Sunday, March 23, 2008

Number-Crunching Trudy

Who can forget the bedridden Bag Balm Betty?

Let us return to the nursing home in Michigan where (no longer my neighbor) Dan works, and get to know another of its quirky cast of characters. Number-Crunching Trudy’s tale is either heartbreaking, heartwarming, or simply a very good reason not to become an accountant.

Trudy’s real name is Yvonne. Nobody is sure how Yvonne became Trudy, but Trudy (once Yvonne) used to be an accountant. It's the only reason they can figure she only speaks in numbers. Not random numbers, but ordered numbers, and mainly the same four numbers: “96, 97, 98, 99.” She has an innate fear of the number 100, so as soon as she gets to 99, Trudy stops. And then re-starts at 96.

Dan says she’s there (somewhere), alert (sometimes) but she has to bumble through several stuttering sessions of counting before you can see her. Trudy is one of Dan’s favorite patients, despite the fact she mostly just stares him down, scorching him with her eyes in an evil glare.

“How are you today, Trudy?” He asks.
“96, 97, 98, 99,” she speaks, eyes ablaze.

The same succession of numbers is repeated at least three times until Dan interrupts her with another question. “Trudy, do you want a hug?” And then Trudy will answer. “Why would you want to hug me?”

At mealtime, Trudy annoys her peers, mumbling “96, 97, 98, 99” as she eats. An elderly bossy bitch named Margaret says “Shut up!” but Trudy continues unphased “96, 97, 98, 99” until another old woman shouts “You’re a dummy!” which wakes her up. “No, I’m not!”

Trudy has the odd moment of clarity, but when Dan looks for her at night, to change her and put her to bed, he most often finds her wandering the halls or in other peoples rooms spreading the numerical gospel. She roams so much Dan says its to ensure her ghost will haunt the hell out of those halls once she’s gone.

If he does find her in her room, Number-Crunching Trudy is staring at the window, counting the blinds. He needs to put her to bed but she just continues staring, continues counting. Except for once, recently, when he put her to bed and Trudy asked him if he would kiss her goodnight.

Sadly, she can’t take care of herself. Dan constantly has to remind her to eat, or to take sips of her drink. He spends extra time with Trudy and recently, they spent an afternoon speaking the same language. It was an incredible achievement, her personal record. Together they counted from the number 60 all the way to 129. Where she left off, he picked up and vice-versa.

Dan gives her a little extra attention because Trudy has no known relatives. She has never even had a visitor, which might explain the obsession. With nobody but the numbers, it's always tax-season for Trudy.


Dame Daxx said...

A lady in similar circumstances died at a nursing home in England a couple of months ago. Had never had a visitor, and no known friends or family.

Someone - I'm not sure who, perhaps the priest who buried her - decided to draw attention to it and notified the media. Despite being a fairly routine story, it drew considerable media coverage, plus a lot of follow-up features in newspapers. I think its a fear that a lot of us have. That we will depart unnoticed and unmissed.

Perhaps Trudy could amuse herself counting the folds on Bag Balm Betty's labia?

bufordog55 said...

I think she's really counting '96, '97, '98, '99, toward the year 2000. She knows that her system is not Y2K compliant and does not want to put all the ATMs in America off-line --- I say God Bless Trudy!

Mike said...

Sounds like a musical.