Friday, September 6, 2013

Last of the Unemployment Wine

It's hard to believe that it has been the better part of three and a half years since I was laid off from my last employer (along with a whole lot of other folks who were surprised to be part of such a move by one of the most legendarily "secure" employers in our whole state).  At the time, one of my managers was so outraged I was cut, he reached out to me personally and asked permission to come by.  We talked, and it was nice - we'd always had good conversations - and he even brought three lovely bottles of wine in thanks for all I had done.  He felt my job loss was an injustice ... but, the fact was, I had never felt a good fit at that place, and by the time they laid me off I had been looking for three months.  My loyalties at a place of work run deep, but a bad fit is a bad fit.

The wine, of course, coming on the occasion it did, got me a couple of jibes - "nice! you're unemployed, now you can become a wino!" - but I *have* always been grateful for the sentiment behind it.  I've been laid off many times (I might make quite the case study in our economy, since embarking on the embryonic idea of a career in 1986), but only a couple of my bosses have made a point of reaching out *personally* after the fact.  LinkedIn is all very well, but of course I mean something more substantial.

Anyway ...

This week has been oddly chopped up, and sad.  A neighbor and friend who's been fighting a pretty good fight for a long time indeed, has accepted a job in another state, and our whole neighborhood is sorry - we are losing her.

On Wednesday night, I went to her place for a "packing party" after work, and brought with me the last bottle of the unemployment wine.  It is, though I am no aficionado, a delicious red, with a clarity and lightness, almost a coolness about it - but not too dry, and very pleasing lingering flavor.

Yesterday, I took the day off of work to help her shrink wrap furniture, sort through the last of the pack-able items, roll up and bag rugs, and assist with the young men she'd hired as truck loaders.

Around three or three thirty, my mom came over; she has always liked Neighbor.  She knows how generous she has been, and we have shared a few holidays with her, too.  Mom found herself admiring Neighbor's home enormously.  It *is* a beautiful place, lovely and comfortable.  Mom started off by running an errand I had been slated to take care of, but was so grubby I could not take myself out in public to do it.  Then she stayed for hours.  Another friend came to help, after her own work day, and the three young men helping to move items into the truck were there for probably at least four hours themselves, well into the evening.

As a way to say farewell until we meet again (we all still hope for Neighbor's eventual return, including the lady herself), it was good for those of us there.  Sweat equity in friendship is emblematic of Neighbor's own generosity and the contributions she's made to our little community and to those around her.  It was also, very quietly between me and mom, the most appropriate way in the world for the two of us to spend the day that was my dad's seventy-sixth birthday.  Hard work in the name of helping someone we care for so much.  Dad would have been there too - and barring that, I know he would love to see "his girls" working as mom and I did.

I was pretty proud to be her kid yesterday.

Mom is a machine when it comes to a big job like this.  She and I have on a few occasions tackled things like pruning and trimming work at my house, or basement cleanup, and even as a lazy little underachiever, she taught me well  - I do work like my mom.  Already hours in even before she came into the picture yesterday, I didn't let up until about eight o'clock, and I thought to provide us a nice lunch as well.  But mom, at seventy-four (this month anyway), certainly had Neighbor and the other friend impressed.  She didn't hoist heavy tables nor exert too ambitiously, but she bagged and wrapped and devised "how should we do this piece" over and over, often ingeniously, and improving on the ways we were considering doing things.  She helped me finish off the shrink-wrapping of a gigantic painting, using the "excelsior" from a shredder as packing material to protect it.  Not all trash is trash ...  And more hands are always a treasure, for things like this.

I tried to remember to take a lot of pictures, and got some pretty shots of the gorgeous garden Neighbor has always cultivated.  Evening light in dazzling halo around glossy green berries.  A view through green leaves to my own little Pen-Pen.  The tiniest fragment of the progress as we made it.

This evening, I mowed my grass in the dazzling golden light of September then went over again to empty her fridge.  I sit in the dark now, and it is quiet, so quiet.

The wine is quiet, too.  But somehow it is bittersweet - even if it is still delicious.  Not the same, un-shared.

It isn't a bad thing ... but I feel the solitude of my life right now, as perhaps I haven't since Neighbor (and her handsome, wonderful dog) have lived here.  Not because we spent so very much time together.  But because she embodies community and neighborliness like nobody else I know.  With her gone, our little corner of the city really won't be the same.

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