OMAHA, Neb. – 86 year old Gerald Bertrand is happily spending his last remaining days on
earth at the
shitty life he once lived.
A retired steelworker after 35 years of mind-numbing,
soul-crushing work, Gerald had been spending his days in a drunken stupor
outside his dilapidated, rat infested, rent controlled apartment in the
projects, swearing at passersby and shooting neighborhood squirrels with an old
BB gun. Two months ago, Alzheimer’s hit him and in an instant wiped away a
lifetime of hatred, vitriol, bad choices and self-loathing.
A former neighbor, Constance McGovern thinks it’s for the
best. “It’s a good thing, really. Jerry led such an unbelievably rotten life.
He was lousy at everything accomplished nothing. He hated everybody and
everybody hated him back. And he smelled like a septic tank.”
In his earlier years, Bertrand took a job at the steel mill
to marrying a one night fling named Samantha once he knocked her up. A local
scandal erupted when Samantha’s pregnancy came to term and the baby was black.
Bertrand hung out with his friends from college well into his forties shooting
cans in the field next to his trailer park.
Police records show a pattern of alcoholism and domestic
abuse: Gerald was arrested 15 times over a period of 7 years for DUI’s and complaints
of wife battering. Samantha divorced him
12 years after the birth of their first child and received all his assets in
the court settlement. By all accounts, Gerald’s work had left him nothing but a
hollow shell. He lost his job at the steel mill 6 months before his retirement
pension for coming to work drunk, swearing at the foreman and urinating on the
heavy machinery. He blamed everyone but himself.
Bertrand, who used to be what his former neighbors called a
“lousy stinkin’ jerk”, a “useless heap of junk”, a “bitter, fuckin’ waste of
flesh and bones”, is now all smiles. He acts docile and sweet, content to sit
in a comfortable Laz-E-Boy in the retirement home rec room and stare at shiny
things. He compliments passersby up to seven or eight times in a row without
Bertrand seems oblivious and even euphoric and has become a
favorite of the Shady Oaks staff. "That’s shiny. I like cheese. When is Gwen coming back? She’s so pretty," says Bertrand. According to some nurses, the elderly ladies
in nearby rooms have even taken a liking to him. “He’s just so happy. Simple
things like a bowl of Fruit Loops bring a smile to his face. He’s like a sweet,
sweet child,” say one nurse named Cynthia.
“These are the best days of his life,” says Constance.
“Alzheimer’s is the best thing to ever happen to him. Now he can enjoy the
remaining days of what used to be a truly wretched, appalling, shitty life.”