Mr. Mendious was not the easiest man to care for. He had become a quadriplegic after being hit atop the head by a falling bail of hay while working on his small ranch in California.
About six months previous, I had gone into private duty nursing, I guess because the pay was much better and also because I felt that working in a family-style environment would be psychologically better for me, considering I had been raised in an orphanage. Certainly better than working in the cold, steel hospital setting that I was use to.
As the days, weeks and months passed, Mr. Mendious' attitude became colder and harder to deal with. I tried to be as understanding and compassionate as I possibly could. It hurt me very much to see his wife walk in his now separate bedroom every night at 8 p.m. and kiss him on the side of the face. He would just turn his head to the side and look away from her, as though she had not even come in the room at all. She would smile, pat his arm and then walk out of the bedroom.
Each day, I would come to the Mendious' home at 7 a.m. and work until 3 p.m., washing and exercising Mr. Mendious' arms and legs. I would then place him in his wheelchair and leave, returning again at 6 p.m. to feed him his supper, give him a sponge bath and put him back to bed. Then I would sit and watch television in their living room until 9 p.m., just in case he needed anything.
This one evening, I was told by Mrs. Mendious that a friend of theirs named Ben Johnson was coming to their home the next day. When I learned that Mr. Johnson was the same gentleman who had played on many television shows I had watched throughout the years, I was very excited.
The next morning, I was up early and headed out to the Mendious' home. When I arrived, I woke Mr. Mendious, fed him his breakfast, gave him his bath, dressed him and placed him in his wheelchair. I found it rather strange that he did not say a word to me at all that morning, but I thought maybe it might be because he was worried about his famous friend coming to see him and there he was paralyzed and sitting in a wheelchair.
I heard the doorbell ring and then someone knock on the front door. As the door opened, I heard Mr. Johnson speak to Mrs. Mendious as he entered the front room. It was he all right. I would recognize that voice anywhere. I turned Mr. Mendious around and headed through the kitchen toward the living room.
As we rounded the corner and entered the large living room, Mr. Johnson stood up and said, "Hey Manuel."
He immediately walked over and stopped in front of us. He reached out and took Mr. Mendious' limp hand in his and shook it gently. Then Mr. Johnson looked up at me and smiled.
"It's a great honor to meet you, Mr. Johnson," I said as I stuck out my hand.
Before Mr. Johnson could shake my hand, Mr. Mendious yelled out, "Ben, this is the overpaid bastard that washes my balls everyday."
Everything became quiet and no one moved. I let go of the wheelchair with my left hand and headed toward the front door of the mobile home.
"Roger, please stay. I'm sorry!" yelled Mrs. Mendious.
I walked out the door, down the carpeted porch, down the stairs and never looked back. I never returned, ever again
That was the last day I ever worked in nursing. About a year later, I ran into another male nurse who had worked for the Mendious family several months earlier. He told me that Mr. Mendious was in and out of the hospital, and he had bedsores so large and so deep that you could actually see his bones through his backside.
Yes, I guess I was a very good nurse and very good at washing ‘private parts.’ Doing a good job and doing it right meant something very special to me. Let there be no bones about that.