations from corporate. As a representative of corporate, they are your positions as well.”
Sonya did not respond. This was the pattern for most of the conversation. She rarely gave anything more than yes or no answers. Often, she only nodded yes or no with those. She was clearly nervous, and grew angrier as time went on, although she tried not to show it.
“Well, here is the problem,” I began. “i even asked Chrystal point blank why no one was interested in just asking me what I meant by these Facebook posts, and her response was she would bring it up to you. I marveled the idea of actually talking to a resident is such a novel idea, it has to be brought to corporate's attention as a possibility. But you were not interested in clearing anything up. You did not even want me at the conference. Why not?”
“It was your right to be there,” she answered in one of the few sentences she offered.
"I know, but Lofe complained to Michelle you were not planning for me to be there. Was there something you did not want me to hear or respond to?' I asked.
Silence on her part. I continued.
“These accusations are pretty wild. You have accused me of making coded death threats. I mean...who decided Humpty Dumpty was Brock?” I asked.
“I don't know who came up with that.”
This was definitely a lie. Sonya herself claimed to Marlie the legal team had interpreted Humpty Dumpty to mean Brock. She had also gone to Dr. Lillyl's office with a lawyer to present the claim to him. I still have not determined to this day whether she genuinely believed the claim and was avoiding responsibility or realized just how stupid the assertion was in the first place.
“It was a joke from a Farside comic strip, by the way. I gave a copy to Michelle as proof. These are very serious accusations, and they were used for an improper—that is to say, illegal—discharge. I have to end my healthcare and move out because of them. They have caused me actual damages. I have been both slandered and defamed unless you can prove these claims are valid.”
Again, she did not say anything. But judging my her pained facial expressions, she was becoming angry. It is no surprise she shows no concern for anything until I mention the possibility of suing for damages. Money was the only language the '”caregivers” at Wilson Senior care/Oakhaven spoke.
“What go me the most is the accusation I hate my sister and am projecting the hatred onto Brock. In spite of it all, Denise is family, and I love her as family.”
“I think Brock is the only on who is saying that,” Sonya offered.
I struggled mightily to remain stoic. I had just hinted at suing over these false accusations, and Sonya immediately offered up Brock as the target for a potential suit. Brock's mother had married both a retired vaudeville singing cowboy and a wealthy lawyer/politician. Brock was the beneficiary of their respective estates. It sounded to me as though Sonya was saying, 'here...Brock has money! Make her sing “Happy Trails” to her bank account, not ours!”
But I held it together. “Brock needs to knock it off.”
“I'll tell her to stop,” Sonya offered. By throwing me a bone, she hoped she could get off the hot seat. “I think you are confusing things said at the conference with things I’ve said.”
“I disagree. I do not think I am confused about anything, but we can shift gears if you wish. Why were my emails considered aggressive and badgering?”
“It was your right to email.”
“I know. Furthermore, I was emailing copies of my side of events so you could prepare a defense. You are a member of the legal team. You understand discovery. Every side has to have the same information. I was doing you a favor. I did not have to do that, and you kicked me in the ribs for it. Well, I have stopped now. You will just have to guess what I am telling Michelle and DHEC.”
“Again, I think you are blaming me for things others have said,' Sonya retorted.
“The emails presented at the conference were all from your account. They were cherry picked, as well. For instance, you did not include the one in which I said you had lied and presented the handbook rule as a compromise. It is kind of surprising if you are trying to prove I am aggressive and badgering, you would surely include the one email in which I was arguable aggressive and badgering. I assumed it was an oversight on your part, so I took the liberty of sending all our correspondence from my inbox.”
Sonya decried she was going to wrap this conversation up now that focus was inarguable on her. She backed her chair away from me and said,' “we respect you and want you to be happy.” As you might guess, she was not looking at me and her head was shaking adamantly side to side.
“No, you do not on either count, and I do not believe a word you have said here,” I said. The conversation was definitely over. I waited a few seconds politely expecting her to leave first, but she stayed seated. I figured she was a modern woman, and got up to leave. Oddly enough, she remained seated. She must have been furious. She was not even going to walk me to the doorway. “Remember to tell Brock to stop lying about my sister and me.”
“I'll tell her,” Sonya said.
I left without another word.
Was engaging this conversation a wise thing to do? No, but it was my right, and I had nothing to lose with it. Al eyes from regulatory agencies were on Oakhaven at this point for not only me, but several other incidents of abuse. It was a way of cleaning out some emotional baggage to one of the people most responsible for the baggage in the first place. If Sonya truly respected me and wanted me to be happy, she should have been open to doing me the favor.