“Where’s that damn lotion?” I grumble out loud. I’m highly tempted to take this drawer out of the dresser and dump it upside-down; however, while that would certainly solve one problem (finding the lotion), it would also create a bigger one (making a mess on the floor). Amazingly, Mrs. L is still sleeping peacefully, so I guess she was sleep-talking when she said “Yes” in response to me asking to come in. I seethe with impatience and continue to rummage through the drawers. All the other shower supplies were gathered neatly in a pink plastic tub…why the hell does the lotion have to be elsewhere? Who died and made it a rebel?
Ok, enough with the metaphors that will have my coworkers questioning my sanity. I need to get this shower done–so I need to get this shower started. I have two options:
1) Go without the lotion or
2) Search some more.
I rip open the next drawer, the one closest to the floor. I highly doubt it’s in here, as this drawer has become a catch-all for papers and knick-knacks.
Well, what do you know? There it is, nestled between an ugly pink bear and pile of cards. In the process of extracting the lotion from the crowded drawer, I knock some of the cards out; they settle like leaves on the floor. If leaves were colored like gaudy Christmas and birthday cards, that is.
Well, hell. I made a mess without even trying. As I stoop to pick up the fallen cards, I can’t help but scan through the one that fell open. It’s a birthday card of the rather cheap variety, but that’s an opinion that only lasts until I’ve taken in the words written upon it. This 99¢, drug-store issue birthday card is priceless.
The words are well-wishes from a family member of Mrs. L’s…a person I know full well has passed away. I should know: I was here on the day they told her. I don’t think I’ll forget her face that day, her face twisted by terrible grief.
I gently replace the card in the drawer, tucking it back into the collection of memories, the physical proof of her life and her loves. All the keepsakes and memorabilia, all the trappings of her life can now fit inside this one small drawer. And someone just threw lotion in that drawer. Someone else just rifled through it careless…that last someone was me. There’s no lock, no way to keep these precious things private. And, on the heels of that thought comes another. Just one, but loud enough to drown out all the rest.
This isn’t something a stranger should see.
Except–I’m not a stranger, am I?
I’m not just a paid caregiver: she and I have shed too many tears together for our relationship to be defined primarily by the money I am paid. I’m not family, at least not as in a blood-bond…or in the sense of someone I go home to. Am I a friend? No, that doesn’t seem deep enough, somehow.
I close the drawer quietly. Not quietly enough as it turns out: Mrs. L stirs and her eyes blink open. They focus on me, still bent over; she smiles.
“Oh, hello my dear friend. What are you looking for?”
“A bit ago,” I reply. “I’m looking for your good lotion–for your shower.”
“Is that today?” she asks. “And you have it? Wonderful! It’s always so wonderful when you get my shower.”
I smile back at her. How is it possible that without hearing my internal anguish over what to call myself, she wakes up with the perfect answer?
My dear friend.
Yeah, that’s me.
A dear friend who will, in future, take far more care with my dear friend’s precious possessions.