When my grandmother had her stroke the very first day of 2008, we knew we would need additional help caring for her once she came home from the rehabilitation center, especially in the beginning, before we knew just how affected she was going to be.

My mom took to her circle of friends and began interviewing potential candidates by the busload.  There were plenty of people eager for work, though no one seemed to be the right fit for grandma and our family and they all appeared shocked when it came time for her to discuss pay.

Turned out my mom had put the decimal in the wrong place when advertising the hourly rate on the Help Wanted ad and apparently people actually believed they could get paid $125.00 per hour to serve someone a light lunch and check their blood pressure.*

Needless to say, we were getting desperate.

Also, grandma was getting hungry and really needed a bath.

Enter Josefina.

My mom found her through a friend of a neighbor’s uncle’s best friend who attended church at our local parish, which was good enough for her.  Honestly, by the time Josefina came around, we were ready to offer the job to anyone with a heartbeat, and even that was up for discussion.

So when Josefina arrived on a sunny Monday morning (it could have been a rainy Tuesday afternoon for all I remember, but stay with me), we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Then immediately told her to go scrub grandma down.  ASAP.

She’s been with us for over three years now.








Three years filled with broken dishes, busted vacuum cleaners, shrunken sweaters, bent silverware, bleach-spotted towels, missing deli meat, emptied juice jugs, and well, the list goes on and on.

When Andrew was hospitalized last December, I called on Josefina to come out and clean the house.   I didn’t want to have to worry about coming home exhausted to a dusty and dirty home.  She cleaned her little heart out, and when we arrived the next day, I was relieved that I had nothing to do but laundry.  I was especially pleased with her ability to declutter my living room; it had never looked as good as it did that day.   I opened up my shoe closet to put away my sneakers, and there, in a ginormous white trash bag, was all of my paperwork.  Magazines, bills, the kids’ school and art work; a big, smashed, crumpled pile of “holy crap.”

Dammit Josefina.

A few weeks ago, before a big family gathering, I called upon Josefina again, knowing by now that to do so is risky at best.  She scrubbed the patio floor, de-greased the top of my stove, and when I left to run a few errands, I felt somewhat confident that things were going well.  It wasn’t after I had returned she was already gone that I noticed the screen from the kitchen window was missing.  Turns out she had taken out a screwdriver and forcefully pulled out the screen, bending it beyond recognition, so that she could properly shine the window; because of course, that makes perfect sense.

Dammit Josefina.

By now you’re probably wondering why the hell we haven’t sued this woman for damages, let alone why we still keep her around.

Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s super hard to find someone who, despite breaking/dismantling/imploding things upon contact, is a kind, trustworthy, decent human being.  It’s even harder to find someone like that who’s willing to deal with a somewhat grumpy grandmother who’s been known to leave her teeth in places teeth just shouldn’t be left (if you know what I mean). Surprisingly, it’s not an in-demand kind of job, and Josefina does it better than most.

She is kind and loving, and when my boys celebrated their First Communion, she was far more generous in her gift giving than certain family members, despite NOT making $125.00/hour to keep track of those pesky teeth.

And to be quite honest, I’ve sort of gotten accustomed to the sound of something crashing/splitting in two/exploding, followed by her giant grin as she cocks her head to the side, shrugs her shoulders apologetically, and exclaims “SORRY!” in that cute little accent of hers.

So when she left today, after helping out for a couple of hours, and I realized that

my toilet wouldn’t flush

my clothes dryer wouldn’t turn

my mugs were put away ON TOP of my glasses

my bathroom scale was clear across the house, on top of a bookshelf

my sheets were washed with my rugs

and my internet was disconnected,

the only thing I could do was smile

and think

Dammit, Josefina.


*Okay, there may be more to the job description than that, which may or may not include cleaning hard to reach crevices, learning to speak fluent Polish, praying the rosary on demand, and denying grandma a second helping of dessert, which has been known to result in screaming, crying, and grave
bodily injury.  Grandma gets pretty upset too.


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3 Replies to “Dammit, Josefina!”

  1. I feel that way about my sister’s caretaker—they fight like crazy, but I trust and love her…and that’s saying a lot when it comes to in-home care.

  2. When I was 5 years old, my parents hired Clara to clean for us. She was so, umm, large that we had a strict chair rotation schedule to keep the chairs from busting to pieces. She always left a spoon in the nearly empty ice cream container (she was diabetic!!). Once, I came home from high school (with friends) and she had developed a faster way to do laundry. Instead of waiting for the dryer to finish, she spread wet clothes on every available piece of furniture in the house. It was a hot mess and ALL of it had to be re-washed…and I miss her. There is no telling what I would pay to have her come here for a day. Thanks for the memories.

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