The Sad Tale of Captain Giblets

“Adult Day Care Director” is a title i could add to my resume without reservation.  For two years, i supervised a group of about 40 scientists and engineers, with additional legal oversight of another 50 on-site contractor personnel.   We spitefully lovingly referred to our group as “F-Troop“.  Except the fine dorkboys of F-Troop were more functional…

In our organization, we have no mandatory retirement age.  In fact, our legal eagles are so averse to doing work, that supervisors are forbidden from saying the “R” word to any employee.  Of any age.  The fear of age discrimination lawsuits also strikes terror in the human resources department, as they might actually have to [shudder] lift a finger to earn their pay.

And so it came to pass that i was responsible for the daily care and feeding of a 79 year old mathematician, JS.  Not a very good one, at that.  His contribution consisted of plugging data into computer programs and running “data fitting” routines.  The prior management team had worked hard at his annual performance evaluations – giving him direct feedback that he needed to up his contribution, or face corrective actions.  His response?  He took a pay cut.  Didn’t see that one coming…

If you asked him – sometimes even if you didn’t – he took delight* in telling anyone who would listen that the reason he continued to work was to avoid giving his ex-wife half his retirement pay.  Bitter?  You bet!  Not one of those charming, eccentric geriatrics – such as you’ll find at gimcrack hospital– JS was cranky and rude.

But what a work ethic!  Well, a “showing up for work” ethic, anyway…  A few years prior, when i was the team leader for his group, JS had a heart attack.  i was on a business trip three days later, and received a call from another supervisor in the complex – asking me why JS was at work.  Said he looked like a ghost, was wandering the hallways with a walking frame, and everyone was in fear that he was going to stroke out in the hallway.  Had to get back, and inform him that he couldn’t return to work without permission from his physician.  It was four weeks later before he was released for duty.

i always joked that JS would be showing up for work 10 years after he was dead.

When JS nearly rammed his car into a minivan, chock full of young family folk, we realized we needed to intervene and perhaps revoke his facility driving privileges.  He was 83 years old.  “What?”  said our human resources/legal department. “You can’t do that without consulting us, and everyone else who might be named in a lawsuit have interest in this matter.”  The young manager, ME,  serving as team leader for that group basically said “screw it” and called Mrs. JS to offer our services to shuttle him to/from work if needed to keep him off the roads…

We learned some interesting things from Mrs. JS. Through this phone call – which was a complete and total violation of organizational policy – we learned that JS had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Mrs. JS had been begging him not to drive, and to retire.  Not only that?  His ex-wife had absolutely no interest in his retirement pay.  Mrs. JS was in the process of getting legal guardianship, and would retire him immediately once that was accomplished.  Mrs. JS agreed to drive him to work daily until it was done.

A few days later, i received a call from ME around 8:30 in the morning.  Here’s the gist of it…

ME:  JS just had an accident in the hallway.  He has feces on his clothes.  He said he doesn’t need to go home – and wants to stay for your group meeting at 9:00.  Can i order him to go home?

daisyfae:…. i’ll be right there…

This broke my heart**.  Managed to get the situation resolved – again with a phone call to Mrs. JS in utter violation of policy.  When Dad first started chemotherapy, he’d had an accident in a Wal Mart, while shopping with Mom.  Except Dad was not suffering dementia – he knew just how undignified and sad it was.  JS was retrieved by Mrs. JS.  The group demonstrated great compassion, under the circumstance… but the call sign “Captain Giblets” stuck.  Well, at least among us more twisted folk…

Mrs. JS was granted legal guardianship, retirement papers happened, and they went off to live in a rural community, about 60 miles north, where Mrs. JS had a family support network to assist with his care.  Having moved on quickly to other personnel issues at hand, i hadn’t given JS much thought over the past couple years.

Until the note last week that JS had died, following a heart attack and stroke during the month of December, at 85 years old.  The memorial service set for this afternoon.  JS was to be cremated.  i had every intention of going – but an ice storm has made travel that far north, and that far out in the country, nearly impossible.  Mostly to hug Mrs. JS and wish her well.  But maybe… just to make sure he was really gone.

Rest In Peace, Captain Giblets.  Please…

time to stock up on shotgun shells...

Brains - half price in aisle four!

* “delight” is an overstatement.  More like “grim, tooth-spitting satisfaction”…

** And was also the exact moment when i decided that i’d never be a supervisor again.  Ever.

16 thoughts on “The Sad Tale of Captain Giblets

  1. OMG, girl, your organization must be a lot more tolerant than most in the US. I have been fired for a lot less. It is sad when folks can’t recognize what’s happening to them. And I daresay that Mrs. JS, after caring for this man for several years, will be only too happy to make sure he doesn’t come back.
    If I had to choose losing my body or my mind, I’d take body anyday.

  2. You have wonderful employers, really.

    Will had an accident while we were out at the mall once. I was so mad at him. Mostly because I was pushing him to wear adult protective gear and he was resisting because he was borderline with the dementia. He had it but he was still vaguely aware that what was happening to him, shouldn’t be.

    Living and caring for a demented spouse is … well… what it is.

  3. if i were you, i’d *still* keep a sharp eye around the office hallways to make sure he doesn’t come back to work…

    and i’m sure your HR people would **still** support his right to be there…

  4. silverstar – i’m not sure it’s as much tolerant, as it is “risk averse”. it was a sad situation… i’m not sure what’s worse – being aware, but stuck in a broken body, or just wandering off into an imaginary world. i know the dementia path has got to be worse on family and caregivers…

    KJ – Mrs. Giblets was a patient woman. About 20 years younger, i’m hoping she’s still got some fun ahead of her… he was a tenacious ol’ fart, that’s for sure.

    annie – it’s a fine line between “compassion” and “charity” in such a case. i was frustrated because we are not a charitable organization, and JS was encumbering a position that could have been filled with someone more productive. but there was compassion – particularly from the young boss, ME. Went with Mrs. JS to the guardianship hearing. Above and beyond the call of duty…

    gnukid – stocking up on shotgun shells and “zombie war” gear for the office…

    unbearable banishment – lunch. it was that simple. every day, a group of guys went out to lunch together – at 11:00 sharp. it was his social time, his “adult conversation” time and the highlight of his day. i never made it out with the “lunch bunch”, but stories abound of his rants about the darkness of humanity and the rottenness of modern society and how we’re all going to rot in the fires of hell… funny. i always had other plans…

  5. Well more older people still at work is going to be a reality here (in Oz), we dont have enough youngens to prop up the welfare system. Dam the young people not having babies any more.

  6. and then there was my french boss, who got fired, and turned up for work for 2 weeks afterwards, only to escorted from building by security every time. Hectic.

  7. Poor Captain Giblets! On the other hand, sounds like he was a bitter man we can learn from… Makes you wonder how long he’d been suffering from dementia before it was diagnosed, out there driving, wandering through grocery stores, making inappropriate comments.
    Yikes. Growing old sucks!

  8. Hey girl! I got nothing to say, except that I finally had a minute to check out your blog for a bit. Such a clever girl. Can’t wait to see ya!

  9. That’s an interesting tale daisyfae. I’m not sure what to think though.

    It’s becoming more and more commonplace in my field that there are smaller and smaller numbers of young people entering the field anymore. (It’s just not sexy enough, I guess.)

    Of course that translates to older workers being able to stay on the job longer and longer. Honestly, I thought it was odd to encounter a guy about 70 still working as a consultant while at my last employer. At the time he was more than twice my age.

    I can do my job but I do not love my job. When I am able to leave it I definitely will. And then I can do something that I like and want to do.

  10. alex – a little viagra in the water supply, perhaps?

    nursemyra – you can have mine. i’m not using them. sent them out to Beverly Hills for a little winter holiday.

    tNb – Yes. He should be toasted…. i hope that i’m never that nasty and crunchy…

    dolce – that’s a little creepy. “No, i still work here. Really…”

    pearl – Welcome to The Park! he’d been showing signs of confusion for many months… makes me very sad still when i think about it… but he could have easily hurt himself or someone else along the way.

    stanky-liciousness – gotta work my travel, but early Feb is a go!

    rob – i’m conflicted as well. if he were marginally productive? it would have been less challenging. he wasn’t doing much, did it poorly – and it wasn’t an integral part of the program. he was tying up a position, and eating limited salary funds. we are not a charitable organization. there are those who can still add value well into their 70’s – he was not one of them… i’m with you, though. i’m punching out at the first opportunity.

    alex – practice makes perfect!

    kyknoord – you do not have the market cornered on creepy, dysfunctional colleagues! got any zombies? huh?

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