Ely discovered water pooled on the laundry room floor and reported the flood to Mom. Together they mopped up the water with rags. Appliance said he could have a new pump shipped from Washing in a few days. I had procrastinated, and needed to wash my clothes that very day. I focused on yard work, putting off my evening trip to the laundromat. But when Terry and Pat, the nice neighbors, stopped by to visit, Mom told them about the washer and the laundromat and they insisted I come to their house to use their washer. “Do you want me to do it for you?” Pat asked kindly, but I do not allow anyone handle my dirty laundry, and told her I would enjoy doing it, thank you. Ely is a housecleaner. Dad has vacuumed the carpets and swept and mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms and scrubbed the shower walls his whole married life, but has run out of strength, mobility, and steam. Ely, a delightful, humble, thorough dual citizen, now takes care of what Mom and Dad can no longer take care of. They do not call her the cleaning lady; they call her Ely, their friend and indispensable helper. The house tidied, Brian and Avery arrived with two-year-old Lila to celebrate his 32nd birthday, and I was touched he wanted to celebrate with us. We set up cornhole and ring toss and a PVC scaffold onto which one tosses golf balls joined by short ropes. Lila objected to how my rope-tied-spheres hung from the rungs—“No! Gwampa Waja!” she insisted. She repositioned each hanging rope according to her adorable imagination, delightedly proclaiming the decorated structure her Christmas tree. At dinner, I decided ground sirloin is much tastier than hamburger, well worth the extra one dollar per pound. I had prepared a birthday dessert from my French cookbook—Brian chose chocolate mousse, which I have mastered after many trials. Into the dessert cups we jammed and lighted three candles. Lila made sure her daddy blew them out correctly. An unconventional birthday “cake,” still the result was superb (thank you Julia), with strong Pero substituting for strong coffee. The sun dipped low behind the house, and the air quickly chilled. Dad and I sat on patio chairs listening to the red House Finch sing with happy gusto, perched on a spiny blue spruce nearby. “Listen to that little guy sing!” Dad hooted. We commented on what a happy thing it is—a happy miraculous thing—that nature sings.
On Saturday evenings in my childhood New Jersey home, Dad filled a bucket with warm soapy water, sank to his hands and knees, and scrubbed the kitchen’s linoleum floor. I never felt the compulsion or even inclination to join him (but I worked hard in the yard). I remember thinking his knees must be awfully sore. Later, he purchased a carpet cleaner to clean the carpeted rooms himself. The walls showed roller marks where Dad had patched and painted holes or stains on the walls. He rubbed Murphy’s oil into the wood furniture, and vacuumed the carpets and rugs. These helpful habits lasted long into Dad’s retirement. But the day finally came, brought on by a knee transplant and age, that he could no longer descend to his hands and knees to scrub the tile floors. The day came when Mom and Dad needed help cleaning the house. That is when Ely started coming. She comes every Monday morning with her smile and her cleaning supplies. Mom and Dad love her, are happy to have her in their home, and are relieved at how clean Ely makes everything for them. In addition, Dad calls Stanley Steamer to steam clean the carpets. But Dad still breaks out the carpet cleaner to spot clean the trouble spots and wear paths and food spills from the most recent family party.