Mrs. Zello’s Favorite Cuss Word

Midmorning, 1991. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kind of a cool day. I drive up to the single-story house, with the big window out front.

I get out of the car with my CNA bag, wearing my oversize, kind of rough-to-the-skin over-starched, dark blue linen uniform top, and ring the doorbell.

CNA means, “Certified Nursing Assistant.”

There was the lady of the house: heavyset, loud, and officious, with a Mrs. Doubtfire apron around her entire body, but also rather nice and gracious.

This was 25 years ago. Still, I won’t use her real name, but rather something similar.🤐

Heck with it: “Mrs. Zello.”

That was her real name. She was over seventy at the time, and if any of her relatives chance to read this by almost lottery-level unlikelihoods, there is nothing untoward here, and no identifying first names or details here, anyway.

Her name, for me, conjures memories from a quarter century ago.

Like Jello, except the last one ever made: Zello.

She welcomed me into the front living room, immediately there, and to the left was Mr. Zello, seated like a granite statue in his brown leather recliner, immovable except for a few irritated side-to-side struggling inches, in the side corner, to the right of the front window.

I don’t remember their first names, and I wouldn’t use them if I did, because of confidentiality, even separated by 25 years and about 1,000 miles. (But there is no distance on the Internet or with keyword indexing.)

I can still hear her voice, “Okay, eee-nuff of this bullshit, now!” She would shout this over and over, referring to her husband’s behavior, which was pretty much consisted of sitting there.

Her exact last name and that exact vulgarity, are very important to my memory of her, her husband, and my life at the time.

Saying “bullshit” over and over seemed to be her way of releasing stress. A comfort sometimes not even afforded by prayer, as Twain said.

She was a very proper woman, I think Roman Catholic, but with an Italian forthrightness that didn’t quite fit the way she looked.

Sometimes, there isn’t a whole lot to memories, other than the time and place that they index.

I’m sure you have many of these yourself.

Things that aren’t very important of themselves, but that allow you to remember people, places, situations, and vivid memories from the past.

This is one of those that knocks around in my memory, and has for many years.

I think the recent animated movie INSIDE OUT is a good example of how our minds and emotions really work, and why we are all often so unpredictable. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s worthwhile.

So, I did my job. TPR: temperature, pulse, respiration.

Mr. Zello looked like an even more rugged version of Ed Asner. Even more accurate, he looked almost exactly like the cartoon old man in UP, which I think was voiced by Asner. He was a very heavily built man, and all he could do was look around with wide eyes, grunting gruffly. Unable to speak. He had late-stage Parkinson’s.

I guess, realizing this right now, that there are two reasons why I remember this story.

One is the sense of caring and family that I felt while in their atmosphere.

Curtis Smale


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