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.