Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Profiles in String 5

Preparing to become Aunt Emma’s caregiver was an exercise in chaos. Neither of my parents knew about her medications, her routine, her meals, or her current help.

“I think a nurse service comes to see her a few times a week,” my dad offered, sorting through old files in his office. Moving to Florida seemed to entail discarding many things, something my mother found irksome but for which Dad manifested an intense delight. The shredder was constantly at work, and nothing made him happier than letting the confetti strands sift through his hands into the larger trash box. “Do you know I had ten years’ worth of water bills in here?”


“Baby, I’m sorry, I really don’t know.” Document after document whirred into the shredder as Dad destroyed the evidence of years’ of good citizenship. “You know, I might have a file for Emma in the cabinet here -- why don’t you look through it? And give me any utility bills you find.”

Fifteen years ago, Mom had furnished the office in that most traditional of styles, Middle Class Aspirational. Then the catalog furniture had a clean and elegant effect, the newness of the desk and cabinets sitting crisply against the plush carpet and the eggplant walls as sunlight sifted through the wide blinds. Now I tugged at the sticky door of the file cabinet and dragged the protesting, listing drawer as far out as it would pull. The sagging file rack threatened to collapse in on itself as I gingerly rifled through the dingy manila folders.

“Why would you have a file for Aunt Emma?” I called over the whine of the shredder.

Dad shrugged. “We wanted to have her records. She has some things at her house, and her lawyer has others, but we worried that she might start throwing valuable stuff away.” He finished grinding up the current batch and leaned on his elbows, careful not to rock the chair toward its bad wheel. With a speculative gleam in his eye, he murmured, “I wonder what a dollar bill would look like in shreds...”

“Who is her lawyer? Should I be talking to this person?”

“Oh, some firm downtown. There’s a card pinned up at Emma’s.”

In the back of the cabinet, wedged among other lightly-used files, was a folder marked “Aunt Emma”. It slid out, a slender and stiff packet amidst the mess of the half-dismantled office. I opened it to find copies of official papers.

“Birth certificate, August 15, 1933. Baptism certificate, same year. Marriage certificate, 1957. There’s really not that much in here.”

“All the important stuff.”

“What about her divorce papers?”

Dad emerged from his contemplation, guiltily crumpling a green bill in his hand. “Divorce papers? I don’t know. Probably the lawyer has them. Why?”

“I don’t know. Other stuff is here.”

“Huh.” He stretched and leaned back in his chair, which shifted onto the bad wheel and almost tipped him onto the matted carpet. “You’ll have to ask her lawyer, I guess.”

“Who’s her lawyer?”

“Some firm downtown.”

I had never thought of myself as the martyr type, but the sigh seemed to be entering my daily repertoire of expression.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is too rich. Like eating the package of oreo cookies, I can't get enough. I wonder if I'm developing a crush on the younger Emma...