Sabrina seemed a bit preoccupied that morning some years ago. I watched for a while, then asked, “You seem to have something on your mind.”
“I hired a lady to help straighten up the animal room, and she’s coming today.”
That I could understand. After the months of frenetic activity rehabbing wild critters, the winter months are a welcome respite for her. “So, if you’re going to have help straightening up the room, I would have thought you’d be more relaxed, knowing help is coming, than if you were going to do it yourself.”
“You don’t understand, Gahv, I’ve got to get in there before she gets here. I don’t want her to see the mess.” This is one of those comments all women understand, but you could search the planet over and find not the first man who did.
“Sooo… you’ve hired someone to clean up, and you don’t want her to see the mess…? Do I get it?”
“You’re going to get it, knucklehead,” she said, balling up a fist. [She calls me ‘Knucklehead’ a lot. She tells me it means ‘Wise One.’ I think I should look it up.]
I went on to work, [Read: Beat a hasty retreat.] but as I drove, a memory shook loose from the accumulations of my boyhood.
The accuracy of these recollections may be safely questioned given the soft yet persistent abrading of time against memory. I think her name was Mrs. Fitzwater, the lady who came to clean our house every two weeks. Dad felt it worth the five dollars; mom worked hard and over-saw three devil-spawn males.
Mrs. Fitzwater lived alone, as I recall, having survived the heart-wrenching anguish of having out-lived her husband. She seemed dottering, but resolute. Without the five dollars we paid her, who’s to say how long she could eke out a survival. Her stockings were knotted up at her knees; they seemed to be of canvas; Brother Denny and I half-laughed at her, half felt sorry for her [the beginnings of empathy?]
Despite our giggling, we felt compelled to shadow her, to stay near in the event she began a slow, helpless toppling; and like some helpless turtle, land on her back, and be unable to rise. We might have worked more diligently than she, but it seemed the right thing to do.
Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go clean up my desk; our cleaning lady is coming today, you see.
All of history is repetition… [Sigh.]