Thursday, February 09, 2012

For Dorothy

Our office has for ten years contracted with an elderly cleaning lady named Dorothy. She "came with the building," essentially, and went door to door after the building was sold to sell her services to every individual tenant in the building. She was opinionated, feisty, and full of character, so of course we hired her.

Dorothy is now 90. Every day she shuffles in around 2 pm to empty our office garbage cans and clean the office kitchen. You can usually count on having your concentration derailed when she arrives with her questions about whether or not it's going to snow or rain, but you smile and politely engage. She's not the 'cleanest' of cleaners, and we had to have a discussion with her after a fruit fly infestation about actually changing the garbage can bags rather than simply picking the trash out by hand. (I'm guessing this had something to do with her frugality.)

Sometimes her personal body odor is such that you have to breathe through your mouth. But we keep her on because it makes her happy and gives her purpose, because she needs the money, and because it keeps her going.

You worry about her, living alone, walking all those icy blocks home. Once I gave her a ride home when I saw her shuffling down the snowy sidewalk.

Her only son lives in South Carolina, and she's told me all about him. I also know about her brother, who died just a few years ago, her neighbors, and what she does over the holidays. She had open-heart surgery a few years ago, and came back to work as if nothing had happened.

She baked sugar cookies with lard, and we bought her a Christmas gift every year. One year, worried that her black cardigan was looking a bit too threadbare, we all chipped in to buy her a new sweater ... that she promptly returned.

It was easy to make her laugh.

She was a fixture at our office, always there with a key in case you locked yourself out of the office en route to the bathroom, always there after we returned from summer break, happy to see us and ready to get back to clucking about her strange new neighbors or the general state of things.

I've blogged about her twice before. (Click through for some fabulous Dorothy conversations.) And now I'm so glad I did. Because I just learned that Dorothy had a stroke this week, rendering her unable to speak.

Today around 2 pm I stopped working on the project at hand so I wouldn't seem impatient when she came in, and prepared to greet her with conversation. But 2 o'clock came and went, then 2:30, then 3 pm, and 4 Dorothy.

Last week we chatted for a longer period than usual, about whether or not it would snow over the weekend. I promised her I wouldn't let it, which made her laugh -- one of her hearty, patented cackles that last much longer than the joke deserves. After she left, I actually felt it might be the last time I'd ever speak with her. I smiled at her just a little longer that day, because I knew it on some level. Premonition, intuition, I don't know...but I am glad to have known Dorothy.

(Although knowing Dorothy, she'll be back to work in a matter of weeks; but our office is moving in a few months. I'll miss her, either way.)

Friday, February 03, 2012

It's 420, Baby!

My 420th post, specifically. Whoo-eee!

I'm feeling really old and mortal these days. This morning I sent J this text: "I just counted 10 squirrels out the window, including a little blond one! :-)"

J: "Wow, popular place!"

Me: "They're racing all around. Lol."

Yeah. I even added the 'LOL.' So it's come to this. This will probably be the highlight of my Friday. It's sad, is what it is.

Last night while watching TV, a commercial for the Medical Alert system came on. I sighed and said to J, "If we don't have kids, one day I'll have to ask my siblings which one of them would like to be the primary contact for my Medical Alert system."

He found this hilarious. I did not.

The worst part is, I'll be fortunate to live that long and to even afford a Medical Alert system in 2052. I sure hope they still have a functional electrical grid and Social Security in 2052, otherwise I won't be able to use my system. I might even be dying in a gutter somewhere, hit by a hover-car on my way to buy more cat food. And I won't even have a cat.

I spoke with my agent yesterday--the novel is still out on submission, though if it were up to me, I'd multiply the number of editors that currently have it by eight. I would carpet-bomb New York City with it, put it on billboards, print it on Starbucks coffee sleeves, hire Joe Pesci to do my follow-ups in person. That would get some shit done.

I've been having heart arrhythmias lately, and thanks to an article in the latest Shape magazine, I'm convinced I'm going to die by Memorial Day. Why do they print articles about cheeky young spin class instructors who have arrhythmias 1% of the time only to find out they've developed enlarged hearts and need a transplant or they're going to die!?!? Why, Shape magazine, WHY!?!?! Is this responsible journalism? I'm thinking of submitting an idea for a story called, "One Day You'll Get in a Car and Have an Accident." Or maybe, "There are Polyps Growing in Your Colon (And They're Going to Kill You)."

*sigh* Well, all I can do is distract myself with another grant. The good news is that this time, it's for myself. A prestigious literary support grant. Total long-shot, but ever since I won a $50 grocery sweepstakes last year, I'm convinced that hey, you don't win if you don't try!

So go try something today. Be a winner.