Friday, November 03, 2006

November Sun On Anna's Hair




After she finished cleaning my house, Anna came out to the heated back porch to visit before she went home. She sat with her back to the late afternoon November sky. The leaves are mostly off the trees now. For a few minutes the clouds thinned and the sun streamed low through the porch windows. Her dyed hair glowed as we turned from topic to topic.

She's seventy-three and has worked for me, in this house, for twenty-two years. I lay on the couch and watched her illuminated shape as she talked about her husband's suicide, the delayed grief, her children's pain. The feathery, potted asparagus fern I brought in ahead of the frost last week, glowed green beside her.

When Anna comes once a week we share a cup of morning coffee. I cooked her eggs, today. If I'm at home we share lunch. Over the past year or so we share this respite after she's done. I see the fatigue on her face. I see the way she slowly gets out of chairs. I know she needs the money and today as I watched her glowing in front of my bare trees and frozen birdbath I knew that I needed her. She is my friend. Though we are from different decades, different countries (she married a GI she met in the restaurant where she cooked), different educations, a different socio-economic class, she is my friend and she is growing old. I needed to say this today. As I watched her sitting there illuminated by a November sun, I needed to say this.

I probably won't have her read this. It would embarrass her. She grew up in a foster home in Germany where she can remember carrying firewood from the time she was five years old. She's explained to me that it created a stoicism in her. I've never seen her cry.

Why do I need to tell you, dear reader, that I pay her probably more than you would guess? And that she's told me that the day she has to stop working will be incredibly difficult. Anna isn't a joiner, a belonger. Oh, she is close to a friend's children and has daughters and grandchildren of her own who would never abandon her to poverty, but she is proud, wants to work and though we've never said it aloud to each other - neither of us wants to think of a time when she won't be coming through my front door, trailing a wiff of the cigarette that still lingers on her immaculate clothes, carrying her Meijers plastic bag of lintless, cleaning cloths.

Can you believe that after twenty-two years she doesn't know that I know that she smokes? I can't explain this mutual contrivance and maybe don't want to. I love her. That's enough. There's only this, then, that makes me want to weep: I have no pictures of her. Nothing to post on my blog. So I've selected a beautiful little flower, bent by the weight of evening dew.

_________________________________________

9 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

That's really neat for you to care about her like that -- to do waht you can for her and allow her to keep her dignity.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful, caring person you are.

Daisy-Winifred said...

Oh but you have a picture of her and it is contained so beautifully in that one word, friend. Links of heart need no photo to proove their reality just a mind open enough to realise the precious is found before ones eyes:0)

Cathy said...

Anvilcloud, dmmmgmfm,daisy-winifred - yes, friendship makes caring as natural as breathing and just as life-giving - to two hearts and two souls.

Bonita said...

What good fortune both of you have, to have this bond of caring. Last night, in the middle of the night I tried remembering the name of a 104 year old woman that I cared for, for 6 years in the assisted living facility where I worked as a caregiver. I couldn't believe I have forgotten her name. I tried going through the alphabet, 'a' through 'z', with no luck placing vowels after each letter. I did them all, with the hope one of the combinations would work. None did. It is important to me to never forget these ones that I came to care for. Your story is similar.

Cathy said...

Bonita, I too, could not remember the name of a young woman I'd met briefly in a very critical time of my life. I went to sleep one night and dreamed of being in a store that was so full of inventory that I had to stoop and move gingerly to make my way through it. I woke and immediately knew her name: 'Stockwell'. The store had been well stocked. Unbelievable.

Casey said...

Perfect picture for a touching narrative.

Cathy said...

Thanks, Casey, I thought so too.

Bonita said...

Cathy, that is a remarkable dream! Oh, to be saved by such grace...perhaps I need to pay attention to my dreams.