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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fireside Chat: Chapter Four of Watching And Thinking Of Blueberries

In spite of the snow and cold, the restaurant's closed-in porch was warm and pleasant. Surrounded by windows, we could see traffic churning at the busy intersection while the snow fell in fat, wet flakes. One absurdly tiny woodstove was keeping us all warm. It seemed impossible.

"Nance, we saved a seat for you right by the fire," someone said, and Rick and I took our places after a bit of requisite mingling. It was, after all, a company party, and the long table would keep most of us apart during dinner. I found myself next to the boss's wife, whom I like very much, but then, I like everyone with whom Rick works. She had recently lost her father, quite unexpectedly, and a party was the last place she wanted to be. In an effort to help them both, she had brought her mother along, and they were clearly struggling in this festive, happy environment.

In her grief, her mother could not sit still, but wandered back and forth behind the table. She stopped by the stove, trying to stay warm. She seemed distracted and flighty. Marielle, the boss's wife, drew her over and introduced her to me. As is often the case, I was her nephew's teacher. He is now a greatly successful financial advisor (mine, in fact). She was so happy to talk about him and his accomplishments. "Let's get you a chair," said Rick. "You can sit right here at the end of the table by the fire for dinner. Stay here and talk with us."

She did. She never left that chair. She could not eat very much, but she talked at length about her husband, being alone in her big house now, her plans, and what she does to fill up her days. "One thing I do is to volunteer out at Wells Glen. I go out there and run an exercise class for the old people. I--"

But I had stopped truly listening as soon as I heard "Wells Glen." I looked up at Rick, heart hammering. Tish lived at Wells Glen! He smiled. I waited patiently for a chance to ask if she knew of Tish, if she had any information at all about my former neighbor. She paused for a moment, chuckling a little about the ladies at Wells Glen doing their exercises.

"A former neighbor of mine lives at Wells Glen now, " I started, "and we've been wondering about her. Tish Cash, do you ever see her? The last we heard was--"

"Oh, Tish! With her glorious silver pageboy! She's great! She takes my class, and she goes to the beauty parlor every week. Her son...ugh. But yeah, she's fine. Her son took her car away, and she's a little forgetful, but she's great. She has a lot of friends and when the weather is good, she goes outside for her walks. She plays cards and all kinds of activities. You should come and see her. Yeah!"

It's entirely possible that she never noticed my eyes filling with tears during her entire recitation. Rick did, of course, and patted my hand throughout. I know I thanked her for telling me about Tish's life now and for setting my mind at ease; that we had no way of finding information and did not want to impose on anyone's privacy. That it was happy and reassuring news she had brought us about Tish.

By the end of the evening, many jackets had been shrugged out of and sweaters slipped off shoulders. One little woodstove had created enough warmth to comfort the entire room, and then some.

There will be no trips to Wells Glen for me; I was not a visitor in Tish's life when she lived across the street. We would have nothing to talk about, and I would struggle to keep from telling her about her driveway adrift in snow, her uncurtained, unblinking windows, the sad fate of her redbud tree. No, instead I will smile, knowing she is warm and happy--in her home.

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14 comments:

  1. What a gift you and the coworkers MIL were to each other! To talk to her about her nephew gave her something good to think about, rather than only her loss. And to hear good news about Tish, what a balm that must have been for you. I'm glad you two met up...to think it could easily have happened that you not meet at that party, and not be able to sooth each other in such a way.

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    1. J@jj--It really was a gift, wasn't it? It brought me great joy to hear such reassuring and unexpectedly good news. Silly...I felt such an enormous sense of relief. I remember talking about it to Rick all the way home from the party, and really, how much was there to say except to repeat what I was told? But I just couldn't get over it.

      It makes looking at her empty, waiting house a little easier now.

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  2. Lovely, lovely post, but I disagree slightly when you say you wouldn't have anything to talk about if you went to the Senior home and saw Tish. You were so pleased to hear she was doing well, which is connection enough for a relationship. She probably would like to hear from you about her old neighborhood.

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    1. phoebes in santa fe--Thank you so much.

      I hesitate not only because we never had that relationship in the past, but also because of my reception the last time I went there. I delivered a FedEx envelope that had languished on the front steps of her home. I asked if she was still a resident there, identified myself as a neighbor, and absolutely no invitation was extended to me to go and see her or give her the envelope myself. They exchanged glances, mentioned Tish's son, and that was it. I wonder if he screens her visitors perhaps.

      In any case, I still feel that a visit from me would be...strange. I am just glad to know of her happiness.

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    2. You know the right thing to do. I'm just glad that you found out she was doing well. (By the way, I've already instructed my two sons that when they think I'm ready for the "home" to just go ahead and put me in. I won't make 'em feel bad about it!)

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  3. What a magical story. Some bonds last forever. Happy to know that Tish is well.

    [This is my second attempt at commenting. Blogger is a finicky system anymore. *finger crossed*]

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    1. Ally Bean--Thank you for persevering and leaving a comment. Blogger is picking and choosing its victims, I guess. I've not had any problems commenting on Blogger blogs, but I know other Commenters have had some frustrations here too. I'm wondering if it is Blogger/Google updating its stuff again.

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  4. I believe this may be one of my favorite posts, Nance. Your stories about Tish always touched my heart, and I mourned when she left her home and your life. The longer I live, the less I believe in coincidences. You and this woman were meant to spend the evening together, nurturing and warming each other's soul.

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    1. BooksterOne/Lin--Thank you. As you know, it is every writer's dream to hear that her work has evoked emotion.

      I am constantly astonished by the crucible that is our town. Everyone is interconnected in a billion different ways. At times I find it irritating and almost incestuous. Other times, it feels almost sinister and evil, the way it keeps pulling people back, keeping them here. It seems as if no one ever truly leaves, or if they do, it is not for long.

      All of that is, I guess, the long way of saying that it was bound to happen that I would have met up with a Tish connection. That we were able to provide each other with such comfort...perhaps that was more than coincidence. I don't know.

      So glad to see you here.

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  5. My eyes welled up too! So glad to hear good news about Tish...

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    1. Bug--Oh my! You're a kind soul. Yes, the news was so much better than I could have hoped.

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  6. My eyes lit up when I saw the word "blueberries." El mundo es un pañuelo. = Literally, "The world is a handkerchief." Which is how they say "it's a small world." Imagine meeting someone who knew Tish and could put your mind at ease. I sort of agree with phoebes in santa fe, but I also completely understand your preference for staying in the background, just happy knowing that she is well and well cared for. (I think I would probably be a bit wary of the son as well.)

    * * * * * * *
    Thanks for raising your glass to Andy Borowitz in the blog roll. The What's-His-Name angle is perfect, lol.

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    1. Ortizzle--You know, I so appreciate the poetic and apt way that the Spanish have for truisms. How much more evocative is "The world is a handkerchief" than "It's a small world"? I mean, really. I wonder if Walt Whitman was aware of that saying when he wrote Song #6 of "Song of Myself"? When you get a minute, go read it here and see what I mean. (Even just the first 14 lines.)

      Borowitz is brilliant, and he says in brief what I ranted about to Rick for about ten minutes. Okay, maybe not ten minutes, but it was quite some time. I need to embrace more Zen, like Zydrunas.

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    2. Oh, thank you for that! Who knows if Whitman knew of the handkerchief expression, but he was such a master of the metaphor. The imagery he creates with the simplest things is so brilliant. I often look for him “under my boot soles” ... and in my cherished copy of Leaves of Grass.

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