I went to clean at my aunt’s house today.
She hired me a couple years ago to come to do a weekly or bi-weekly clean, mainly vacuum, dust, and sweep and mop the floors. She had come to the realization that she couldn’t do it herself anymore. She didn’t like the idea of someone else going through the house, plus they wanted to charge her too much, so she asked me, even though I’m not a very good house-keeper. I knew it was a hard concession for her to make, and difficult for her to ask, so I agreed, even though I don’t usually take on cleaning jobs. I would have done it for free, and told her so, but she insisted that she would pay me.
She would, however, pay me less than the going rate.
I reciprocated by doing the job in a haphazard way. Some weeks I do the whole job in one trip; other times I divide it over two or three days. I miss some weeks entirely. I rarely know ahead of time, as things tend to come up, so she doesn’t either. She’s very patient with me.
Today, with Christmas right around the corner, I knew I had to get there. I called in the morning so she could plan on it, and went on my lunch hour. She wasn’t feeling well, and was on her way to “medical.” The car was warming up, and my cousin was there to drive her, just as soon as she gave me instructions.
“There are potatoes in your mop bucket,” she said, “you can just move them into that basket.”
“The papers are for burning…just move them out of the way.”
“This,” she said, indicating the little stand that held a small television, the satellite receiver and a couple dozen books, “do you think you can move this and clean under it???”
“Of course, I’ll do that,” I replied, and she was on her way.
It’s a pretty small, wobbly stand with a lot of fairly heavy things on it. I guess I hadn’t really thought about moving it. I usually swept around it, and kind of under it, and swiped that area with the mop…
Sure enough, when I pulled it away from the wall today, there was a clump of dust and dog’s hair among the tangle of cords that resided there. I should have been moving it out every time.
There was more to it, though.
There was something about the set of her jaw, and the forced way that she spoke, trying to keep her voice normal…kind, even…when clearly she was exasperated with my neglect…I saw my future!
I will be infirm one day, I can see it. I will be dependent on others for basic things.
I imagine my daughters, blithely folding all of my towels wrong – and every one differently – just like they did when they were teenagers.
I can see my mugs stacked in some nonsensical way, books re-shelved with no rhyme or reason, and my arrangements re-arranged in a ridiculous manner.
And I will have deserved it.
I cleaned up the dust and dog hair. I cleaned and untangled the cords. I dusted and neatened the books without rearranging them. I dusted the television and cleaned the screen. Though the clock was ticking through my lunch break and I had to get back to my other job, I gave every chore more careful attention.
By the time I left, I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, reformed by the visions of Christmas yet to come, and trying to make retribution.
Bless her heart, my aunt shouldn’t have had to make mention of my neglect; since she did, and it opened my eyes, I’ll try not to give her reason again.