Mondays with Margie

Margie’s friend Shirley, who is also 93, is coming up to visit from California on the coming weekend. “Tell me about Shirley,” I said, sipping my deftly-decorated latte.

“I was on the committee that hired her,” Margie told me, “and she was an excellent hire. I remember her interview, we hit it off right away, I was nodding and smiling at all she had to say, and we both knew that if she got the job, we’d be friends. I was a supervisor, but I wasn’t her supervisor. We did the same kind of work.” They became hiking buddies and hiked all over California, the western USA, parts of Europe, and even New Zealand and Australia. 

“You learn a lot about someone when you travel together, climb mountains together. You won’t find a finer person than Shirley,” Margie said, smiling pleasurably into her cup as if it were a portrait of Shirley. 

“The work we did together was stressful; we were both rehabilitation counselors for people with disabilities, and it was a job full of ups and downs. There were clients we failed, clients whose addictions were stronger than anything we could offer them, clients we cared for and rooted for and lost. There were successes too, of course. I remember one client we helped through school, who became a forest ranger. For a while I envied him that job, because women couldn’t be park rangers in those days, and I thought what heaven it would be to have only the company of trees for a month at a time. But I was glad he got it, because it saved his life. Shirley and I loved what we did. We felt lucky to have jobs in something that was meaningful to us and to our clients, but we needed sometimes to get completely away from the human drama. That’s when we’d go hiking together. It was heaven to get away, and to have a good friend to get away with.” 

I would like to say more, but words won’t come, and I apologize for a lackluster photograph. It’s all I can do today. I’m still coughing, sneezing, and blowing my nose. My ears are stopped up. My energy is dragging, and I sound like a basso profundo. It’s three weeks, this congestion in my head. I have an appointment with the allergist on Wednesday. 

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