Cleaning, just in case

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

“What made you decide to wash all the knick-knacks?”

“They’re not knick-knacks. They’re mementoes.”

“They look like knick-knacks to me.”

“This pitcher – I’ll bet you don’t remember. It was a gift from Dannee when I played for her daughter’s wedding. You could help, you know. Let me hand you these to wash, or else pass them back up to me after I wash them.”

“Why do you keep them on a shelf above the door? They’re not convenient up there.”

“I don’t use them. They’re too precious to use. I just enjoy having them and looking at them. Julie gave me that ruby-red vase. Ellie gave me the little lighthouse candle. I bought that Bavarian pitcher the first time we went –”

“All right, that’s enough. I don’t want to hear the history of every knick-knack up there. I suppose the glass shelves over the kitchen windows are next.”

“How perceptive of you. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. For some reason I haven’t washed these things in months and they look all dull and greasy. See how nice they look when they’re clean? If you really want to help, how about tackling those spots in the carpet, or would you rather wash windows?”

“I never said I wanted to help anything. It’s not my idea to go into a cleaning frenzy just because – because why? I don’t even know what this is for.”

“Well, sometimes you just have to do things whether you like it or not. I’ve been putting this off for months, and the urge finally hit me today. Follow those urges, I always say.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t have to follow your urges. Oh, well, here, you stand on the ladder and I’ll hand the clean ones back up to you. You know where you want them. Tell me again why we’re doing this?”

“Dave, what bothers me more than anything when people come into the house?”

“Leaf litter on the carpet.”

“Good start, and so quick. You get an A. Now think of things like dishes on the table, cobwebs on the windows and the coffee table covered with junk mail.”

“For heaven’s sake, Sal, they’re going to send a physical therapist around once or twice to get you started on your rehab. She’s not going to notice cobwebs.”

“She may not but I sure will, and they’ll make me crazy. Here, be careful with this – it belonged to my great-grandmother. Besides, you know people will be stopping by whether I like it or not. I’m just worried I won’t get the shelves in the bedroom done, and I know I won’t have time to clean off the baker’s rack and edit my photo files. What if I die on the operating table? That does happen, you know.”

“Well, then you won’t be around to be embarrassed about breakfast dishes in the sink, will you?”

“Remember that axiom someone told me years ago? It applies perfectly here. A woman’s best friend is one who, upon hearing of her unexpected demise, rushes to her house and cries, ‘Who trashed this place? Sallie would never have left her house looking like this!’”

“You’re making entirely too much of this. Nothing’s going to happen.”

“I’m sure you’re right, and I’ll be laughing about this in a couple of weeks. But I enjoy my own home more if it’s clean. I do wish I’d had time to fill in the flower pots. Those danged squirrels have uprooted most of my petunias and geraniums. I don’t know how long it will be before I can do things like that. And I can’t see you doing it. Dave...”

“Now what?”

“Seriously. You know how I hate waste. Please, if anything goes wrong, and they’ve done all they reasonably could do, I don’t want to be kept alive by extraordinary means. And you know when I say I’m an organ donor, I really do want them to make use of everything they possibly can.”

“Yeah, right, like at our age we have anything worth giving to someone else.”

“You’d be surprised what they can do. Then ask Emory if they want what’s left, and cremate the rest. Give what genealogical research I have done to someone who knows how to get it posted on-line – Sonya, maybe. Let’s see, what else? I told you which hymns I want and, more importantly, which ones I don’t. And be happy, because I got my wish.”

“What wish is that?”

“To die before you do so I don’t have to worry about insurance and taxes and opening jar lids. I couldn’t possibly live without you.”

“Lots of women do, live without their husbands, I mean. You could too.”

“No way. Which reminds me, could you touch up the paint there on the porch door and the stain above the front door? I’m not good with ladders.”

“That’s what I thought. You just want me for my body.”

“Just hand me that glass.”

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