When Seth was born I had a baby nurse. It was what we did in the 70’s. She came two weeks before he was born and then, because he was three weeks late, stayed for five weeks. Her name was Nana Scher. She had been baby nurse to many of my cousins and came highly recommended. She cooked and cleaned, stayed up all night with Seth and made sure the household ran smoothly. She was from Germany and uncompromising in the way things were done. Nana Scher believed the baby had to eat, sleep, and play, but only at appointed times. I remember sneaking in to Seth’s room at an unappointed time, carefully lifting him out of the crib, and quietly taking him back into my bed so we could play. Well, when Nana discovered that he was missing from his bed she flew around the house conducting a most vigorous search. I was terrified that she would discover my violation of the rules, so I hid Seth under the sheets. Just think about that scene. She was angry, but we recovered in time for her to make her flight back to Germany. When Jordan was born we thought we should have an au pair—anticipating my return to whatever work I was intending to do. We put an ad in the newspaper in Salt Lake City and expected to find a nice young woman from a Morman family who would not be able to proselytize a two week old. She seemed sweet enough until we all went to the beach for a few weeks where she got very drunk and we discovered that she only changed Jordan’s diapers on rare occasions. We sent her home and found a wonderful young woman who came from Morocco stayed with us until her aunt threatened to send her home unless she married her cousin. Latifa fled to Canada. Then we found Maria. We put an ad in the paper for a housekeeper instead of an au pair. It had occurred to me that I could take care of Jordan if I had someone to take care of me. Maria answered our ad and was the only person we interviewed (out of about 20 women) who paid any attention to Jordan. Maria actually held her while we talked. I hired her immediately, moved her in, got her kids into school, started her immigration stuff, gave her driving lessons and, she has been a part of our lives since 1986.
When we moved to NJ she found another full time job so when we came back, Jordan then in 6th grade, we called the Au Pair America organization and found a Swiss girl who hated me, pretty much from day one. She loved David and Jordan but she despised me. So we traded her in for Edwige from France. Were we lucky. Edwige, who immediately became part of our family, has since married an American, gotten her green card, had a baby and is now pregnant again. We adore Edwige, her husband Chris, and beautiful Adrienne Louise, who David calls Addy Lou. She is like our grandchild and we couldn’t love her anymore if she were Seth’s or Jordan’s.
A few weeks ago, after too many frightening episodes, we told my mom that she either had to move or we would find someone to live in her home as a companion. I put ads in the local newspapers and searched the local Jewish agencies and papers. But when asked to describe our needs, I didn’t know what to say. My mom is an active senior who remains independent but shouldn’t be driving or running up and down the basement stairs in order to do laundry. She needs someone to monitor her medication and play cards. How to you say that in an ad. How do you describe that job? We interviewed a number of people who seemed suitable and I realized that I was having the same conversation I did in 1986. My mom didn’t need a nurse or a caretaker she needed an au pair. At one time the US government gave a J-1 visa for au pairs to take care of seniors as well as children. It was discontinued after the Clinton Administration either because the new administration didn’t have parents, didn’t understand the needs of seniors or old Republicans are in a better place financially and can afford to pay for agency help or golf communities. In any case, it is as tough to find someone to care for your parent as it was to find someone to care for your child. We hired a woman from Lithuania with a green card who was loving and competent and kind – not cheap. But after the first week she got pneumonia and because she has no health care insurance she may have to leave the country—that’s another blob. We are in week two and have found another person we pray will work out. When I spoke to mom yesterday they seemed to be having a nice time. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they continue to play nicely. It seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Tuna or peanut butter and jelly? We’re just sayin…