The Caregiver

I don’t know if anyone on here has ever had interactions with this woman, but I can’t seem to get her out of my mind. This isn’t any ordinary woman, and no, I’m not referring to her like that because I am romantically interested in her. She was a caregiver for me two decades ago when I was but a child, but since I last saw her, everything she had fell into decay. She lived out on a ranch and lived in a ranch home and would care for me and a few other children while our parents were away. She was an important person in my life and sometimes around Halloween I would see her come by my house with her grandchildren and they would ask for candy. But I had not seen her in many years and was curious recently as to her whereabouts.

I decided to make the short fifteen-minute drive down to her estate from my house and went to go and see what became of that old house. I saw a new color of paint had been painted over the exterior of the house and that there was a metal trailer out in the driveway. It was unusual to me driving up to a large yellow ranch house rather than the pink one I use to arrive at when I was with my mother. I only ever went there during the summer, but the summers I was there were the best. I looked out at the old ranch and remember having so much fun out there amongst the dirt and rock, running around and being free. I remember her husband working day in and day out on renovating old muscle cars and selling them. I remember sometimes going to help him. This was a fair portion of my childhood and I wanted to pay her a visit the year before I head off to medical school.

I pulled up in the long driveway and got out to go and knock on the front door. I noticed as I was walking to the front door that there had been a small garden made of pots full of vegetables that had never been there. I thought the sight was peculiar but didn’t think much else of it. I arrived at the front door and knocked. I saw a young woman arrive at the front door, but it was no one related to my caregiver, nor anyone I recognized. She asked for my information and I told her my name and asked where my old caregiver was by name. All she did was point at the trailer in a rather angry and dismissive tone and told me “The old bag is in there. We’ve been leasing this house for three years and she hasn’t left. She’s in that trailer over there. Please leave me and my family alone.”

The young woman slammed the door in my face and left me rather bewildered as to her reaction when I asked about my old caregiver. Ultimately unfazed, I decided to go and knock on the trailer instead, hoping to be met with a more positive response. I was actually met by my caregiver, but the state I found her in was all but pleasant. She was in what appeared to be weeks old clothing, holding what appeared to me to be a starving infant in her left arm and her right arm… her right arm was disturbingly hanging out of its socket by some sinew and staples that she had attached to the left bicep to keep it attached to her side. When she swung around to greet me at the door, a yellowed but exposed humerus bone inside of her left arm was showing. It was the color of pasty yellow and looked to be infected. I was in disbelief as to the state I found her in.

“Oh! It’s so good to see you! It has been such a long time since I’ve had any visitors.” Her entire body seemed to be rotting right in front of me.

“Yes, hi! I’m looking for a Mrs. Nichole Blankenship.”

“You found her! Yes, it’s me!”

This was disturbing to me. The same woman who was my caregiver from nearly two decades ago was now standing before me nothing more than a collection of bones. Worse yet, she was holding a starving infant. I tried to think of any way I could help her, but I had to know what had brought her to this point. “What happened, Mrs. Blankenship? Why are you here instead of in your own home?” I asked this all the while trying not to eye her exposed humerus that was slightly protruding out of the infected hole.

“Oh. I started leasing my home after my husband passed. He was such a good man. Since then, I’ve been living out my days in here.” I could hardly call what she was experiencing and suffering through, day in and day out living.

“How long have you been like this?”

Her reply filled me with dread and concern. “Oh, I haven’t had food in a few days and junior over here hasn’t had much to eat today.” As she said this the baby began to cry and wail, but its cries were muffled and painful to hear. “Hey! I already told you, the last cookie is for me!”

Right as she said this, I heard the woman from inside the house open the door and shout at me. “Hey! I told you to leave! Get off of my property, now!”

My caregiver nearly lunged for me when she brought her face to mine. “It isn’t safe here. You need to leave now. Leave while you still can!”

My caregiver didn’t have to tell me twice as I hopped in my car and sped away as the same young woman who told me to leave brought out a shotgun and started shooting buckshot at my car. I made it out alive and well, but never understood why my caregiver was trapped there. So, I ended up making a police report and asking that a warrant be made to go and search that old trailer so that at least my caregiver would be freed from that tyrant who shot at me. But much to my dismay, the police reported back that there was no one there but a pile of old bones. They ended up arresting the young woman for resisting arrest and trying to shoot a few officers. As it turns out, they had locked away my caregiver inside of that trailer when she first tried to lease the house and leave it behind for good. They trapped her inside and stole her identity as they lived in the house off of her dollar and ran an at-home methamphetamine-making operation. All of this information was a lot to take in, but the first details of the report had me most concerned. She was never alive when I got there and had died three years prior due to starvation and being locked inside of that trailer. No other people from other ranch houses nearby heard her screams and cries for help and she died inside of that trailer, never having been found by anyone.

That was until I came searching that fateful day. Her family got into contact with me after the reports came out that the young woman who shot at me that fateful day was being put on trial along with her husband for first-degree murder and several other charges. They thanked me for having found their mother and grandmother inside of that trailer and bringing a close to the three-year mystery they’ve all had as to her whereabouts. No one thought to check the old metal trailer that she was in. The only thing I couldn’t get off of my mind was the image of her, holding a starving infant in one arm and her other arm being stapled to her side and her bones exposed. I thought perhaps maybe my mind made the image of her up, but I can’t help shaking the feeling that maybe that was her, but it was her spirit instead of her, a phantom of what and who she really was when she died. I suppose I did the right thing though in the end. I’m glad that my caregiver no longer has to worry about anyone else and can finally rest in peace. But this experience has taught me three things. One, always carry a phone around, two, always be suspicious of people, and three, which is most important, never be afraid to try and reach out for help, especially in a dying time of need.