I met Marilyn at a women’s clothing store a couple of years ago. We both worked part-time, and bonded over our love of clothes. She was in her 60’s, medium sized with light brown hair, and was quiet, hard working, very sweet, and unbelievably enthusiastic about folding tissue paper perfectly when wrapping merchandise. I watched, learned and can now tissue with the best of them, but I’m still not as good as her.
When I left my job there almost two years ago, I missed all my co-workers, but was so busy I didn’t pick up the phone or figure out a lunch date like I should have.
But a while back, when I was walking Topper around the block, I discovered that Marilyn lives right behind my apartment. She lives in a tidy, brown house she keeps threatening to landscape, with her husband, who’s dealing with memory challenges.
We’ve met for coffee and a walk a couple of times since we discovered we’re neighbors, and I hadn’t seen her for a few months. Last time we talked she was having a lumpectomy and didn’t seem too concerned about it. Then last week she pulled up beside me as I was walking Topper (again).
She leaned over into the passenger’s seat to ask how I was doing, and my eyes must have bugged out when I saw the scarf on her head, because I realized her cancer must have been pretty serious to warrant chemo. She just nonchalantly said, yeah she was getting chemo, and since her hair started to fall out, she decided to just get it all chopped off — like she was talking about a hang nail.
That’s when it hit me that I’ve been such a whiny whiner about the upcoming birthday that I’ve stupidly named Bleepty, because I can’t bring myself to say 60, when I could be facing the possibility of no birthdays.
All this, while Marilyn, with a memory challenged husband and a cancer diagnosis, is bulldozing forward.
I hate it when I realize I’ve been a schlump.
Thank you Marilyn, you are damned impressive. And bleepty — I think I need to thank you too. I’d be in a far worse place if I didn’t have you to look forward to. Sorry it took me so long.