I am “visiting home”, vacationing in the very building in which I last lived. While fully aware that things change, my hope was that I would find my former residence exactly as it once was and my friends just as I had remembered them.
As I Ubered into the parking lot, a myriad of memories swirled in my head, each one competing for my attention. The tall white concrete structure reminded me of how long it took to paint the building, a six-month project that turned into a 2-year one, nevertheless it still looks beautiful. The sight of the hastily scattered shopping carts outside the front entrance forced its way to the front of my mind. That always bugged me. Why couldn’t people walk just a few steps further to the shopping cart storage area? When I lived here, several times a day I would take the abandoned carriages and return them where they belonged. Today was no exception!
The maintenance crew greeted me with hugs and smiles, reminding me of the relationships I had built beyond that of other residents. I recalled the late night cake parties at the front desk, the incredible smart women who lived in this building, and the feeling that we all watched out for one another.
The memories kept coming: I recalled when three of us traveled to Philly to see Pope Francis, four of us went to Manhattan to be on the Rachel Ray Show, and a group of us celebrated Helen’s retirement, our favorite concierge of all time. We all dressed up with wigs and masks of Helen’s face and did this funny recitation, “Please, Helen, Please Don’t Go!” So many wonderful memories’ I couldn’t wait to see everyone.
In a high SUCCESSTROGEN mode of keeping relationships strong, I carefully planned breakfasts, lunches and dinners each day with one friend at a time. I am happy to say that most are today as I remember them from a few years ago…bright, active, and grateful for all that is. A few have moved on to nursing homes, one friend died this week while I was here, and sad to say, a few others died before I had a chance to say goodbye.
But one friend, Julio, was nowhere to be found. We met because we both had routines that intercepted every Sunday. Julio swept the sidewalk at Classico, an outdoor cafe. Early Sunday morning he would power wash the sidewalk, pick up hundreds of cigarette butts and bits of broken glass carelessly left behind by the Saturday night crowd. He worked hard, cleaning the area as though he was preparing for a visit from the King of his native country, Mexico. I often worked along side of him as we chatted. Only when there were no more butts anywhere and all the pillows were in place, did he go home.
Julio and I became friends..two people, with entirely different lives but a shared value set about hard work. I looked for him on Sunday but there was someone else in his place.
“Where’s Julio?” I asked rather abruptly as though the young man had done something to my friend.
“Mam?” he asked.
“Julio, my friend who used to do this job. ” I said.
He just shook his head and got in his car. As he drove off, I couldn’t help but notice the butts under the furniture and the crooked pillows left behind. I discarded the butts, moved a few chairs so they would allow for better conversation for the lunch crowd, and straightened the pillows, just as Julio and I had done so many times together.
Julio, I don’t know where you are. But I think often of our chats about doing a job well, thoroughly and being proud of what we do. I miss the chats and I miss you.